CORDIS - EU research results

Versatile Micromotors for Photocatalytic Environmental Remediation

Project description

Nanorobot divers jump in to save the day from environmental water hazards

From wastewater treatment to environmental remediation after leaks or spills, cleaning up water to make it safe for humans and the environment is a pressing challenge. Unlike large pieces of trash that can be removed from parks and beaches by people, we do not have tiny divers to eliminate invisible threats from wastewater and aquatic ecosystems. All that is changing with the advent of micro-scale and nano-scale robots, especially miniature self-propelled robots that promise to clean up unsafe water in an incredibly efficient fashion owing to active mixing and large surface activity. The EU-funded Microbots4Enviro project is developing light-responsive autonomous micro-/nanorobots based on photocatalytic materials. The elaborately designed versatile nanorobots can not only actively function as pollutant cleaners (such as dyes and explosives), but also act as robust bacteria fighters in contaminated water.


Environmental degradation issue is a global concern. Great efforts have been made to develop efficient and green approaches for wastewater treatment. Self-propelled nano/microrobots are the forefront of nanotechnology, holding great promise for environmental remediation. Visible light driven semiconductor photocatalyst would be the great catalyst to power such micromachines for environmental remediation. BiVO4 has attracted researchers’ great interest. However, its drawbacks such as significant recombination of photogenerated electron–hole pairs, poor electrical conductivity and slow hole transfer kinetics limit its applications. To enhance the photocatalytic efficiency, this project elaborately develops light-responsive tubular micromotors with smart material design strategy: BiVO4 is robust visible light absorber; ZnO nanorod arrays act as electron transfer channel; rGO films function as electron acceptor; and Co-Pi serves as hole acceptor and catalytic site. The Microbots4Enviro project aims to: (i) establish novel tubular Co-Pi/BiVO4/ZnO/rGO micromotors; (ii) study the comprehensive performance of micromotors in the polluted water with three types of contaminant models (i.e. dye, explosive and bacteria model); and (iii) integrate abundant micromotors in 3DP-motor and demonstrate the pilot-scale test in artificial 5×5m2 pool for environmental remediation. This project will bring an experienced researcher, Dr. Huaijuan Zhou to undertake this cutting-edge multidisciplinary research project at UCT Prague in Czech Republic under the supervision of Prof. Martin Pumera, Director of Center for Advanced Functional Nanorobots. This fellowship will not only restart her research career, but also broaden her knowledge and expertise in the emerging area of self-propelled autonomous nano/micromachines. This project contributes to creating a strong scientific and technical base for European science and technology, and fostering the competitiveness and growth of EU economy.


Net EU contribution
€ 156 980,64
166 28 Praha

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Česko Praha Hlavní město Praha
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 156 980,64