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Synthetic Molecules that Walk Down Tracks: The First Small-Molecule Linear Motors (WalkingMols)
Start date: 01 Jan 2009, End date: 31 Dec 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The goal of this research project is to make the first synthetic small-molecule structures that can walk down tracks, mimicking the types of movement exhibited by the biological motor proteins myosin, kinesin and dynein. We propose to construct the first synthetic, mechanically processive, chemical systems from first principles; i.e. to design, synthesize, operate and characterize wholly synthetic small molecule structures that progressively advance directionally along a molecular track in response to stimuli. Different principles ( passing leg and inchworm mechanisms) for processive mechanical molecular-level motion will be developed and experimentally explored. With some designs it is envisaged that the walker units will be able to change direction or switch between pathways as a result of external signaling or the nature of the environment and, ultimately, be able to transport a cargo from one place to another on a surface. Sequential processive movement is unprecedented for wholly synthetic molecular structures and is the key requirement for making translational/linear motors that can perform tasks (transport cargoes from place to place or progressively exert a force) at the molecular level. Its successful demonstration would be a landmark accomplishment and mark a major new direction for synthetic supramolecular chemistry and molecular nanotechnology.
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