Catalytic microtubular jet engines self-propelled by accumulated gas bubbles

Small. 2009 Jul;5(14):1688-92. doi: 10.1002/smll.200900021.


Strain-engineered microtubes with an inner catalytic surface serve as self-propelled microjet engines with speeds of up to approximately 2 mm s(-1) (approximately 50 body lengths per second). The motion of the microjets is caused by gas bubbles ejecting from one opening of the tube, and the velocity can be well approximated by the product of the bubble radius and the bubble ejection frequency. Trajectories of various different geometries are well visualized by long microbubble tails. If a magnetic layer is integrated into the wall of the microjet engine, we can control and localize the trajectories by applying external rotating magnetic fields. Fluid (i.e., fuel) pumping through the microtubes is revealed and directly clarifies the working principle of the catalytic microjet engines.

MeSH terms

  • Aviation / instrumentation*
  • Catalysis
  • Gases*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nanotechnology


  • Gases