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J Am Chem Soc. 2007 Aug 1;129(30):9386-91. Epub 2007 Jul 6.

Fatty acid chemistry at the oil-water interface: self-propelled oil droplets.

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  • 1ProtoLife Srl, Parco Vega, Via della Liberta 12, Marghera, Venice, Italy.


Fatty acids have been investigated as boundary structures to construct artificial cells due to their dynamic properties and phase transitions. Here we have explored the possibility that fatty acid systems also demonstrate movement. An oil phase was loaded with a fatty acid anhydride precursor and introduced to an aqueous fatty acid micelle solution. The oil droplets showed autonomous, sustained movement through the aqueous media. Internal convection created a positive feedback loop, and the movement of the oil droplet was sustained as convection drove fresh precursor to the surface to become hydrolyzed. As the system progressed, more surfactant was produced and some of the oil droplets transformed into supramolecular aggregates resembling multilamellar vesicles. The oil droplets also moved directionally within chemical gradients and exhibited a type of chemotaxis.

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