Molecular Machine Could Operate at Near-Equilibrium
Date: Thursday, December 20, 2007 @ 23:50:04 MST
Topic: Science

'Kind and Gentle' Molecular Machine Could Operate at Near-Equilibrium
By Lisa Zyga

Molecular machines – tiny machines made of molecules that do mechanical work – are usually thought to operate in a state of non-equilibrium. This makes sense, considering that macro-sized machines operate at non-equilibrium, requiring an additional force to move. On the other hand, equilibrium implies that forces cancel each other out, resulting in an unchanging system, often at rest.

“The main significance is conceptual – it changes the way we think about molecular motors,” Astumian told “Much emphasis has been put on the ‘non-equilibrium’ aspects of the system, but in fact this is not really important. The motion of the rings here arises due to a combination of topology that break spatial symmetry, and the slow external modulation that breaks time symmetry. It is also important to recognize that, in the molecular world, we can truly have motors that operate with nearly 100% efficiency.” ...

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