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Micromotors are very small particles (measured in microns) that can move themselves. The term is often used interchangeably with "nanomotor," despite the implicit size difference. These micromotors actually propel themselves in a specific direction autonomously when placed in a chemical solution. There are many different micromotor types operating under a host of mechanisms. Easily the most important examples are biological motors such as bacteria and any other self-propelled cells. Synthetically, researchers have exploited oxidation-reduction reactions to produce chemical gradients, local fluid flows, or streams of bubbles that then propel these micromotors through chemical media.

Micromotors may have applications in medicine since they have been shown to be able to deliver materials to living cells within an organism. They also have been shown to be effective in degrading certain chemical and biological warfare agents.

Janus Motor Propulsion[edit]

Janus sphere micromotors usually consist of a titanium dioxide surface layer and a strong reducing agent inner layer. The interaction of the two layer under irradiation of UV light produces bubbles as a result of a reduction reaction. Micromotors usually have a size of about 30μm with a small 2μm opening on the outer layer. This leads to the exposure of the inner core, which is typically the fuel source for the propulsion mechanism. The diameter of the hole controls the rate and speed of the reaction.[1]

Nano particle Implementation[edit]

Nano particle incorporation into micromotors has been recently studied and observed further. Specifically, gold nanoparticles have been introduced to the traditional titanium dioxide outer layer of most micromotors.[1] The size of these gold nanoparticles typically is distributed from anywhere around 3 nm to 30 nm.[2] Since these gold nanoparticles are layered on top of the inner core (usually a reducing agent, such as magnesium), there is enhanced macrogalvanic corrosion observed.[3] Technically, this is where the cathode and anode are in contact with each other, creating a circuit. The cathode, as a result of the circuit, is corroded. The depletion of this inner core leads to the reduction of the chemical environment as a fuel source. For example, in a TiO2/Au/Mg micromotor in a seawater environment, the magnesium inner core would experience corrosion and reduce water to begin a chain of reactions that results in hydrogen gas as a fuel source. The reduction reaction is as follows: [1]


Researchers hope that micromotors will be used in medicine to deliver medication and do other precise small-scale interventions. A study has shown that micromotors could deliver gold particles to the stomach layer of living mice.[4]

Photocatalytic Degradation of Biological and Chemical Warfare Agents[edit]

Micromotors are capable of photocatalytic degradation with the appropriate composition. Specifically, micromotors with a titanium dioxide/gold nanoparticle outer layer and magnesium inner core are currently being examined and studied for their degradation efficacy against chemical and biological warfare agents (CBWA). These new TiO2/Au/Mg micromotors produce no reagents or toxic byproducts from the propulsion and degradation mechanisms. However, they are very effective against CBWAs and present a complete and rapid degradation of certain CBWAs. There has been recent research of TiO2/Au/Mg micromotors and their use and degradation efficacy against biological warfare agents, such as Bacillus anthracis, and chemical warfare agents, such as organaphosphate nerve agents- a class of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Therefore, application of these micromotors is a possibility for defense and environmental applications.

Photocatalytic Degradation Mechanism[edit]

These new micromotors are composed of a photoactive titanium dioxide outer/surface layer that has gold nanoparticles as well. Under UV irradiation, the adsorbed water produces strongly oxidizing hydroxyl radicals. Also, adsorbed molecular O2 reacts with electrons producing superoxide anions. Those superoxide anions also produce to the production of peroxide radicals, hydroxyl radicals, and hydroxyl anions. Transformation into carbon dioxide and water, otherwise known as mineralization, of CWAs has been observed as a result of the radicals and anions. Also, the gold nanoparticles effectively shift the Fermi level of titanium dioxide, enhancing the distribution of the electron charge. Therefore, the lifetime of the radicals and anions is extended, so the implementation of gold nanoparticles has greatly improved photocatalytic efficiency.


  1. ^ a b c Li, Jinxing; Singh, Virendra V.; Sattayasamitsathit, Sirilak; Orozco, Jahir; Kaufmann, Kevin; Dong, Renfeng; Gao, Wei; Jurado-Sanchez, Beatriz; Fedorak, Yuri; Wang, Joseph (25 November 2014). "Water-Driven Micromotors for Rapid Photocatalytic Degradation of Biological and Chemical Warfare Agents". ACS Nano. 8 (11): 11118–11125. doi:10.1021/nn505029k.
  2. ^ Su, Ren; Tiruvalam, Ramchandra; He, Qian; Dimitratos, Nikolaos; Kesavan, Lokesh; Hammond, Ceri; Lopez-Sanchez, Jose Antonio; Bechstein, Ralf; Kiely, Christopher J.; Hutchings, Graham J.; Besenbacher, Flemming (24 July 2012). "Promotion of Phenol Photodecomposition over TiO Using Au, Pd, and Au–Pd Nanoparticles". ACS Nano. 6 (7): 6284–6292. doi:10.1021/nn301718v.
  3. ^ Gao, Wei; Feng, Xiaomiao; Pei, Allen; Gu, Yonge; Li, Jinxing; Wang, Joseph (2013). "Seawater-driven magnesium based Janus micromotors for environmental remediation". Nanoscale. 5 (11): 4696. Bibcode:2013Nanos...5.4696G. doi:10.1039/c3nr01458d.
  4. ^ Bourzac, Katherine. "Micromotors Take Their First Swim In The Body". C&EN. Chemical and Engineering News. Retrieved 30 May 2015.