This tiny nanoscale wrench can tinker with molecules

This could be the tiniest, most adorable wrench you'll ever (not) see. A team of scientists lead by Severin Schneebeli at the University of Vermont has developed a nanoscale wrench that can control microscopic objects and will lead to making next-generation customized materials. It's just 1.7 nanometers in length and works by the power of molecular chirality: this is where two molecules are identical in composition, yet opposite -- like your left and right hands.

By experimenting with a substance found in coal, the team assembled a C-shaped strip of molecules, connecting them together like blocks of Lego. The strip is held in one geometric shape which is vastly different to other synthesized chemical compounds that can twist and rotate into a variety of forms. This means that scientists are able to use these C-shaped structures to remotely and precisely adjust a chemical in the same way that a mechanic is able to use a wrench to turn an exterior bolt to alter the performance of an engine. The discovery paves the way for next-generation polymers and materials to create future medicines that... well, aren't quite specified in the release. We're still waiting on news of a nano-screwdriver.

[Image credit: Severin Schneebeli, UVM]