Locomotion of microorganisms is commonly observed in nature. Although microorganism locomotion is commonly attributed to mechanical deformation of solid appendages, in 1956 Nobel Laureate Peter Mitchell proposed that an asymmetric ion flux on a bacterium's surface could generate electric fields that drive locomotion via self-electrophoresis. Recent advances in nanofabrication have enabled the engineering of synthetic analogues, bimetallic colloidal particles, that swim due to asymmetric ion flux originally proposed by Mitchell. Bimetallic colloidal particles swim through aqueous solutions by converting chemical fuel to fluid motion through asymmetric electrochemical reactions. This dissertation presents novel bimetallic motor fabrication strategies, motor functionality, and a study of the motor collective behavior in chemical concentration gradients. Brownian dynamics simulations and experiments show that the motors exhibit chemokinesis, a motile response to chemical gradients that results in net migration and concentration of particles. Chemokinesis is typically observed in living organisms and distinct from chemotaxis in that there is no particle directional sensing. The synthetic motor chemokinesis observed in this work is due to variation in the motor's velocity and effective diffusivity as a function of the fuel and salt concentration. Static concentration fields are generated in microfluidic devices fabricated with porous walls. The development of nanoscale particles that swim autonomously and collectively in chemical concentration gradients can be leveraged for a wide range of applications such as directed drug delivery, self-healing materials, and environmental remediation.
- Collective behavior of swimming bimetallic motors in chemical concentration gradients