The French National Centre For Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique / CNRS) is taking racing to a whole new level, the molecular level.
Scheduled between April 28th and 29th at Toulouse in south-western France, will see teams participating from different countries. Four out of nine applied international teams will compete in a 36-hour-long nanocar race over a minuscule racecourse made of gold atoms.
The vehicle will only be comprised of a few atoms and powered by light electrical impulses while they navigate a 100 nanometer racecourse. They will square off beneath the four tips of a unique microscope located at CNRSs CEMES research centre in Toulouse.
CNRS, the organizers of the race, will determine the final winner. The race is first and foremost a scientific and technological challenge and will be broadcast live on the YouTube nanocar race channel.
However, more than the competition, the nanocar race is aimed at testing the molecule-machines for performance along with their special control instruments. These scientific tools and instruments will, in future, allow for construction of atomic electronic circuits and even deconstruct industrial waste atom by atom. The Nanocar race presents a unique opportunity for the scientists to implement and test highly advanced techniques to independently control molecule level machines. It’s such a hot topic in science that last year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded for discovering how to make more advanced parts for these machines.
It’s the brainchild of the center’s senior researcher Christian Joachim, who’s now director of the race, and Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier Professor of Chemistry Gwénaël Rapenne, both of whom have spent the last four years making sure everything is ready and equitable for the big event.
The organizers had to take into account various factors, such as selection of track to accommodate for all types of molecular cars and even adopting the scanning tunnelling microscope.
The participating teams also had to overcome a series of difficult tasks (depositing and visualising the molecules beneath the microscope), as well as meet numerous criteria (the molecular structure and form of propulsion) in order to participate in this race.
The track will have 20 nm path followed by one 45° turn, then a straight 30 nm track followed by one 45° turn and final 20 nm stretches. The teams will have a total of 36 hours to move their molecule-cars through the track. In case of an accident, the teams will have to take a permission from the organisers to change their car.