Surface-chemistry-driven actuation in nanoporous gold

Nat Mater. 2009 Jan;8(1):47-51. doi: 10.1038/nmat2335. Epub 2008 Nov 30.


Although actuation in biological systems is exclusively powered by chemical energy, this concept has not been realized in man-made actuator technologies, as these rely on generating heat or electricity first. Here, we demonstrate that surface-chemistry-driven actuation can be realized in high-surface-area materials such as nanoporous gold. For example, we achieve reversible strain amplitudes of the order of a few tenths of a per cent by alternating exposure of nanoporous Au to ozone and carbon monoxide. The effect can be explained by adsorbate-induced changes of the surface stress, and can be used to convert chemical energy directly into a mechanical response, thus opening the door to surface-chemistry-driven actuator and sensor technologies.