Anatomy of Nanoscale Propulsion

Vinita Yadav, Wentao Duan, Peter J. Butler, Ayusman Sen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Nature supports multifaceted forms of life. Despite the variety and complexity of these forms, motility remains the epicenter of life. The applicable laws of physics change upon going from macroscales to microscales and nanoscales, which are characterized by low Reynolds number (Re). We discuss motion at low Re in natural and synthetic systems, along with various propulsion mechanisms, including electrophoresis, electrolyte diffusiophoresis, and nonelectrolyte diffusiophoresis. We also describe the newly uncovered phenomena of motility in non-ATP-driven self-powered enzymes and the directional movement of these enzymes in response to substrate gradients. These enzymes can also be immobilized to function as fluid pumps in response to the presence of their substrates. Finally, we review emergent collective behavior arising from interacting motile species, and we discuss the possible biomedical applications of the synthetic nanobots and microbots. ©

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-100
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Biophysics
StatePublished - Jun 22 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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