From the early theoretical framework laid down by famed physicist Richard Feynman, to the inaugural paper titled "Molecular Engineering: An Approach to the Development of General Capabilities for Molecular Manipulation" by Eric Drexler the nanotech pioneer, and eventually the Nobel recognition to the three molecular machine musketeers Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa, the idea of constructing miniature devices at the molecular level that can mimic functions at the macroscopic world has come a long, long way.
In 2011, a nanosized "car" made out of small molecules took the world by storm. The nanocar, developed by Bernard Feringa's group at the University of Groningen, is a molecule-sized four wheeler powered by his own design of molecular motor. It can drive across a copper surface under the manipulation of an electrical current. Since then many other molecular machines have been built to perform a diverse range of mechanical works, such as a nanosized assembling arm that rotates on its axil and picks up a small molecule, a molecular motor-powered pump that pumps solute component, and a rotary molecule that winds polymer chains.
The field of molecular machines has yet reached its maturity, despite numerous progress has been made over the last decade. Commenting on where the field is heading towards, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart said: "We’re on a very early part of a very steep learning curve. Chemistry is a fundamental science and it needs some space in which to develop the fundamentals. It’s going to be a slow process and it may take decades to develop the field to a stage where it’s applied to whatever the technology of the day is, but then suddenly it will take off, and people will see what all that fundamental development can lead to."
Source: SciShow via Youtube