23-Jul-2013 - University of California, San Diego

Potato-powered micromotors

A team of scientists from the United States and China have found a natural power source for self-propelling micromotors, using enzyme rich potato tissue.

Potatoes are rich in catalase, an enzyme commonly used in self-propelling micromotors. These are traditionally built by coating one half of a micro-pellet with a metal catalyst or enzyme which, when placed in a solution of hydrogen peroxide, catalyses oxygen production to form asymmetric streams of bubbles that propel the pellet through the liquid.

The scientists mimicked a traditional micromotor by coating one half of a 2 x 1 mm potato cylinder with epoxy creating an asymmetric distribution of catalase. The catalase in the exposed potato tissue catalysed bubble production and propelled the potato pellet at speeds of up to 5.12 mm per second.

Self-propelled micromotors have potential applications in environmental remediation, including pesticide and nerve agent decontamination, where bubble-powered motors could be used to capture and destroy contaminants. The major advantage of these potato-powered motors is that they use catalase in its natural and highly stable form, avoiding expensive purification procedures. At current prices, over 500, 000 potato motors can be made for only one US dollar.


Facts, background information, dossiers
More about UCSD
More about Royal Society of Chemistry
  • News

    New coating is self-defence for seeds

    Scientists in Switzerland have developed a protective coating for seeds that poisons pests with cyanide when they bite into it. The coating is a system of two layers and only becomes toxic when the layers are mixed, eliminating the problem of environmental contamination that is associated w ... more

    Using bacteria to make electrodes

    Scientists in France have produced hematite using a bacterial pathway for use as an electrode material in Li-ion technologies. Currently, most commercial electrode materials for Li-ion technologies are prepared using the ceramic method, which requires long heating periods at high temperatur ... more

    Marine plant replacement for platinum in solar cells

    An international research team has shown that that the power conversion efficiency of sea tangle extract is comparable to platinum in solar cell electrodes. Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) are quickly becoming a widespread and affordable alternative to photovoltaic solar cells. The electr ... more

  • Videos

    Royal Society of Chemistry – About us

    With more than 51,000 members and an international publishing and knowledge business we are the UK’s professional body for chemical scientists, supporting and representing our members and bringing together chemical scientists from all over the world. more

    A career in toxicology

    Hear from RSC member Vicki Stone talk about her role as a Nanotoxicologist. more

    When Food met Pharma: Delivery Strategies for Nutraceuticals

    With growing prevalence of lifestyle-associated diseases, including obesity, Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is an urgent need and demand to try to prevent the onset of these diseases within our growing population. Nutraceuticals, along with appropriate diet and exercise, ... more

  • Companies

    Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

    The RSC is a leading international publisher of highly regarded journals and books in the chemical sciences. The RSC is also the professional body for chemists with a global membership of over 46,000. more