Staff member


Diana Vilela Garcia

Postdoctoral Researcher
Smart Nano-Bio-Devices
dvilela@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 020 291
Staff member publications

Parmar, Jemish, Vilela, Diana, Villa, Katherine, Wang, Joseph, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). Micro- and nanomotors as active environmental microcleaners and sensors Journal of the American Chemical Society 140, (30), 9317-9331

The quest to provide clean water to the entire population has led to a tremendous boost in the development of environmental nanotechnology. Towards this end, micro/nanomotors are emerging as attractive tools to improve the removal of various pollutants. The micro/nanomotors are either designed with functional materials in their structure, or are modified to target pollutants. The active motion of these motors improves the mixing and mass transfer, greatly enhancing the rate of various remediation processes. Their motion can also be used as an indicator of the presence of a pollutant for sensing purposes. In this Perspective, we discuss different chemical aspects of micromotors mediated environmental clean-up and sensing strategies along with their scalability, reuse and cost associated challenges.


Vilela, Diana, Cossío, Unai, Parmar, Jemish, Martínez-Villacorta, Angel M., Gómez-Vallejo, Vanessa, Llop, Jordi, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Medical imaging for the tracking of micromotors ACS Nano 12, (2), 1120-1227

Micro/nanomotors are useful tools for several biomedical applications, including targeted drug delivery and minimally invasive microsurgeries. However, major challenges such as in vivo imaging need to be addressed before they can be safely applied on a living body. Here, we show that positron emission tomography (PET), a molecular imaging technique widely used in medical imaging, can also be used to track a large population of tubular Au/PEDOT/Pt micromotors. Chemisorption of an iodine isotope onto the micromotor’s Au surface rendered them detectable by PET, and we could track their movements in a tubular phantom over time frames of up to 15 min. In a second set of experiments, micromotors and the bubbles released during self-propulsion were optically tracked by video imaging and bright-field microscopy. The results from direct optical tracking agreed with those from PET tracking, demonstrating that PET is a suitable technique for the imaging of large populations of active micromotors in opaque environments, thus opening opportunities for the use of this mature imaging technology for the in vivo localization of artificial swimmers.


Villa, Katherine, Parmar, Jemish, Vilela, Diana, Sánchez, Samuel, (2018). Metal-oxide-based microjets for the simultaneous removal of organic pollutants and heavy metals ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 10, (24), 20478-20486

Water contamination from industrial and anthropogenic activities is nowadays a major issue in many countries worldwide. To address this problem, efficient water treatment technologies are required. Recent efforts have focused on the development of self-propelled micromotors that provide enhanced micromixing and mass transfer by the transportation of reactive species, resulting in higher decontamination rates. However, a real application of these micromotors is still limited due to the high cost associated to their fabrication process. Here, we present Fe2O3-decorated SiO2/MnO2 microjets for the simultaneous removal of industrial organic pollutants and heavy metals present in wastewater. These microjets were synthesized by low-cost and scalable methods. They exhibit an average speed of 485 ± 32 μm s–1 (∼28 body length per s) at 7% H2O2, which is the highest reported for MnO2-based tubular micromotors. Furthermore, the photocatalytic and adsorbent properties of the microjets enable the efficient degradation of organic pollutants, such as tetracycline and rhodamine B under visible light irradiation, as well as the removal of heavy metal ions, such as Cd2+ and Pb2+.

Keywords: Micromotors, Photocatalytic, Water purification, Fenton, Magnetic control, Iron oxide, Manganese oxide


Villa, Katherine, Parmar, Jemish, Vilela, Diana, Sanchez, Samuel, (2018). Core-shell microspheres for the ultrafast degradation of estrogen hormone at neutral pH RSC Advances 8, (11), 5840-5847

In the past few years there has been growing concern about human exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. This kind of pollutants can bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms and lead to serious health problems, especially affecting child development. Many efforts have been devoted to achieving the efficient removal of such refractory organics. In this regard, a novel catalyst based on the combination of α-FeOOH and MnO2@MnCO3 catalysts has been developed by up-scalable techniques from cheap precursors and tested in the photo-Fenton-like degradation of an endocrine disruptor. Almost total degradation of 17α-ethynylestradiol hormone was achieved after only 2 min of simulated solar irradiation at neutral pH. The outstanding performance of FeOOH@MnO2@MnCO3 microspheres was mainly attributed to a larger generation of hydroxyl radicals, which are the primary mediators of the total oxidation for this hormone. This work contributes to the development of more cost-effective systems for the rapid and efficient removal of persistent organic pollutants present in sewage plant effluents under direct solar light.


