“The inventor of a car slightly wider than a strand of DNA took the top prize in nanotechnologies this week. James Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University, won the Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for experimental nanotechnology for his nanocar, which is four nanometers across and includes a chassis with an engine, a pivoting suspension and rotating axles attached to rolling buckyball wheels, each made of 60 carbon atoms.
Tour and his team of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers not only built a car, but also constructed a nanotruck capable of carrying a payload. Asked why he did it, Tour’s answer was simple: so that we can someday construct buildings and other large objects with molecular-size vehicles.
It took Tour and his team eight years to build the car. One of the significant challenges was attaching the wheels because the buckyballs had the adverse affect of shutting down the binding property — the palladium reaction — used to form the rest of the vehicle. Over the next 30 years, Tour’s nanotechnology could produce quantum-dot memory, which involves stringing together metal atoms in patterns that could then store data. Each quantum dot would consist of 50 metal atoms, he said. Of course, that’s a long way off, Tour acknowledged. He hasn’t even patented the technology because by the time it could be used to make money, the patents would be expired. And we’re not talking about a few nanotrucks carrying metal atoms to construct skyscrapers but 1023 or more vehicles, all carrying nanoparticles in orchestration, he said.”