“The phactalysts”: carbon nanotube/TiO2 composites as phototropic actuators for wireless remote triggering of chemical reactions and catalysis
A new concept of a reconfigurable smart catalyst was developed from the synergistic combination of polycarbonate/carbon nanotube bimorph photoactuators and TiO2. The addition of TiO2 provides the photoactuators with photocatalytic activity and superior opto-mechanical properties, making phototropic actuation fast, reversible and responsive to Vis-NIR light sources. These composites were tested in the wireless, light-driven and spatially controlled remote triggering of different chemical reactions, including local explosions and photocatalytic polymerizations. The same materials were also investigated as efficient opto-mechanical shutters for the light-selective inhibition or activation of specific reactions, such as the photo-induced degradation of organic dyes. These results suggest that the integration of photocatalysts with soft photoactuators can open intriguing opportunities for chemistry and soft robotics.