Multifunctional and biodegradable self-propelled protein motors

Abdon Pena-Francesch

Assistant Professor

Arriving January 2021



Abdon Pena-Francesch, Joshua Giltinan, and Metin Sitti (2019)


A diversity of self-propelled chemical motors, based on Marangoni propulsive forces, has been developed in recent years. However, most motors are non-functional due to poor performance, a lack of control, and the use of toxic materials. To overcome these limitations, we have developed multifunctional and biodegradable self-propelled motors from squid-derived proteins and an anesthetic metabolite. The protein motors surpass previous reports in performance output and efficiency by several orders of magnitude, and they offer control of their propulsion modes, speed, mobility lifetime, and directionality by regulating the protein nanostructure via local and external stimuli, resulting in programmable and complex locomotion. We demonstrate diverse functionalities of these motors in environmental remediation, microrobot powering, and cargo delivery applications. These versatile and degradable protein motors enable design, control, and actuation strategies in microrobotics as modular propulsion sources for autonomous minimally invasive medical operations in biological environments with air-liquid interfaces.

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