Molecular Nano-Machine Assembly Mimics Human Muscle Movement

Artificial Molecular Muscle Movement

Artificial molecular muscle movement. Credit: Angewandte Chemie International Edition, N. Giuseppone

An assembly of thousands of nano-machines has been put together to produce a coordinated contraction movement, extending up to ten centimeters, akin to the movement of muscular fibers. They were synthesized by a CNRS research team from the Institut Charles Sadron.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Nicolas Guiseppone, Université de Strasbourg, as well as researchers from the Laboratoire de Matière Systèmes Complexes (CNRS/Université Paris Diderot) used a biomimetic approach to provide the experimental validation.


Molecular nano-machines. Credit: Monica Zoppe

This discovery has a number of applications in nanotechnology and the field of synthesis of artificial muscles. Human muscles are controlled by the coordinated movement of thousands of proteins, which function individually only over distances of a few nanometers. When combined, these movements are amplified telescopically until they reach a normal scale.

Synthetic chemists have made progresses in the manufacturing of nano-machines, but the coordination of these in space and time has remained an unresolved problem. Guiseppone’s team has succeeded in synthesizing long polymer chains incorporating thousands of nano-machines via supramolecular bonds. Each of these machines is able to produce linear motion of around a nanometer. The simultaneous movement allows the whole polymer chain to contract or extend over about 10 cm (4 in), amplifying the movement by a factor of 10,000.

These results could lead to numerous applications in the design of artificial muscles, micro-robots, or new materials that incorporate nano-machines.

Reference: “Muscle-like Supramolecular Polymers: Integrated Motion from Thousands of Molecular Machines” by Guangyan Du, Dr. Emilie Moulin, Dr. Nicolas Jouault, Prof. Dr. Eric Buhler and Prof. Dr. Nicolas Giuseppone, 18 October 2012, Angewandte Chemie.
DOI: 10.1002/ange.201206571

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