Parmar, J., Villa, K., Vilela, D., Sánchez, S., (2017). Platinum-free cobalt ferrite based micromotors for antibiotic removal Applied Materials Today 9, 605-611

Self-propelled micromotors have previously shown to enhance pollutant removal compared to non-motile nano-micro particles. However, these systems are expensive, difficult to scale-up and require surfactant for efficient work. Efficient and inexpensive micromotors are desirable for their practical applications in water treatment technologies. We describe cobalt-ferrite based micromotors (CFO micromotors) fabricated by a facile and scalable synthesis, that produce hydroxyl radicals via Fenton-like reaction and take advantage of oxygen gas generated during this reaction for self-propulsion. Once the reaction is complete, the CFO micromotors can be easily separated and collected due to their magnetic nature. The CFO micromotors are demonstrated for highly efficient advanced oxidative removal of tetracycline antibiotic from the water. Furthermore, the effects of different concentrations of micromotors and hydrogen peroxide on the antibiotic degradation were studied, as well as the generation of the highly reactive hydroxyl radicals responsible for the oxidation reaction.

Keywords: Degradation, Fenton reaction, Microbots, Nanomotors, Self-propelled Micromotors, Water treatment


Stanton, Morgan M., Park, Byung-Wook, Vilela, Diana, Bente, Klaas, Faivre, Damien, Sitti, Metin, Sanchez, Samuel, (2017). Magnetotactic bacteria powered biohybrids target E. coli biofilms ACS Nano 11, (10), 9968-9978

Biofilm colonies are typically resistant to general antibiotic treatment and require targeted methods for their removal. One of these methods include the use of nanoparticles as carriers for antibiotic delivery, where they randomly circulate in fluid until they make contact with the infected areas. However, the required proximity of the particles to the biofilm results in only moderate efficacy. We demonstrate here that the non-pathogenic magnetotactic bacteria, Magnetosopirrillum gryphiswalense (MSR-1), can be integrated with drug-loaded mesoporous silica microtubes (MSMs) to build controllable microswimmers (biohybrids) capable of antibiotic delivery to target an infectious biofilm. Applying external magnetic guidance capability and swimming power of the MSR-1 cells, the biohybrids are directed to and forcefully pushed into matured Escherichia coli (E. coli) biofilms. Release of the antibiotic, ciprofloxacin (CFX), is triggered by the acidic microenvironment of the biofilm ensuring an efficient drug delivery system. The results reveal the capabilities of a non-pathogenic bacteria species to target and dismantle harmful biofilms, indicating biohybrid systems have great potential for anti-biofilm applications.


Vilela, D., Stanton, M. M., Parmar, J., Sánchez, S., (2017). Microbots decorated with silver nanoparticles kill bacteria in aqueous media ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 9, (27), 22093-22100

Water contamination is one of the most persistent problems of public health. Resistance of some pathogens to conventional disinfectants can require the combination of multiple disinfectants or increased disinfectant doses, which may produce harmful byproducts. Here, we describe an efficient method for disinfecting Escherichia coli and removing the bacteria from contaminated water using water self-propelled Janus microbots decorated with silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). The structure of a spherical Janus microbot consists of a magnesium (Mg) microparticle as a template that also functions as propulsion source by producing hydrogen bubbles when in contact with water, an inner iron (Fe) magnetic layer for their remote guidance and collection, and an outer AgNP-coated gold (Au) layer for bacterial adhesion and improving bactericidal properties. The active motion of microbots increases the chances of the contact of AgNPs on the microbot surface with bacteria, which provokes the selective Ag+ release in their cytoplasm, and the microbot self-propulsion increases the diffusion of the released Ag+ ions. In addition, the AgNP-coated Au cap of the microbots has a dual capability of capturing bacteria and then killing them. Thus, we have demonstrated that AgNP-coated Janus microbots are capable of efficiently killing more than 80% of E. coli compared with colloidal AgNPs that killed only less than 35% of E. coli in contaminated water solutions in 15 min. After capture and extermination of bacteria, magnetic properties of the cap allow collection of microbots from water along with the captured dead bacteria, leaving water with no biological contaminants. The presented biocompatible Janus microbots offer an encouraging method for rapid disinfection of water.

