Today, April 28, 2017, begins a race of epically small proportions, namely the first-ever NanoCar Race. The NanoCar Race takes place on a racetrack of gold that is 100 nanometers long. For reference, approximately a thousand racetracks could fit within the width of a single human hair. The nanocars will race for 38 hours requiring minimum speeds to be at least about 2.64 nm/hour to reach the finish line. The nanocars will be “driven” using electric impulses generated by tips of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM).
Six nanocars have been entered into the competition by various research teams:
- The Green Buggy contains exactly 300 atoms (C184H116) and has “wheels” connected to an “axle” and “chassis.” The team behind the Green Buggy is the Toulouse Nanomobile Club from Toulouse, France.
- The Swiss Nano Dragster from the Swiss Team in Basel, Switzerland, is more of a hovercraft than a car. It is formed of 4′-(4-Tolyl)-2,2′:6′,2”-terpyridine.
- The NIMS-MANA car is a binaphthyl dimer having a “chassis” and two arms that approximate the motion of a butterfly. The Nano-Vehicle NIMS-MANA team is from Tsukuba, Japan.
- The Dipolar Racer relies on low adhesion molecular “wheels,” alkynyl “axles,” an aryl “chassis,” and dipolar functionalities at both ends of the nanocar. The NanoPrix Team is a joint Austrian- American collaboration (from Graz, Austria, and Houston, Texas).
- The Windmill is formed from four acetylbiphenyl (ABP) molecules that create a four-armed windmill. The Nano-windmill Company is from Dresden, Germany.
- The final contender is the Ohio Bobcat Nano-wagon Team that has entered a nanowagon having four “wheels” attached to a “chassis.” The Ohio Bobcat Nano-wagon team is from Athens, Ohio.
Several teams have members who are named inventors on patents, including Saw-Wai Hla and James M. Tour. While the nanocars may not travel far, the NanoRace highlights the vast progress of researchers in nanotechnology. The NanoCar race can be seen live (with the help of the STM and computer modeling to show race progress). #NanoCarRace