Twin-Engine Janus Supramolecular Nanomotors with Counterbalanced Motion

Jingxin Shao, Shoupeng Cao, Hailong Che, Maria Teresa De Martino, Hanglong Wu, Loai K. E. A. Abdelmohsen, and Jan C. M. van Hest

Published: 29 June 2022


Supramolecular nanomotors were created with two types of propelling forces that were able to counterbalance each other. The particles were based on bowl-shaped polymer vesicles, or stomatocytes, assembled from the amphiphilic block copolymer poly(ethylene glycol)-block-polystyrene. The first method of propulsion was installed by loading the nanocavity of the stomatocytes with the enzyme catalase, which enabled the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, leading to a chemically induced motion. The second method of propulsion was attained by applying a hemispherical gold coating on the stomatocytes, on the opposite side of the opening, making the particles susceptible to near-infrared laser light. By exposing these Janus-type twin engine nanomotors to both hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and near-infrared light, two competing driving forces were synchronously generated, resulting in a counterbalanced, “seesaw effect” motion. By precisely manipulating the incident laser power and concentration of H2O2, the supramolecular nanomotors could be halted in a standby mode. Furthermore, the fact that these Janus stomatocytes were equipped with opposing motile forces also provided a proof of the direction of motion of the enzyme-activated stomatocytes. Finally, the modulation of the “seesaw effect”, by tuning the net outcome of the two coexisting driving forces, was used to attain switchable control of the motile behavior of the twin-engine nanomotors. Supramolecular nanomotors that can be steered by two orthogonal propulsion mechanisms hold considerable potential for being used in complex tasks, including active transportation and environmental remediation.

Full Access Link: Journal of the American Chemical Society