Convective flow reversal in self-powered enzyme micropumps

Isamar Ortiz-Rivera, Henry Shum, Arjun Agrawal, Ayusman Sen, Anna C. Balazs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Surface-bound enzymes can act as pumps that drive large-scale fluid flows in the presence of their substrates or promoters. Thus, enzymatic catalysis can be harnessed for "on demand" pumping in nano- and microfluidic devices powered by an intrinsic energy source. The mechanisms controlling the pumping have not, however, been completely elucidated. Herein, we combine theory and experiments to demonstrate a previously unreported spatiotemporal variation in pumping behavior in urease-based pumps and uncover the mechanisms behind these dynamics. We developed a theoretical model for the transduction of chemical energy into mechanical fluid flow in these systems, capturing buoyancy effects due to the solution containing nonuniform concentrations of substrate and product. We find that the qualitative features of the flow depend on the ratios of diffusivities δ = DP/DS and expansion coefficientsβ =βPS of the reaction substrate (S) and product (P). If δ > 1 and δ >β (or if δ < 1 and δ<β), an unexpected phenomenon arises: the flow direction reverses with time and distance from the pump. Our experimental results are in qualitative agreement with the model and show that both the speed and direction of fluid pumping (i) depend on the enzyme activity and coverage, (ii) vary with the distance from the pump, and (iii) evolve with time. These findings permit the rational design of enzymatic pumps that accurately control the direction and speed of fluid flow without external power sources, enabling effective, self-powered fluidic devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2585-2590
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 8 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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