A team led by scientists from Edinburgh University has succeeded in objects move remotely and with no direct physical effort.
They used nanotechnology to shift a tiny droplet of a thick liquid called diiodomethane up a 12-degree slope against the force of gravity. This is claimed to be the small-scale equivalent of a conventional machine lifting an object twice the height of the world’s tallest building.
Professor David Leigh said: “It is the first time molecular machines have managed to talk to the real world.”
The experience could mean that lifting things becomes unnecessary in the future, people would then shift objects about remotely, using laser pointers.
The team has developed a surface that is covered with synthetic molecular Teflon-like “shuttles”. The components of the shuttles move up and down by a millionth of a millimetre when exposed to light. After most of the shuttle molecules change position, this prompts a change in surface properties and this in turn moves the droplets.