Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Document Type



The purpose of this study is to experimentally validate the hypothesis that the enzyme biotin carboxylase (BC) can behave as a bimolecular motor and propel nano-scale particles in fluidic environments. This hypothesis was proposed in the M.S. thesis “Toward the Development of Biotin Carboxylase Driven Robotic Nano-swimmer” by Rachel Yates (Yates, 2012). In (Yates, 2012), the nano-particle (called a nano-swimmer) is a Janus particle with BC molecules attached to one hemisphere. The idea is that in the presence of its substrates (i.e., fuel) BC will cause individual nano-particles to undergo non-Brownian motion by virtue of its conformational change. In order to validate the stated hypothesis, the first step of the present study was to reproduce the nano-swimmer fabrication process introduced in (Yates, 2012) and make necessary improvements. The second step was to analyze the motion of the nano-swimmer in comparison with the control experiments. This step involved developing an experimental setup for tracking individual nano-particles and recording their motion, followed by analyzing the motion of the particles to determine if they are Brownian or not. Translational and directional diffusion methods were used to analyze the motion of the controls and nano-swimmer. In the translational diffusion method, the experimental mean square displacement versus time data was plotted. The slope of the linear fit of the plot for the nano-swimmers was approximately 1.5, which is an indication of non-Brownian motion. The slope for controls was approximately 1, which is expected for Brownian motion. In the directional diffusion method, the histogram of the directional diffusion angle was generated for both nano-swimmer and controls. The histograms showed that the nano-swimmers were more likely to have small directional diffusion (i.e., difference between the current and previous heading angles was small) when compared to controls. The overall results of both analyses provide strong indications that the nano-swimmers have non-Brownian motion.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Malone, Ronald