Photochemically Activated Motors: From Electrokinetic to Diffusion Motion Control

Kuan Zhang, Jordi Fraxedas, Borja Sepulveda, Maria J. Esplandiu

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    12 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2017 American Chemical Society. Self-propelled micro/nanomotors that can transform chemical energy from the surrounding environment into mechanical motion are cutting edge nanotechnologies with potential applications in biomedicine and environmental remediation. These applications require full understanding of the propulsion mechanisms to improve the performance and controllability of the motors. In this work, we demonstrate that there are two competing chemomechanical mechanisms at semiconductor/metal (Si/Pt) micromotors in a pump configuration under visible light exposure. The first propulsion mechanism is driven by an electro-osmotic process stemmed from a photoactivation reaction mediated by H2O2, which takes place in two separated redox reactions at the Si and Pt interfaces. One reaction involves the oxidation of H2O2 at the silicon side, and the other the H2O2 reduction at the metal side. The second mechanism is not light responsive and is triggered by the redox decomposition of H2O2 exclusively at the Pt surface. We show that it is possible to enhance/suppress one mechanism over the other by tuning the surface roughness of the micromotor metal. More specifically, the actuation mechanism can be switched from light-controlled electrokinetics to light-insensitive diffusio-osmosis by only increasing the metal surface roughness. The different actuation mechanisms yield strikingly different fluid flow velocities, electric fields, and light sensitivities. Consequently, these findings are very relevant and can have a remarkable impact on the design and optimization of photoactivated catalytic devices and, in general, on bimetallic or insulating-metallic motors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)44948-44953
    JournalACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
    Issue number51
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2017


    • catalytic motors
    • chemomechanical actuation
    • electro-hydrodynamics forces
    • light-driven motors
    • photoactivation


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