Researchers at UCLA, ever the molecular machinists, have developed a molecular gyroscope that uses a phenylene rotor surrounded by a bis-trityl alkoxy “stator.” The central benzene is more or less free to rotate about the alkyne axis, however the authors did note that their stator chains were not bulky enough to prevent interference from solvent molecules and other nearby gyroscope molecules.
A gyroscope’s rotor fixes its orientation with respect to its axis of rotation according to what I would call “fuzzy physics.” In any case, a working molecular gyroscope could have intriguing applications in, say, chiral syntheses, where fixing the orientation of a molecule could lead to high yields of a particular enantiomer. There is still work to be done though–stabilizing the rotor requires an additional outer ring, or gimbal, not attached to the rotor axis. Getting one ring around another set of rings and getting it to stay there seems nigh impossible.
Then again they’ve amazed me before, and they’ll probably amaze me again.