Electrochemically powered self-propelled electrophoretic nanosubmarines
In the past few years, we have witnessed rapid developments in the realization of the old nanotechnology dream, autonomous nanosubmarines. These nanomachines are self-powered, taking energy from their environment by electrocatalytic conversion of chemicals present in the solution, self-propelled by flux of the electrons within the submarine and the hydronium ions on the surface of the nanosub, powering it in the direction opposite to that of the flux of the hydronium. These nanosubmarines are responsive to external fields, able to follow complex magnetic patterns, navigate themselves in complex microfluidic channels, follow chemical gradients, carry cargo, and communicate with each other. This minireview focuses on a discussion of the fundamentals of the electrophoretic mechanism underlying the propulsion of this sort of nanosub, as well as a demonstration of the proof-of-concept capabilities of nanosubmarines.