Autonomous reciprocating migration of an active material [Chemistry]
Periodic to-and-fro migration is a sophisticated mode of locomotion found in many forms of active matter in nature. Providing a general description of periodic migration is challenging, because many details of animal migration remain a mystery. We study periodic migration in a simpler system using a mechanistic model of a photosensitive, active material in which a stimulus-responsive polymer gel is propelled by chemical waves under the regulation of an illumination gradient sensed by the gel, which plays a role analogous to the environment in periodic animal migration. The reciprocating gel migration results from autonomous transitions between retrograde and direct wave locomotion modes arising from the gradient distribution of the illumination intensity. The local dynamics of the chemical waves modulates the asymmetry between push and pull forces to achieve repeated reorientation of the direction of locomotion. Materials that display similar intelligent, self-adaptive locomotion might be tailored for such functions as drug delivery or self-cleaning systems.
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