Disintegrating polymer multilayers to jump-start colloidal micromotors

Marina Fernández-Medina, Xiaomin Qian, Ondrej Hovorka, Brigitte Städler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Colloidal systems with autonomous mobility are attractive alternatives to static particles for diverse applications. We present a complementary approach using pH-triggered disintegrating polymer multilayers for self-propulsion of swimmers. It is illustrated both experimentally and theoretically that homogenously coated swimmers exhibit higher velocity in comparison to their Janus-shaped counterparts. These swimmers show directional and random motion in microfluidic channels with a steep and shallow pH gradient, respectively. Further, a higher number of deposited polymer multilayers, steeper pH gradients and lower mass of the swimmers result in higher self-propulsion velocities. This new self-propulsion mechanism opens up unique opportunities to design, for instance, fast and yet biocompatible swimmers using the diverse tools of polymer chemistry to custom-synthesise the polymeric building blocks to assemble multilayers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-741
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2019


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