Reconfigurable paramagnetic microswimmers: Brownian motion affects non-reciprocal actuation†
Swimming at low Reynolds number is typically dominated by a large viscous drag, therefore microscale swimmers require non-reciprocal body deformation to generate locomotion. Purcell described a simple mechanical swimmer at the microscale consisting of three rigid components connected together with two hinges. Here we present a simple microswimmer consisting of two rigid paramagnetic particles with different sizes. When placed in an eccentric magnetic field, this simple microswimmer exhibits non-reciprocal body motion and its swimming locomotion can be directed in a controllable manner. Additional components can be added to create a multibody microswimmer, whereby the particles act cooperatively and translate in a given direction. For some multibody swimmers, the stochastic thermal forces fragment the arm, which therefore modifies the swimming strokes and changes the locomotive speed. This work offers insight into directing the motion of active systems with novel time-varying magnetic fields. It also reveals that Brownian motion not only affects the locomotion of reciprocal swimmers that are subject to the Scallop theorem, but also affects that of non-reciprocal swimmers.