Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa’s nanomotor     In 2016, Ben Feringa, professor of organic chemistry, was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on a tiny machine: the molecular nano-car.

Molecular car

What is a molecular machine? Back in the 1990s, Feringa discovered a molecule that starts to spin when you shine light onto it: a unique discovery. By directing the light, Feringa discovered, you can make the molecule move the way you want it to. From this, Feringa and his fellow researchers developed the nanocar. A molecule with four rotating wheels, no bigger than a few billionths of a metre. The professor succeeded in driving his nanocar on a specially constructed road made of copper. This was not easy: it only worked in high vacuum at 269 degrees Celsius below zero, but it worked nonetheless!

Problem solver

Nanocars could solve all sorts of problems in the medical world. They could be used to deliver medication to the exact spot in the body where they are needed. In short: an invention that offers enormous opportunities. Curious about what the nanocar looks like? You can build the molecule yourself in our University Museum. Fortunately, this model is slightly larger than the original, so you can leave your reading glasses at home!


Universiteitsmuseum Groningen

Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 7a
9712 EA Groningen
Plan route Plan route

Netherlands Museum Pass valid

Visit museum page

Discover more