Cooperation in a fluid swarm of fuel-free micro-swimmers

Nature Communications(2022)

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Abstract
While motile bacteria display rich dynamics in dense colonies, the phoretic nature of artificial micro-swimmers restricts their activity when crowded. Here we introduce a new class of synthetic micro-swimmers that are driven solely by light. By coupling a light absorbing particle to a fluid droplet we produce a colloidal chimera that transforms optical power into propulsive thermo-capillary action. The swimmers’ internal drive allows them to operate for a long duration (days) and remain active when crowded, forming a high density fluid phase. We find that above a critical concentration, swimmers form a long lived crowded state that displays internal dynamics. When passive particles are introduced, the dense swimmer phase can re-arrange to spontaneously corral the passive particles. We derive a geometrical, depletion-like condition for corralling by identifying the role the passive particles play in controlling the effective concentration of the micro-swimmers.
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Key words
fluid swarm,cooperation,fuel-free,micro-swimmers
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