Programmed Transport and Release of Cells by Self-Propelled Micromotors

Autonomous transport and release of bacterial cells by self-propelled micromotors were achieved. The motors consisted of zinc and platinum hemispheres formed on polystyrene beads and moved as a result of simultaneous redox reactions occurring on both metal ends. The highly negative redox potential of zinc enabled the selection of a wide variety of organic redox compounds as fuels, such as methanol and p-benzoquinone. The movement of motors was observed in solutions of fuels. To realize autonomous capture, transport, and release of cargo, a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) was formed on the platinum part of the motor. This SAM could be desorbed by coupling the reaction with the dissolution of zinc, which could also be controlled by adjusting the concentration of Zn2+ ions. Escherichia coli (E. coli) cells were captured by the motor (due to hydrophobic interactions), transported, and released following SAM desorption at the mixed potential.