The National Institute for Materials Science said Tuesday it will compete in the world's first "NanoCar Race" in France this month with cars about the size of two nanometers.

A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

Nanocars are extremely small machines made by combining atoms. The molecular creations are activated by a needle that passes through electric current, with participants checking its progress on a golden surface by using a special microscope.

Six teams will compete in the race, which will held on April 28 and 29.

NIM's nanocar is made of 88 atoms and has a scissor-like shape. It moves forward by flapping both ends of the machine, the institute said.

The track is a winding 100-nanometer-long trench extending across a gold surface. This makes the racing set up proportional to a 4-meter car on a 200-meter track.

The teams will have a time limit of 36 hours. Participants are not allowed to push their nanocars with the needles.

In the future, nanocar technology may have practical applications in medicine, such as a vehicle for delivering medicine to a specific location in the human body.

"By understanding the mechanism on how a nanocar moves, we'd like to relay the finding to the technology that would enable us to manipulate molecules freely," said Waka Nakanishi, NIM's team leader.

Last year, three European scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for designing and producing molecular-level contraptions dubbed "the world's smallest machines."