Rolling microswarms along acoustic virtual walls

Nat Commun. 2022 Nov 29;13(1):7347. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-35078-8.


Rolling is a ubiquitous transport mode utilized by living organisms and engineered systems. However, rolling at the microscale has been constrained by the requirement of a physical boundary to break the spatial homogeneity of surrounding mediums, which limits its prospects for navigation to locations with no boundaries. Here, in the absence of real boundaries, we show that microswarms can execute rolling along virtual walls in liquids, impelled by a combination of magnetic and acoustic fields. A rotational magnetic field causes individual particles to self-assemble and rotate, while the pressure nodes of an acoustic standing wave field serve as virtual walls. The acoustic radiation force pushes the microswarms towards a virtual wall and provides the reaction force needed to break their fore-aft motion symmetry and induce rolling along arbitrary trajectories. The concept of reconfigurable virtual walls overcomes the fundamental limitation of a physical boundary being required for universal rolling movements.

PMID:36446799 | PMC:PMC9708833 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-022-35078-8


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