Nanocar Race II


  • What is a Nanocar Race?

The idea of the Nanocar Race is to gather people coming from different horizons (geographic as well as scientific) in order to address a question which seems simple:

How long is it possible to control the motion of a single molecule using the tip of an STM?

This question asked by Dr. Christian Joachim and Prof. Gwénaël Rapenne at the end of a review article (ACSNano, 2013, 7, 11‒14) is not so easy to answer. It already gave rise to a first edition of the NanocarRace in April 2017 and a second Edition was organized in March 2022 in Toulouse for which the LSAMM was invited to create a team.



  • Our team: The StrasNanoCar team

Our team was composed of chemists: Dr. H.-P. Jacquot de Rouville, Prof. V. Heitz and S. Adrouche, (LSAMM, Institut de chimie de Strasbourg), physicists: Dr. Guilaume Schull and Dr. Anna Roslawska (IPCMS – Université de Strasbourg) and theorists: Dr. Xavier Bouju and Dr. Hassan Denawi (CEMES Toulouse). Each expertise allowed the success of our project. On one hand, chemists were the molecular engineers and made the nanocar. On the other hand, physicists were piloting the nanocar on a gold surface thanks to a scanning tunneling microscope. Finally, theorist helped chemists and physicists in analysing their experimental results.

  • Our Nanocar

The design of the molecule had to include some features for the Race. It should have a minimum of 100 atoms and be dissymmetric in order to be able to differentiate its front and its rear. We came up with a simple design. The molecule had a small and rigid axle with an important dipole moment brought by two Ir(III) complexes acting as wheels. In consequence, the expected motive power was dipolar.


  • D-day: Start your engine!

Our strategy was to go slowly but surely. Indeed, we had only few nanocars on the gold track. We drove at an average speed of 24 nm/h, were able to reach a distance of 476 nm and crossed three trenches with a single nanocar (that’s the little thing moving on the picture below)! The distance allowed us to be ranked 3rd! Overall, it was fun to be part of this event as we met old friends, made new ones and spoke about science.

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