Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 411, Issue 25, pp 6561–6573 | Cite as

Self-propelled micromachines for analytical sensing: a critical review

  • Marta Pacheco
  • Miguel Ángel López
  • Beatriz Jurado-SánchezEmail author
  • Alberto EscarpaEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. ABC Highlights: authored by Rising Stars and Top Experts


Self-propelled micromotors are micro- and nanoscale devices that move autonomously in solution by converting a specific stimulus into mechanical work. The broad scope of operations and applications along with the ultra-small dimensions have opened new possibilities to solve complex analytical challenges. Herein we give a critical overview of early developments and future prospects of such tiny moving objects for different analytical sensing and biosensing strategies. From early electrophoretic propelled nanomotors, which were limited to low viscous media, to bubble-propelled micromotors, the field has evolved into sophisticated all-in-one analytical systems with built-in sensing capabilities. Current progress for in vivo biosensing and integration into analytical instrumentation towards fully functional devices will be also covered. We hope that this review provides the reader with some general knowledge and future prospects of self-propelled micromachines as a new paradigm in analytical chemistry.

Graphical abstract


Micromotors Nanomotors Sensing Mixing Biosensing Analysis Instrumentation 



M. Pacheco acknowledges the FPU fellowship received from the Spanish Ministry of Education (FPU 16/02211). B. J.-S. acknowledges support from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (RYC-2015-17558, co-financed by EU) and from the University of Alcala (CCG2018/EXP-018). A.E. acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (CTQ2017-86441-C2-1-R) and the TRANSNANOAVANSENS program (S2018/NMT-4349) from the Community of Madrid.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflict of interests to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringUniversity of AlcalaAlcala de HenaresSpain
  2. 2.Chemical Research Institute “Andrés M. del Río”University of AlcalaAlcala de HenaresSpain

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