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Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots

2016

Article

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Microorganisms move in challenging environments by periodic changes in body shape. In contrast, current artificial microrobots cannot actively deform, exhibiting at best passive bending under external fields. Here, by taking advantage of the wireless, scalable and spatiotemporally selective capabilities that light allows, we show that soft microrobots consisting of photoactive liquid-crystal elastomers can be driven by structured monochromatic light to perform sophisticated biomimetic motions. We realize continuum yet selectively addressable artificial microswimmers that generate travelling-wave motions to self-propel without external forces or torques, as well as microrobots capable of versatile locomotion behaviours on demand. Both theoretical predictions and experimental results confirm that multiple gaits, mimicking either symplectic or antiplectic metachrony of ciliate protozoa, can be achieved with single microswimmers. The principle of using structured light can be extended to other applications that require microscale actuation with sophisticated spatiotemporal coordination for advanced microrobotic technologies.

Author(s): Palagi, Stefano and Mark, Andrew G. and Reigh, Shang Yik and Melde, Kai and Qiu, Tian and Zeng, Hao and Parmeggiani, Camilla and Martella, Daniele and Sanchez-Castillo, Alberto and Kapernaum, Nadia and Giesselmann, Frank and Wiersma, Diederik S. and Lauga, Eric and Fischer, Peer
Journal: Nature Materials
Volume: 15
Number (issue): 6
Pages: 647–653
Year: 2016
Month: November

Department(s): Micro, Nano, and Molecular Systems
Bibtex Type: Article (article)

DOI: 10.1038/NMAT4569
Note: Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views.
State: Published

Links: Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer
Video:

BibTex

@article{2016palagi2,
  title = {Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots},
  author = {Palagi, Stefano and Mark, Andrew G. and Reigh, Shang Yik and Melde, Kai and Qiu, Tian and Zeng, Hao and Parmeggiani, Camilla and Martella, Daniele and Sanchez-Castillo, Alberto and Kapernaum, Nadia and Giesselmann, Frank and Wiersma, Diederik S. and Lauga, Eric and Fischer, Peer},
  journal = {Nature Materials},
  volume = {15},
  number = {6},
  pages = {647–653},
  month = nov,
  year = {2016},
  note = {Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views.},
  month_numeric = {11}
}