Designed micro/nanomotors are micro/nanoscale machines capable of autonomous motion in fluids, which have been emerging in recent decades owing to their great potential for biomedical and environmental applications. Among them, light-powered micro/nanomotors, in which motion is driven by light, exhibit various advantages in their precise motion manipulation and thereby a superior scope for application. This review summarizes recent advances in the design, manufacture and motion manipulation of different types of light-powered micro/nanomotors. Their structural features and motion performance are reviewed and compared. The challenges and opportunities of light-powered micro/nanomotors are also discussed. With rapidly increasing innovation, advanced, intelligent and multifunctional light-powered micro/nanomachines will certainly bring profound impacts and changes for human life in the future.
light-powered; manufacture; micro/nanomotors; motion manipulation.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
The milestones for the development process of light-powered MNMs: Molecular motors. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2012, Royal Society of Chemistry. Optofluidics. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2009, WILEY-VCH. Solid state motors. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2004, American Chemical Society.
A) Schematic illustration of helical Strip B (a). Photographs of helical Strip B before and after light irradiation (b). Schematic illustration of a mechanical arm completing a catching (releasing) movement (c). (d) Photographs of an object being lifted up by the mechanical arm. Scale bars, 1 cm in (b,d). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society; ( B) Illustration of the locomotion generated by non-reciprocal deformations of the helix (left); Directing the rotational motion to a linear translocation when the oscillating helix is confined close to a flat wall that impedes the rotation around the axis normal to the helix direction (right). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, WILEY-VCH.
Light-controlled motion of liquid crystalline polymer. (
A) Schematic showing (a) leftward and (b) rightward shift of the center of gravity in the wheel due to the UV-light-induced asymmetric deformation. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, WILEY-VCH; ( B) Schematic of light-pushing forward rolling (a) and light-pulling backward rolling (b) of the helical ribbons due to UV-light-induced torque. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, WILEY-VCH; ( C) Schematic of photonic microhand design (a) Illustration of a microhand and related mesogen alignment. (b) Illustration of the closed microfingers in response to an optical stimulus and the related change in molecular alignment. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, WILEY-VCH.
Design of tubular microactuators. (
a) Schematics showing the motion of a slug of fully wetting liquid confined in a tubular microactuator (TMA) driven by photodeformation; ( b) Lateral photographs of the light-induced motion of a silicone oil slug in a TMA fixed on a substrate; ( c) Schematic illustration of the structure of artery walls; ( d) Molecular structure of a novel linear liquid crystal polymer (LLCP). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, Nature Publishing Group.
Fabrication schemes of template-assisted MNMs. (
A) Schematic illustration of AAO template-assisted fabrication of the metal nanowires. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2011, American Chemical Society; ( B) The fabrication process of PC template-assisted electrodeposition of micro/nanorockets. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, WILEY-VCH; ( C) Fabrication scheme of spherical Janus MNMs. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society.
Schematic illustration of MNMs fabricated by the LbL method. (
A) Scheme of light-triggered Janus capsule motors. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2014, American Chemical Society; ( B) Illustration of the fabrication of tubular rockets: (i) LbL assembly of (PAH/PSS) 20 films, and subsequent deposition of AuNPs into the pores of templates; (ii) Formation of AuNSs though surface-seeding growth method; (iii) Removal of the templates to release the rockets. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2015, Wiley-VCH.
UV light-powered MNMs. (
A) The UV-induced bubble propulsion mechanism of the TiO 2 tubular microengine in H 2O 2 fuel, the generated O 2 bubbles are ejected from a one-end large opening to propel the TiO 2 tubular microengine. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2015, WILEY-VCH; ( B) The mechanism schematic of TiO 2-Au Janus micromotors powered by UV light in water. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society; ( C) The mechanism illustration of the phototaxis of a spherical TiO 2 micromotor based on the limited penetration depth of light (graph on the left). Time-lapse images and the motion trajectory of a TiO 2 micromotor in an aqueous solution containing 0.001 wt % H 2O 2 as fuel. The predesigned pathway for the micromotor is represented as dashed–dotted lines (graph on the right). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, WILEY-VCH.
Visible-light-powered MNMs. (
a) Trajectories of the Si-Au micromotors in water, from left to right, without illumination and with illumination at a light intensity of 13.6 mW mm −2 (top figures). Propulsion mechanism of the Si-Au micromotors activated by visible light in deionized (DI) water (down figure). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, Royal Society of Chemistry; ( b) Mechanism illustration of visible-light-driven BiOI-metal Janus micromotors (A) and the movement trajectories of BiOI-metal Janus micromotors with and without light irradiation (B,C). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society.
NIR light-driven MNMs. (
A) NIR-induced launch of a microengine in 0.1% ( v/ v) H 2O 2 solution. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2014, American Chemical Society; ( B) Schematic mechanism of NIR-driven rockets (Small arrows represent the inner and outer thermophoretic forces, and the large arrow indicates the direction of the resultant force) and time-lapse images of NIR controllable launch, stop, and restarted movement of the rocket. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2015, Wiley-VCH; ( C) Schematic of NIR-driven Janus mesoporous silica nanoparticle motors. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, American Chemical Society.
Full visible light (>400 nm) driven Au/B-TiO
2 Janus micromotors. ( A) Schematic of the propulsion mechanism of Au/B-TiO 2 Janus micromotors; ( B) Trajectories of (i) Au/B-TiO 2 Janus micromotors over 18 s and (ii) Au/TiO 2 Janus micromotors (control sample) over 33 s. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, American Chemical Society.
A) Schematic of a Janus artificial microswimmer. Superimposed images of sequential frames show the migration of individual Janus nanotrees under global illumination in 0.1% H 2O 2 (a) and a mixture solution of 1,4-benzoquinone and hydroquinone (b). Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2016, Nature Publishing Group; ( B) Time-lapse optical images of collective behavior of peanut-shaped colloid motors under illumination of blue light. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, Wiley-VCH; ( C) (a,b) Under UV illumination, an active particle adopts a tilted orientation, and moves with its TiO 2 face leading. (c,d) Once trapped, passive particles preferentially attach to the TiO 2 half (black region), and the active particle’s direction of propulsion reverses so that it moves toward its SiO 2 face. (e–h) When more passive particles attach, the active particle usually reorients into a symmetric configuration with the active TiO 2 surface facing up or down. Reproduced with permission . Copyright 2017, WILEY-VCH.
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