France is going to play host to the world’s first ever nanocar race wherein tiny molecular nano machines will be battling it out to finish first by zipping through a minuscule racecourse made of gold atoms.

The nanocar race is being organized by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France with the primary objective of advancing research in development of molecule-machines as well as develop and evolve technologies that could help us observe and control them.

The nanocars are effectively small molecule-machines each consisting of a few hundred atoms. These nanocars will be powered by minute electrical pulses as they navigate through the racecourse made of gold atoms, measuring a maximum of 100 nanometres in length. The race will last for 36 hours according to scientists at CNRS and will be broadcast live on YouTube Nanocar Race channel.

They will square off beneath the four tips of a unique microscope located at CNRS’s CEMES research centre in Toulouse. The race is first and foremost a scientific and technological challenge, and will be broadcast live on the YouTube Nanocar Race channel.

Scientists say that this nanorace is more than than a race and it is an international scientific experiment that will be conducted in real time, with the aim of testing the performance of molecule-machines and the scientific instruments used to control them. Looking at how technology behind nano machines have evolved over the year and how it will evolve in future, the Nanocar Race is a unique opportunity for researchers to implement cutting-dge techniques for the simultaneous observation and independent manoeuvring of such nano-machines.

The years ahead will probably see the use of such molecular machinery in the manufacture of common machines: atom-by-atom construction of electronic circuits, atom-by-atom deconstruction of industrial waste, capture of energy etc.

Some of the challenges identified by organizers of the race include selecting the racecourse, adapting the scanning tunnelling microscope, depositing and visualising the molecules beneath the microscope, and determination of criteria for the molecules’ structure and form of propulsion in order to participate in this race, among others.

Four teams will take their place at the 4-tip microscope’s starting line on April 28 for the 36-hour race in Toulouse. The challenges facing researchers in the race will be so many steps forward in novel fields in chemistry and physics.

The CEMES-CNRS microscope is the only one in the world allowing four different experimenters to work on the same surface. The development of such multi-tip microscopes will enable synchronising a great number of molecule-machines in order to increase capacity, for instance for storing energy or capturing it from a hot metallic surface.