9th January 2023 – Making the Tiniest Machines

Professor David Leigh leads the Leigh Group at the University of Manchester.  The Group explores, invents and discovers fundamental ways to control molecular-level dynamics and topology.  In simple terms, they are making machines out of molecules.

David says “Perhaps the best way to appreciate the technological potential of controlled molecular-level motion is to recognise that nanomotors and molecular-level machines lie at the heart of every significant biological process. Over billions of years of evolution Nature has not repeatedly chosen this solution for achieving complex task performance without good reason. When we learn how to build artificial structures that can control and exploit molecular level motion, and interface their effects directly with other molecular-level substructures and the outside world, it will potentially impact on every aspect of functional molecule and materials design. An improved understanding of physics and biology will surely follow.”

Along with others, David holds the Guinness World Record for the tightest knotted structure at 2.5 nanometres per crossing (awarded in 2017) and also for the finest woven fabric measuring 7.7 million strands per square centimetre (awarded in 2020).  David is a former national champion contract bridge player and an accomplished magician (ex-Edinburgh Magic Circle and the Manchester Circle of Magicians) who is known for blending magic and science in his public lectures.  This promises to be a very informative and entertaining talk!

Representation of a programmable small-molecule robot able to transport a molecular cargo (shown in red) in either direction.
Image credit: Salma Hassem
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