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In 2017, nanotechnology had a market value amounting to nearly 49 billion U.S. dollars worldwide, and is projected to increase to over 120 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. This industry sector should see a 12% Compound Annual Growth Rate moving forward.
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And with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into speed. Though the sub’s top speed amounts to less than 1 inch per second, Tour said that’s a breakneck pace on the molecular scale. “These are the fastest-moving molecules ever seen in solution,” he said.

Nanocars and Nanomachines

The synthesis of a nanomachine that could roll on a surface had been a goal of mine since I was at the University of South Carolina. It took my lab about 10 years to finalize the synthesis and obtain images of movement via SEM from collaborator Prof. Kevin Kelly. The nanomachines, referred to as “nanocars” in my presentations and publications, drew avid attention from the general public because people could relate the chemical structures to real world objects such as cars and trucks, machines with which everyone is familiar. Our 2005 paper in Nano Letters was the most downloaded article of all American Chemical Society journal articles that year. We continue to investigate the synthesis of nanocars and nanomachines, some with internal motors and moieties that would make them easier to image. I have published at least 15 papers on nanocar synthesis, imaging and movement. I directed all of the synthetic work; my group worked with collaborators for the imaging.


a. Shirai, Y.; Osgood, A. J.; Zhao, Y.; Kelly, K. F.; Tour, J. M. Directional Control in Thermally Driven Single-Molecule Nanocars. Nano Lett. 2005, 5, 2330-2334.
b. García-Lopez, V.; Chiang, P.-T.; Chen, F.; Ruan, G.; Martí, A. A.; Kolomeisky, A. B.; Wang, G.; Tour, J. M. Unimolecular Submersible Nanomachines. Synthesis, Actuation, and Monitoring. Nano Lett. 2015, 15, 8229–8239.
c. García-Lopez, V.; Jeffet, J.; Kuwahara, S.; Martí, A. A.; Ebenstein, Y.; Tour, J. M. Synthesis and Photostability of Unimolecular Submersible Nanomachines: Toward Single-Molecule Tracking in Solution. Org. Lett. 2016, 18, 2343–2346.
d. Chen, F.; García-Lopez, V.; Jin, T.; Neupane, B.; Chu, P.-L. E. Tour, J.; Wang, G. Moving Kinetics of Nanocars with Hydrophobic Wheels on Solid Surfaces at Ambient Conditions. J. Phys. Chem. C 2016, 120, 10887-10894.

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