Active Colloids with Position-Dependent Rotational Diffusivity
Miguel Angel Fernandez-Rodriguez, Fabio Grillo, Laura Alvarez, Marco Rathlef, Ivo Buttinoni, Giovanni Volpe & Lucio Isa
Nature Communications, 11, 4223 (2020)
The non-thermal nature of self-propelling colloids offers new insights into non-equilibrium physics. The central mathematical model to describe their trajectories is active Brownian motion, where a particle moves with a constant speed, while randomly changing direction due to rotational diffusion. While several feedback strategies exist to achieve position-dependent velocity, the possibility of spatial and temporal control over rotational diffusion, which is inherently dictated by thermal fluctuations, remains untapped. Here, we decouple rotational diffusion from thermal fluctuations. Using external magnetic fields and discrete-time feedback loops, we tune the rotational diffusivity of active colloids above and below its thermal value at will and explore a rich range of phenomena including anomalous diffusion, directed transport, and localization. These findings add a new dimension to the control of active matter, with implications for a broad range of disciplines, from optimal transport to smart materials.
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Felix Kümmel, Borge ten Hagen, Raphael Wittkowski, Daisuke Takagi, Ivo Buttinoni, Ralf Eichhorn, Giovanni Volpe, Hartmut Löwen & Clemens Bechinger
Physical Review Letters 113(2), 029802 (2014)
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.
Active Brownian motion tunable by light
Ivo Buttinoni, Giovanni Volpe, Felix Kümmel, Giorgio Volpe & Clemens Bechinger
Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter 24(28), 284129 (2012)
Active Brownian particles are capable of taking up energy from their environment and converting it into directed motion; examples range from chemotactic cells and bacteria to artificial micro-swimmers. We have recently demonstrated that Janus particles, i.e. gold-capped colloidal spheres, suspended in a critical binary liquid mixture perform active Brownian motion when illuminated by light. In this paper, we investigate in more detail their swimming mechanism, leading to active Brownian motion. We show that the illumination-borne heating induces a local asymmetric demixing of the binary mixture, generating a spatial chemical concentration gradient which is responsible for the particle’s self-diffusiophoretic motion. We study this effect as a function of the functionalization of the gold cap, the particle size and the illumination intensity: the functionalization determines what component of the binary mixture is preferentially adsorbed at the cap and the swimming direction (towards or away from the cap); the particle size determines the rotational diffusion and, therefore, the random reorientation of the particle; and the intensity tunes the strength of the heating and, therefore, of the motion. Finally, we harness this dependence of the swimming strength on the illumination intensity to investigate the behavior of a micro-swimmer in a spatial light gradient, where its swimming properties are space-dependent.
Microswimmers in patterned environments
Giovanni Volpe, Ivo Buttinoni, Dominik Vogt, Hans-Jürgen Kümmerer & Clemens Bechinger
Soft Matter 7(19), 8810—8815 (2011)
Tiny self-propelled swimmers capable of autonomous navigation through complex environments provide appealing opportunities for localization, pick-up and delivery of microscopic and nanoscopic objects. Inspired by motile cells and bacteria, man-made microswimmers have been created and their motion in homogeneous environments has been studied. As a first step towards more realistic conditions under which such microswimmers will be employed, here we study, experimentally and with numerical simulations, their behavior in patterned surroundings that present complex spatial features where frequent encounters with obstacles become important. To study the microswimmers as a function of their swimming behavior, we develop a novel species of microswimmers whose active motion is due to the local demixing of a critical binary liquid mixture and can be easily tuned by illumination. We show that, when microswimmers are confined to a single pore whose diameter is comparable with their swimming length, the probability of finding them at the confinement walls significantly increases compared to Brownian particles. Furthermore, in the presence of an array of periodically arranged obstacles, microswimmers can steer even perpendicularly to an applied force. Since such behavior is very sensitive to the details of their specific swimming style, it can be employed to develop advanced sorting, classification and dialysis techniques.