Nanoscience has been an up and coming area of research for quite some time, and research groups have been developing various components which they hope to combine to make molecular machines. This article on the Nature News website describes how this area is finally coming of age, and the machine parts are being put into action.
It’s a very complicated area of chemistry, with molecules having to be precisely designed so that they can work together to produce a macroscopic effect. The simplest, and possibly most effective, applications will involve using these machines as switches for such important applications as drug delivery. Many of these switches have been developed over the years, many of which build on the axle-ring design of the rotaxane, first developed by Fraser Stoddart in the early 90s.
Research has continued to develop since then, with molecular motors and even molecules which are able to walk being synthesised. The sky appears to be the limit, and now chemists are on the cusp of proving to the world that these nano-machines can and will be useful.