Numerous types of bacteria swim in their environment by rotating long helical filaments. At the base of each
filament is a tiny rotary motor called the bacterial flagellar motor. A lot is already known about the structure,
assembly and function of this splendid molecular machine of nanoscopic dimensions. Nevertheless many fundamental
questions remain open and the study of the flagellar motor is a very exciting area of current research. We
are developing an in vitro assay to enable studies of the bacterial flagellar motor in precisely controlled conditions
and to gain direct access to the inner components of the motor. We partly squeeze a filamentous E. coli bacterium
inside a micropipette, leaving a working flagellar motor outside. We then punch a hole through the cell
wall at the end of the bacterium located inside the micropipette using a brief train of ultrashort (~60 fs) laser
pulses. This enables us to control the rotation of the motor with an external voltage (for at least 15 minutes).
In parallel, new methods to monitor the speed of rotation of the motor in the low load (high speed) regime are
being developed using various nanoparticules.