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Japanese team to compete in world’s smallest car race

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Competitors in the world’s first-ever Nanocar Race might be microscopic, but the event promises to be a big deal--and Japan is in the running to claim this smallest of victories, reported Asahi Shimbun (Japan).

The race in Toulouse, France, on April 28-29 features “vehicles” built from just dozens to a few hundred atoms each. They measure just a few nanometers, lengthway and across. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.
Nanotechnology experts from the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) here formed the country’s team.

While some overseas teams have designed cars with wheels, the Japanese team's vehicle moves forward by flapping two sets of two wings on its right and left sides. It is made of 88 atoms of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

The vehicles are propelled by applying electrical stimulation to them.
The racecourse is built on the naturally occurring grooves on the surface of a circular gold plate with an 8-millimeter diameter. With a time limit of 36 hours, the first team to finish the 100-nanometer course will win the race.

According to Waka Nakanishi, 39, Japanese team leader and a senior researcher at NIMS, controlling the movements of molecular cars is like controlling a baseball on the Earth from space, and the event will be closer to an endurance test than a Formula One race.

Nakanishi is confident that her team’s car will be the best.
“In the world of nano, the surface of gold is uneven and bumpy. We will prove our car is faster than the wheeled designs of overseas teams,” she said.

The Nanocar Race, organized by France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), will see six teams competing, one each from France, Germany, the United States, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.

The Japanese team is sponsored by Toyota Motor Corp., and some other teams are also sponsored by major automakers from their countries.

The objective of the race is to hone skills in designing and controlling “molecular machines,” a realm of science to freely control the movement of mechanical molecules, which has been attracting attention for possible application in medicine and other fields.
Spectators can watch the race through special microscopes set over the racecourse plate.

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Microscopic molecular vehicles piloted by chemists and physicists will line up in the world’s first nano-car race in France this month — but don’t expect to see anything with the naked eye, reported News.au (Australia) earlier.

Teams from France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and a joint Austrian-American group have qualified, but only four will get to compete on April 28-29, organisers of the race said Tuesday.
Sponsored by France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the race will take place at one of its laboratories in Toulouse, in southwestern France, and will be streamed live on YouTube.
Each ultra-miniature car will be built from just hundreds of atoms grouped together to form the engine, body, wheels and pedals.

Instead of holding a steering wheel, scientists will manoeuvre a microscope equipped with four needle-like metal tips that generate an electric current.
The white-gowned “drivers” will poke the nano-cars with the energy-inducing instruments to propel them across a racing track made from gold.
The vehicles, which consist of a few hundred atoms, will be powered by minute electrical pulses, and they must navigate the length of a racecourse made of gold atoms.

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