Surface combustion microengines based on photocatalytic oxidations of hydrocarbons at room temperature

Ming Su*, Vinayak P. Dravid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The concept of a surface combustion microengine that is fuelled by volatile hydrocarbons at room temperature is demonstrated on a microcantilever covered with a thin layer of titanium oxide (TiO 2). Exposing this microengine to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and hydrocarbon vapor produces controlled bending of the microcantilever as a result of differential stress produced by photocatalytic oxidation of organic molecules on the TiO 2 coating. Compared to the motion generated solely by UV radiation or hydrocarbon adsorption, the unique photocatalytic-mechanical effects in the presence of UV and hydrocarbon produce more work and exhibit fast response. The surface combustion based microengines would require less maintenance in minimally controlled field environment and could be potentially used in construction of miniature movable machines, conversion of solar and chemical energy to mechanical work, when extended to a large array of microcantilevers. We believe such microengines can be fuelled by a variety of molecules or mixtures due to the generally favorable photocatalytic reactivity of TiO 2, thus potentially offering a broad approach for mechanical work generation from multiple energy sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2023-2028
Number of pages6
JournalNano letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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