The direct conversion of light into work allows the driving of micron-sized motors in a contactless, controllable and continuous way. We have shown that microfabricated gears, sitting on a liquid–air interface, can efficiently convert absorbed light into rotational motion through a thermocapillary effect. We have demonstrated rotation rates up to 300 r.p.m. under wide–field illumination with incoherent light. Our analysis shows that thermocapillary propulsion is one of the strongest mechanisms for light actuation at the micron– and nanoscale.
Contact person: Claudio Maggi, NANOTEC–CNR Roma