Science News

Magnetic Active Matter Based on Helical Propulsion.

A new interesting article has been published in Acc Chem Res. 2018 Oct 22. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00315. [Epub ahead of print] and titled:

Magnetic Active Matter Based on Helical Propulsion.

Authors of this article are:

Mandal P, Patil G, Kakoty H, Ghosh A.

A summary of the article is shown below:

Micro- and nanomotors are nonliving micro- and nanoparticles that are rendered motile by supplying energy from external sources, for example, through asymmetric chemical reactions or the application of electric, magnetic, optical, or acoustic fields. Their study is interesting for two reasons. First, nanomotors can impact future biomedical practices, where one envisions intelligent multifunctional nanomachines swarming toward a diseased site and delivering therapeutics with high accuracy. The second motivation stems from the prevalence of self-powered systems in nature, ranging from intracellular transport to human migration, which are nonequilibrium phenomena yet to be completely understood. Nanomotors provide a promising route toward the study of complex active matter phenomena with a well-defined and possibly reduced set of variables. Among different ways of powering nanomotors, magnetic field deserves a special mention because of its inherent biocompatibility, minimal dependence on properties of the surrounding medium, and remote powering mechanism. In particular, magnetically actuated propellers (MAPs), which are helical structures driven by rotating fields in fluids and gels, have been demonstrated to be highly suitable for various microfluidic and biotechnology applications. Unfortunately, this method of actuation requires direct application of mechanical torque by the applied field, implying that the system is driven and therefore cannot be considered self-propelled. To overcome this fundamental limitation, we discuss an alternate magnetic drive where the MAPs are powered by oscillating (not rotating) magnetic fields. This technique induces motility in the form of back-and-forth motion but allows the directionality to be unspecified, and therefore, it represents a zero-force, zero-torque active matter where the nanomotors behave effectively as self-propelled entities. The MAPs show enhanced diffusivity compared with their passive counterparts, and their motility can be tuned by altering the external magnetic drive, which establishes the suitability of the MAPs as model active particles. Enhancement of the diffusivity depends on the thermal noise as well as the inherent asymmetries of the individual motors, which could be well-understood through numerical simulations. In the presence of small direct-current fields and interactions with the surface, the swimmers can be maneuvered and subsequently positioned in an independent manner. Next, we discuss experimental results pertaining to the collective dynamics of these helical magnetic nanoswimmers. We have studied nonmagnetic tracer beads suspended in a medium containing many swimmers and found the diffusivity of the beads to increase under magnetic actuation, akin to measurements performed in dense bacterial suspensions. In summary, we envision that rendering the system of MAPs active will not only provide a new model system to investigate fundamental nonequilibrium phenomena but also play a vital role in the development of intelligent theranostic probes for futuristic biomedical applications.

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