Scientific Results

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

Year: 2016

Authors: Palagi S., Mark A.G., Reigh S.Y., Melde K., Qiu T., Zeng H., Parmeggiani C., Martella D., Sanchez-Castillo A., Kapernaum N., Giesselmann F., Wiersma D., Lauga E., Fischer P.

Autors Affiliation: Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, 70569, Germany; Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB30WA, United Kingdom; Institute of Bioengineering, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, CH-1015, Switzerland; European Laboratory for Non Linear Spectroscopy, University of Florence, Sesto Fiorentino, 50019, Italy; CNR, INO, Sesto Fiorentino, 50019, Italy; Institut für Physikalische Chemie, Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 70569, Germany

Abstract: 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.


Volume: 15 (6)      Pages from: 647  to: 653

More Information: This work was in part supported by the European Research Council under the ERC Grant agreements 278213 and 291349, and the DFG as part of the project SPP 1726 (microswimmers, FI 1966/1-1). S.P. acknowledges support by the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems. We thank A. Posada for help with the movies and figures.
KeyWords: Liquid crystals, Biomimetic motion; Biomimetic swimming; Liquid crystal elastomers; Monochromatic light; Periodic changes; Photo-responsive; Spatio-temporal coordination; Travelling waves, Biomimetics, biomimetic material, ciliate; devices; procedures; robotics; swimming, Biomimetic Materials; Ciliophora; Robotics; Swimming
DOI: 10.1038/NMAT4569

Citations: 288
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