Keywords: Bactericidal, Magnetic control, Micromotors, Microswimmers, Self-propulsion, Silver nanoparticles


Vilela, D., Hortelao, A. C., Balderas-Xicohtencatl, R., Hirscher, M., Hahn, K., Ma, X., Sanchez, S., (2017). Facile fabrication of mesoporous silica micro-jets with multi-functionalities Nanoscale 9, 13990

Self-propelled micro/nano-devices have been proved as powerful tools in various applications given their capability of both autonomous motion and on-demand task fulfilment. Tubular micro-jets stand out as an important member in the family of self-propelled micro/nano-devices and are widely explored with respect to their fabrication and functionalization. A few methods are currently available for the fabrication of tubular micro-jets, nevertheless there is still a demand to explore the fabrication of tubular micro-jets made of versatile materials and with the capability of multi-functionalization. Here, we present a facile strategy for the fabrication of mesoporous silica micro-jets (MSMJs) for tubular micromotors which can carry out multiple tasks depending on their functionalities. The synthesis of MSMJs does not require the use of any equipment, making it facile and cost-effective for future practical use. The MSMJs can be modified inside, outside or both with different kinds of metal nanoparticles, which provide these micromotors with a possibility of additional properties, such as the anti-bacterial effect by silver nanoparticles, or biochemical sensing based on surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) by gold nanoparticles. Because of the high porosity, high surface area and also the easy surface chemistry process, the MSMJs can be employed for the efficient removal of heavy metals in contaminated water, as well as for the controlled and active drug delivery, as two proof-of-concept examples of environmental and biomedical applications, respectively. Therefore, taking into account the new, simple and cheap method of fabrication, highly porous structure, and multiple functionalities, the mesoporous silica based micro-jets can serve as efficient tools for desired applications.


Vilela, Diana, Parmar, Jemish, Zeng, Yongfei, Zhao, Yanli, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Graphene based microbots for toxic heavy metal removal and recovery from water Nano Letters 16, (4), 2860-2866

Heavy metal contamination in water is a serious risk to the public health and other life forms on earth. Current research in nanotechnology is developing new nanosystems and nanomaterials for the fast and efficient removal of pollutants and heavy metals from water. Here, we report graphene oxide-based microbots (GOx-microbots) as active self-propelled systems for the capture, transfer, and removal of a heavy metal (i.e., lead) and its subsequent recovery for recycling purposes. Microbots’ structure consists of nanosized multilayers of graphene oxide, nickel, and platinum, providing different functionalities. The outer layer of graphene oxide captures lead on the surface, and the inner layer of platinum functions as the engine decomposing hydrogen peroxide fuel for self-propulsion, while the middle layer of nickel enables external magnetic control of the microbots. Mobile GOx-microbots remove lead 10 times more efficiently than nonmotile GOx-microbots, cleaning water from 1000 ppb down to below 50 ppb in 60 min. Furthermore, after chemical detachment of lead from the surface of GOx-microbots, the microbots can be reused. Finally, we demonstrate the magnetic control of the GOx-microbots inside a microfluidic system as a proof-of-concept for automatic microbots-based system to remove and recover heavy metals.


Parmar, J., Vilela, D., Pellicer, E., Esqué-de los Ojos, D., Sort, J., Sánchez, S., (2016). Reusable and long-lasting active microcleaners for heterogeneous water remediation Advanced Functional Materials 26, (23), 4152-4161

Self-powered micromachines are promising tools for future environmental remediation technology. Waste-water treatment and water reuse is an essential part of environmental sustainability. Herein, we present reusable Fe/Pt multi-functional active microcleaners that are capable of degrading organic pollutants (malachite green and 4-nitrophenol) by generated hydroxyl radicals via a Fenton-like reaction. Various different properties of microcleaners, such as the effect of their size, short-term storage, long-term storage, reusability, continuous swimming capability, surface composition, and mechanical properties, are studied. It is found that these microcleaners can continuously swim for more than 24 hours and can be stored more than 5 weeks during multiple cleaning cycles. The produced microcleaners can also be reused, which reduces the cost of the process. During the reuse cycles the outer iron surface of the Fe/Pt microcleaners generates the in-situ, heterogeneous Fenton catalyst and releases a low concentration of iron into the treated water, while the mechanical properties also appear to be improved due to both its surface composition and structural changes. The microcleaners are characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), nanoindentation, and finite-element modeling (FEM).

Keywords: Catalysts, Heterogeneous catalysis, Microcleaners, Micromotors, Nanorobots, Wastewater treatment


Vilela, Diana, Romeo, Agostino, Sánchez, Samuel, (2016). Flexible sensors for biomedical technology Lab on a Chip 16, (3), 402-408

Flexible sensing devices have gained a great deal of attention among the scientific community in recent years. The application of flexible sensors spans over several fields, including medicine, industrial automation, robotics, security, and human-machine interfacing. In particular, non-invasive health-monitoring devices are expected to play a key role in the improvement of patient life and in reducing costs associated with clinical and biomedical diagnostic procedures. Here, we focus on recent advances achieved in flexible devices applied on the human skin for biomedical and healthcare purposes.