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Chemistry-A European Journal 2015, 21(1), 58-72

Chemical Energy Powered Nano/Micro/Macromotors and the Environment

The rise of miniaturized artificial self-powered devices, demonstrating autonomous motion, has brought in new considerations from the environmental perspective. This review addresses the interplay between these nano/micro/macromotors and the environment, recent advances, and their applications in pollution management. Such self-propelled devices are able to actuate chemical energy into mechanical motion in situ, adding another powerful dimension towards solving environmental problems. Use of synthetic nano/micro/macromotors has demonstrated potential in environmental remediation, both in pollutant removal and contaminant degradation, owing to motion-induced mixing. At the same time, the chemical environment exerts influence on the locomotion of the motors. These sensitized self-powered devices demonstrate capabilities for being deployed as sensors and their chemotactic behaviors show efficacy to act as first responders towards a chemical leakage. Thus, the notion of a self-propelling entity also entails further investigation into its inherent toxicity and possible implications as a pollutant. Future challenges and outlook of the use of these miniaturized devices are discussed, with specific regard to the fields of environmental remediation and monitoring, as we move towards their wider acceptance. We believe that these tiny machines will stand up to the task as solutions for environmental sustainability in the 21st century.

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