Catalytic nanomotors: Fabrication, mechanism, and applications

John Gibbs, Yiping Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Catalytic nanomotors are nano-to-micrometer-sized actuators that carry an on-board catalyst and convert local chemical fuel in solution into mechanical work. The location of this catalyst as well as the geometry of the structure dictate the swimming behaviors exhibited. The nanomotors can occur naturally in organic molecules, combine natural and artificial parts to form hybrid nanomotors or be purely artificial. Fabrication techniques consist of template directed electroplating, lithography, physical vapor deposition, and other advanced growth methods. Various physical and chemical propulsion mechanisms have been proposed to explain the motion behaviors including diffusiophoresis, bubble propulsion, interfacial tension gradients, and self-electrophoresis. The control and manipulation based upon external fields, catalytic alloys, and motion control through thermal modulation are discussed as well. Catalytic nanomotors represent an exciting technological challenge with the end goal being practical functional nanomachines that can perform a variety of tasks at the nanoscale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-39
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers of Materials Science in China
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • bubble propulsion
  • catalysis
  • glancing angle deposition (GLAD)
  • nanomotors
  • self-electrophoresis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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