Electric vehicles have made major waves at auto shows over the past few years, however the latest big development in EV technology is the world’s smallest car – and it’s unlikely anyone will be using this breakthrough vehicle to commute to work. Scientists from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have created the world’s smallest electric vehicle, which takes the form of a molecule with four motors.

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You can’t plug it in, let alone drive it, so why create ‘the world’s smallest EV’? Well this record-breaking achievement could pave the way for tiny motors that would power advanced, working nanomachines. The micro-EV uses electrons to move itself, unlike previous miniature EVs that have been powered by microscopes, light, or heated surfaces.

“This is the first example where you really have a motor function,” said Ben Feringa, the organic chemistry professor who led the team at the University of Groningen. “You can put in energy so you have a propulsion mechanism like in a real motor in a car.”

According to the November 10th issue of the journal Nature, Ferigna’s team created the car by attaching four of these motors to a synthetic molecule. To power the car, the motors acted as pedal wheels that when “excited electrically” would push the EV over a copper surface.

Each motor could also be controlled individually, meaning the micro-EV could also be steered to a degree. There were of course limits to the team’s creation – it could only operate at low temperatures, and a vacuum was required in order to keep the molecules still until activated.

“Control of motion in the nano world is very difficult, and the motion is very different from what happens in the macro world,” Feringa said. Gravity and weight don’t keep a molecular vehicle grounded the way they would a human-sized car. “There’s a big incentive to develop motors that ultimately can provide the energy to do all kinds of functions at the nanoscale.”

Ferigna’s team hope that their creation will be the first step in a nanomachines that operate in normal temperatures and benefit industries all over the world.

+ University of Groningen

via Discovery News