Optomechanical control of molecular motors

D.L. Andrews, L.C. Dávila Romero, J.M. Leeder, M.M. Coles

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The majority of mechanisms that can be deployed for optical micromanipulation are not especially amenable for extension into the nanoscale. At the molecular level, the rich variety of schemes that have been proposed to achieve mechanical effect using light commonly exploit specific chemical structures; familiar examples are compounds that can fold by cis-trans isomerization, or the mechanically interlocked architectures of rotaxanes. However, such systems are synthetically highly challenging, and few of them can realistically form the basis for a true molecular motor. Developing the basis for a very different strategy based on programmed electronic excitation, this paper explores the possibility of producing controlled mechanical motion through optically induced modifications of intermolecular force fields, not involving the limitations associated with using photochemical change, nor the high intensities required to produce and manipulate optical binding forces between molecules. Calculations reveal that significant, rapidly responsive effects can be achieved in relatively simple systems. By the use of suitable laser pulse sequences, the possibilities include the generation of continuous rotary motion, the ultimate aim of molecular motor design.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Chemical compounds
  • chemicals
  • Lasers
  • Molecules
  • Nanotechnology
  • Optical binding
  • Optical micromanipulation
  • Optomechanical design

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