Nanomachines are already useful for delivering medication and serving as computer memories at the nanometer scale. But thanks to advance 3D printing techniques, researchers at Dartmouth College have found a way to make nanomachines useful at the human scale.
“Up until now, harnessing the mechanical work of nanomachines has been extremely difficult,” says Chenfeng Ke, assistant professor of chemistry at Dartmouth and the principle investigator for the research. “We are slowly getting closer to the point that they tiny machines can operate on a scale that we can see, touch, and feel.”
The Dartmouth researchers designed and synthesized mechanically interlocked molecule-based gels with properties desirable for 3D printing. They printed lattice-like 3D structures using hydrogen bonding interactions between nanorings. During the printing process, the researchers discovered the architecture of the structures can be reversibly deformed and reformed through solvent exchange that switches the threaded ring structure between random shuttling and stationary states at the molecular level.