Self-propelling nanomotors in the presence of strong Brownian forces

Tung Chun Lee, Mariana Alarcón-Correa, Cornelia Miksch, Kersten Hahn, John G. Gibbs, Peer Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


Motility in living systems is due to an array of complex molecular nanomotors that are essential for the function and survival of cells. These protein nanomotors operate not only despite of but also because of stochastic forces. Artificial means of realizing motility rely on local concentration or temperature gradients that are established across a particle, resulting in slip velocities at the particle surface and thus motion of the particle relative to the fluid. However, it remains unclear if these artificial motors can function at the smallest of scales, where Brownian motion dominates and no actively propelled living organisms can be found. Recently, the first reports have appeared suggesting that the swimming mechanisms of artificial structures may also apply to enzymes that are catalytically active. Here we report a scheme to realize artificial Janus nanoparticles (JNPs) with an overall size that is comparable to that of some enzymes ∼30 nm. Our JNPs can catalyze the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen and thus actively move by self-electrophoresis. Geometric anisotropy of the Pt-Au Janus nanoparticles permits the simultaneous observation of their translational and rotational motion by dynamic light scattering. While their dynamics is strongly influenced by Brownian rotation, the artificial Janus nanomotors show bursts of linear ballistic motion resulting in enhanced diffusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2407-2412
Number of pages6
JournalNano Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 14 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Janus particles
  • Nanomotors
  • dynamic light scattering
  • enhanced diffusion
  • nanofabrication
  • self-propulsion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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