Bakerian Lecture by Professor David Leigh FRS
Professor David Leigh FRS is Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Manchester.
Over the past few years some of the first examples of synthetic molecular level machines and motors — all be they primitive by biological standards —have been developed. These molecules respond to light, chemical and electrical stimuli, inducing motion of components held together by hydrogen bonding or other weak molecular interactions.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the technological potential of controlled molecular-level motion is to recognise that nanomotors and molecular-level machines lie at the heart of every significant biological process. Over billions of years of evolution Nature has not repeatedly chosen this solution for achieving complex task performance without good reason. In stark contrast to biology, none of mankind’s fantastic myriad of present day technologies exploit controlled molecular-level motion in any way at all: every catalyst, every material, every polymer, every pharmaceutical, every chemical reagent, all function exclusively through their static or equilibrium dynamic properties. When we learn how to build artificial structures that can control and exploit molecular level motion, and interface their effects directly with other molecular-level substructures and the outside world, it will potentially impact on every aspect of functional molecule and materials design. An improved understanding of physics and biology will surely follow.
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