Watch the world’s smallest cars race along tracks thinner than a human hair

In a battle for the ages, six cars are vying for dominance this weekend on a race track in Toulouse, France. But you’ll need some serious binoculars if you want to get a glimpse of the action. That’s because the course is smaller than the width of a human hair, and the cars—designed by researchers from Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the United States—are made up of just single molecules. To propel the molecular machines forward on their silver and gold tracks, researchers use electric jolts provided by the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope. After nearly 8 hours, the Austrian-U.S. entry, Dipolar Racer, has already crossed the finish line. The car, which resembles a molecular Segway without a handle, has completed two runs down its 150-nanometer silver track at an average speed of 35 nanometers per hour. At that pace, it would take hundreds of years to drive the car across a €1 coin. The Nano Dragster, entered by the Swiss team, was the first to complete a shorter, 100-nanometer-long gold race track. But the other four teams have struggled to even cross the starting line, with the Ohio Bobcat Nano-Wagon creeping forward a mere 2.5 nanometers—a distance of “virtually nothing,” according to event organizers. The race, which continues through tomorrow, has been billed as a way to advance the manipulation of molecular machines, a field that won last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Next year, perhaps it will bring us the Nano 500.