Tuning the motility and directionality of self-propelled colloids.
Microorganisms are able to overcome the thermal randomness of their surroundings by harvesting energy to navigate in viscous fluid environments. In a similar manner, synthetic colloidal microswimmers are capable of mimicking complex biolocomotion by means of simple self-propulsion mechanisms. Although experimentally the speed of active particles can be controlled by e.g. self-generated chemical and thermal gradients, an in-situ change of swimming direction remains a challenge. In this work, we study self-propulsion of half-coated spherical colloids in critical binary mixtures and show that the coupling of local body forces, induced by laser illumination, and the wetting properties of the colloid, can be used to finely tune both the colloid's swimming speed and its directionality. We experimentally and numerically demonstrate that the direction of motion can be reversibly switched by means of the size and shape of the droplet(s) nucleated around the colloid, depending on the particle radius and the fluid's ambient temperature. Moreover, the aforementioned features enable the possibility to realize both negative and positive phototaxis in light intensity gradients. Our results can be extended to other types of half-coated microswimmers, provided that both of their hemispheres are selectively made active but with distinct physical properties.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1709.06339
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