Research ArticleENGINEERING

Adaptive locomotion of artificial microswimmers

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Science Advances  18 Jan 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 1, eaau1532
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau1532

Abstract

Bacteria can exploit mechanics to display remarkable plasticity in response to locally changing physical and chemical conditions. Compliant structures play a notable role in their taxis behavior, specifically for navigation inside complex and structured environments. Bioinspired mechanisms with rationally designed architectures capable of large, nonlinear deformation present opportunities for introducing autonomy into engineered small-scale devices. This work analyzes the effect of hydrodynamic forces and rheology of local surroundings on swimming at low Reynolds number, identifies the challenges and benefits of using elastohydrodynamic coupling in locomotion, and further develops a suite of machinery for building untethered microrobots with self-regulated mobility. We demonstrate that coupling the structural and magnetic properties of artificial microswimmers with the dynamic properties of the fluid leads to adaptive locomotion in the absence of on-board sensors.

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