The 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded for the design and synthesis of the world’s smallest machines. The work has overtones of science fiction, but holds huge promise in fields as diverse as medicine, materials and energy.
All grand endeavors start small. This is especially true of efforts to develop nano-scale machines (1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair), which are always destined to remain tiny however big our ambitions for them grow.
It’s difficult to trace the development of molecular machines to one person or scientific step. But a 1959 lecture by the celebrated physicist Richard Feynman is as good a point as any. His talk, given at an American Physical Society meeting in California and titled Plenty of Room at the Bottom, laid the conceptual foundations for nanotechnology. In it, he also anticipated one of the most widely discussed applications for molecular machines – in nano-robotic surgery and localized drug delivery.
By Paul Rincon | BBC