Self-propelled supramolecular nanomotors with temperature-responsive speed regulation


Self-propelled catalytic micro- and nanomotors have been the subject of intense study over the past few years, but it remains a continuing challenge to build in an effective speed-regulation mechanism. Movement of these motors is generally fully dependent on the concentration of accessible fuel, with propulsive movement only ceasing when the fuel consumption is complete. Here we report a demonstration of control over the movement of self-assembled stomatocyte nanomotors via a molecularly built, stimulus-responsive regulatory mechanism. A temperature-sensitive polymer brush is chemically grown onto the nanomotor, whereby the opening of the stomatocytes is enlarged or narrowed on temperature change, which thus controls the access of hydrogen peroxide fuel and, in turn, regulates movement. To the best of our knowledge, this represents the first nanosized chemically driven motor for which motion can be reversibly controlled by a thermally responsive valve/brake. We envision that such artificial responsive nanosystems could have potential applications in controllable cargo transportation.

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Figure 1: Design of polymeric stomatocyte nanomotors with thermosensitive brakes.
Figure 2: Characterization of the stoma, stoma–Br, PtNP–stoma and PtNP–stoma–brush.
Figure 3: Diffusion NMR measurements of free PNIPAM and stomatocytes with grown brushes (stoma–brush) in MeOD.
Figure 4: Evaluation of the functioning of PNIPAM brushes on stomatocytes.
Figure 5: Motion evaluation of PtNP–stoma–brush and PtNP–stoma.


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This work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-20012)/ERC-StG 307679 ‘StomaMotors’. We acknowledge support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Gravitation program 024.001.035). F.P. acknowledges funding from the China Scholarship Council. G.-J. Janssen and the General Instruments Department are acknowledged for providing support for the cryo-TEM and EDX measurements.

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Y. T. and D.A.W. conceived and designed the experiments. Y.T., F.P., X.S., Y.M. and P.B.W. performed the experiments. Y.T. analysed the data and prepared the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final form of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Daniela A. Wilson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Tu, Y., Peng, F., Sui, X. et al. Self-propelled supramolecular nanomotors with temperature-responsive speed regulation. Nature Chem 9, 480–486 (2017).

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