Photogated humidity-driven motility

Lidong Zhang, Haoran Liang, Jolly Jacob, Pance Naumov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hygroinduced motion is a fundamental process of energy conversion that is essential for applications that require contactless actuation in response to the day-night rhythm of atmospheric humidity. Here we demonstrate that mechanical bistability caused by rapid and anisotropic adsorption and desorption of water vapour by a flexible dynamic element that harnesses the chemical potential across very small humidity gradients for perpetual motion can be effectively modulated with light. A mechanically robust material capable of rapid exchange of water with the surroundings is prepared that undergoes swift locomotion in effect to periodic shape reconfiguration with turnover frequency of <150 min-1. The element can lift objects ∼85 times heavier and can transport cargos ∼20 times heavier than itself. Having an azobenzene-containing conjugate as a photoactive dopant, this entirely humidity-driven self-actuation can be controlled remotely with ultraviolet light, thus setting a platform for next-generation smart biomimetic hybrids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7429
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Jun 11 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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