Little big wheels
The world’s largest nano- car looks good, but has performance issues.
Unlike the latest Lamborghini Aventador, the Bobcat Nanowagon will never make a splash on Top Gear.
This is a pity, because while the Bobcat can’t do zero to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds like the Lambo can, in its own class it churn out some pretty impressive numbers.
Admittedly, that class is small. Indeed, very small. The Bobcat Nanowagon, made by a team from Ohio University, rejoices in the paradox of being the largest nanovehicle ever made.
It measures 3.5 nanometres front to back, which in the world of really teenytiny cars means it takes up the best part of two parking spaces.
The car’s wheels are made out of comparatively large cucurbituril molecules. When the Ohio University team entered it in the world’s first-ever race for nanocars, held at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Toulouse in April, it was nicknamed the world’s smallest monster truck.
The car’s developers, Eric Masson and Saw-wai Hla, however, shrugged off this slight and let the vehicle do the talking.
The Nanowagon’s “chassis” is an H-shaped frame made of a molecular complex known as a pseudorotaxane. This, combined with the vehicle’s bulky wheels, a power-drive built from some positively charged receptors and a piezoelectric charge jumping from the tip of a scanning tunnel microscope, meant it came off the starting line like a stabbed rat when the race began.
The track, made from gold and silver, extended for less than the width of a human hair. The Bobcat got off to a strong start and travelled 43 nanometres before getting stuck. The performance was enough to win third place, which was a little disappointing, given it covered the ground until its breakdown in a record-beating 30 hours.
In the end, however, winning was never the point of the exercise. “The overarching goal was to advertise nanoscience to the public,” Masson says.
The Bobcat Nanowagon: nought to a- little- bit- more- than- nought in just 30 hours. CREDIT: ERIC MASSON