A molecular machine, or nanomachine, refers to any discrete number of molecular components that produce quasi-mechanical movements (output) in response to specific stimuli (input). The expression is often more generally applied to molecules that simply mimic functions that occur at the macroscopic level. The term is also common in nanotechnology where a number of highly complex molecular machines have been proposed that are aimed at the goal of constructing a molecular assembler. In 1959, physicist Richard Feynman popularized the idea of nanomachines in his talk entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” at the California Institute of Technology. Since then, chemists and physicists alike have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to miniaturize machines found in the macroscopic world. Molecular machines research is currently at the forefront with the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.
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