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Molecular Machines

Metal-free micromotor could clean wastewater

Micromachines made of graphitic carbon nitride swim through solution picking up heavy metals

by Kerri Jansen
January 2, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 1


Credit:ACS Nano/C&EN

Micromachines can propel themselves through solutions by reacting with fuel in their environment. But most of these machines have relied on ultraviolet light and expensive noble metals like gold and platinum to drive these reactions. Now, a team led by researchers from the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague have made a simple, metal-free micromotor that operates under visible light (ACS Nano 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b06914). Made from a nitrogen-containing variant of graphite called graphitic carbon nitride, the tubular micromotors can jet around in water, adsorbing toxic heavy metals on their surface. The team hopes the tiny motors could one day perform tasks like cleaning wastewater. Music:

“Beignet” by Blue Dot Sessions is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

CORRECTION: This video was updated on Jan. 10, 2019, to reflect that one of the authors is affiliated with the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences. The other four authors are affiliated with the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague.


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