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Silicon-Based Chemical Motors: An Efficient Pump for Triggering and Guiding Fluid Motion Using Visible Light

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posted on 17.12.2015, 10:52 by Maria J. Esplandiu, Ali Afshar Farniya, Adrian Bachtold
We report a simple yet highly efficient chemical motor that can be controlled with visible light. The motor made from a noble metal and doped silicon acts as a pump, which is driven through a light-activated catalytic reaction process. We show that the actuation is based on electro-osmosis with the electric field generated by chemical reactions at the metal and silicon surfaces, whereas the contribution of diffusio-osmosis to the actuation is negligible. Surprisingly, the pump can be operated using water as fuel. This is possible because of the large ζ-potential of silicon, which makes the electro-osmotic fluid motion sizable even though the electric field generated by the reaction is weak. The electro-hydrodynamic process is greatly amplified with the addition of reactive species, such as hydrogen peroxide, which generates higher electric fields. Another remarkable finding is the tunability of silicon-based pumps. That is, it is possible to control the speed of the fluid with light. We take advantage of this property to manipulate the spatial distribution of colloidal microparticles in the liquid and to pattern colloidal microparticle structures at specific locations on a wafer surface. Silicon-based pumps hold great promise for controlled mass transport in fluids.