Sequence-encoded colloidal origami and microbot assemblies from patchy magnetic cubes

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Science Advances  04 Aug 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 8, e1701108
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701108

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Colloidal-scale assemblies that reconfigure on demand may serve as the next generation of soft “microbots,” artificial muscles, and other biomimetic devices. This requires the precise arrangement of particles into structures that are preprogrammed to reversibly change shape when actuated by external fields. The design and making of colloidal-scale assemblies with encoded directional particle-particle interactions remain a major challenge. We show how assemblies of metallodielectric patchy microcubes can be engineered to store energy through magnetic polarization and release it on demand by microscale reconfiguration. The dynamic pattern of folding and reconfiguration of the chain-like assemblies can be encoded in the sequence of the cube orientation. The residual polarization of the metallic facets on the microcubes leads to local interactions between the neighboring particles, which is directed by the conformational restrictions of their shape after harvesting energy from external magnetic fields. These structures can also be directionally moved, steered, and maneuvered by global forces from external magnetic fields. We illustrate these capabilities by examples of assemblies of specific sequences that can be actuated, reoriented, and spatially maneuvered to perform microscale operations such as capturing and transporting live cells, acting as prototypes of microbots, micromixers, and other active microstructures.

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