Self-powered enzyme micropumps

Nat Chem. 2014 May;6(5):415-22. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1895. Epub 2014 Mar 30.


Non-mechanical nano- and microscale pumps that function without the aid of an external power source and provide precise control over the flow rate in response to specific signals are needed for the development of new autonomous nano- and microscale systems. Here we show that surface-immobilized enzymes that are independent of adenosine triphosphate function as self-powered micropumps in the presence of their respective substrates. In the four cases studied (catalase, lipase, urease and glucose oxidase), the flow is driven by a gradient in fluid density generated by the enzymatic reaction. The pumping velocity increases with increasing substrate concentration and reaction rate. These rechargeable pumps can be triggered by the presence of specific analytes, which enables the design of enzyme-based devices that act both as sensor and pump. Finally, we show proof-of-concept enzyme-powered devices that autonomously deliver small molecules and proteins in response to specific chemical stimuli, including the release of insulin in response to glucose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Catalase / chemistry
  • Catalase / metabolism*
  • Enzymes, Immobilized / chemistry
  • Enzymes, Immobilized / metabolism*
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Glucose Oxidase / chemistry
  • Glucose Oxidase / metabolism*
  • Gold
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Lipase / chemistry
  • Lipase / metabolism*
  • Nanotechnology
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Surface Properties
  • Urease / chemistry
  • Urease / metabolism*


  • Enzymes, Immobilized
  • Insulin
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Gold
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glucose Oxidase
  • Catalase
  • Lipase
  • Urease
  • Glucose