Microscopic swimmers, e.g., chemotactic bacteria and cells, are capable of directed motion by exerting a force on their environment. For asymmetric microswimmers, e.g., bacteria, spermatozoa and many artificial active colloidal particles, a torque is also present leading to circular motion (in two dimensions) and to helicoidal motion (in three dimensions) with a well-defined chirality. Here, we demonstrate with numerical simulations in two dimensions how the chirality of circular motion couples to chiral features present in the microswimmer environment. Levogyre and dextrogyre microswimmers as small as 50 nm can be separated and selectively trapped in chiral flowers of ellipses. Patterned microchannels can be used as funnels to rectify the microswimmer motion, as sorters to separate microswimmers based on their linear and angular velocities, and as sieves to trap microswimmers with specific parameters. We also demonstrate that these results can be extended to helicoidal motion in three dimensions.
Circular motion of asymmetric self-propelling particles
Felix Kümmel, Borge ten Hagen, Raphael Wittkowski, Ivo Buttinoni, Giovanni Volpe, Hartmut Löwen & Clemens Bechinger
Physical Review Letters 110(19), 198302 (2013)
Micron-sized self-propelled (active) particles can be considered as model systems for characterizing more complex biological organisms like swimming bacteria or motile cells. We produce asymmetric microswimmers by soft lithography and study their circular motion on a substrate and near channel boundaries. Our experimental observations are in full agreement with a theory of Brownian dynamics for asymmetric self-propelled particles, which couples their translational and orientational motion.
Featured in “Synopsis: Round and Round in Circles”, Physics (May 9, 2013)