Projects per year
Synthetic molecular motors continue to attract great interest due to their ability to transduce energy into nanomechanical motion, the potential to do work and drive systems out-of-equilibrium. Of particular interest are unidirectional rotary molecular motors driven by chemical fuel or light. Probing the mechanistic details of their operation at the single-molecule level is hampered by the diffraction limit, which prevents the collection of dynamic positional information by traditional optical methods. Here we use defocused wide-field imaging to examine the unidirectional rotation of individual molecular rotary motors on a quartz surface in unprecedented detail. The sequential occupation of nanomechanical states during the UV and heat-induced cycle of rotation are directly imaged in real-time. The approach will undoubtedly prove important in elucidating the mechanistic details and assessing the utility of novel synthetic molecular motors in the future.