Active Reversible Swimming of Magnetically Assembled "Microscallops" in Non-Newtonian Fluids

Document Type


Publication Date



Miniaturized devices capable of active swimming at low Reynolds numbers are of fundamental importance and possess potential biomedical utility. The design of colloidal microswimmers requires not only miniaturizing reconfigurable structures but also understanding their interactions with media at low Reynolds numbers. We investigate the dynamics of "microscallops" made of asymmetric magnetic cubes, which are assembled and actuated using magnetic fields. One approach to achieving directional propulsion is to break the symmetry of the viscous forces by coupling the reciprocal motions of such microswimmers with the nonlinear rheology inherent in non-Newtonian fluids. When placed in shear-thinning fluids, the local viscosity gradient resulting from nonuniform shear stresses exerted by time-asymmetric strokes of the microscallops generates propulsive thrust through an effect we term "self-viscophoresis". Surprisingly, we found that the direction of propulsion changes with the size and structure of these assemblies. We analyze the origins of their directional propulsion and explain the variable propulsion direction in terms of multiple counterbalancing domains of shear dissipation around the microscale structures. The principles governing the locomotion of these microswimmers may be extended to other reconfigurable microbots assembled from colloidal-scale units.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.