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Molecular tools make the cut

the scissors to rotate and swivel.

Driving the motion are two handles strapped with photo-responsive molecules called azobenzene, which not only has the ability to absorb light, but comes in two isomeric forms: a long-form and short-form. Upon exposure to UV light, the long-form of azobenzene is converted into the short-form. Exposure to visible light transforms the short-form into the long-form.

When UV and visible light are used interchangeably, the length of the azobenzene decreases and increases, which drives the handles in an open-close motion. The movement activates the pivot, followed by an opening-closing motion of the blades.

Attached to the scissors blades are organometallic units called "zinc porphyrin." When the zinc atom in the zinc porphyrin binds with a nitrogen-containing molecule, such as DNA, the zinc and nitrogen act like magnets, securing a firm grip on the molecule.

As the blades open and close, the guest molecules remain attached to the zinc porphyrin, and as a result, they are twisted back and forth, Kinbara says.

In a recent study, the scientists demonstrated how the light-driven scissors could be used to grasp and twist molecules. The group is now working to develop a larger scissors system that can be manipulated remotely. Practical applications still remain five to 10 years away, the scientists say.


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25-Mar-2007


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