Jump to main content
Jump to site search
Access to RSC content Close the message box

Continue to access RSC content when you are not at your institution. Follow our step-by-step guide.

Issue 18, 2011
Previous Article Next Article

High-speed propulsion of flexible nanowire motors: Theory and experiments

Author affiliations


Micro/nano-scale propulsion has attracted considerable recent attention due to its promise for biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery. In this paper, we report on a new experimental design and theoretical modelling of high-speed fuel-free magnetically-driven propellers which exploit the flexibility of nanowires for propulsion. These readily prepared nanomotors display both high dimensional propulsion velocities (up to ≈ 21 μm s−1) and dimensionless speeds (in body lengths per revolution) when compared with natural microorganisms and other artificial propellers. Their propulsion characteristics are studied theoretically using an elastohydrodynamic model which takes into account the elasticity of the nanowire and its hydrodynamic interaction with the fluid medium. The critical role of flexibility in this mode of propulsion is illustrated by simple physical arguments, and is quantitatively investigated with the help of an asymptotic analysis for small-amplitude swimming. The theoretical predictions are then compared with experimental measurements and we obtain good agreement. Finally, we demonstrate the operation of these nanomotors in a real biological environment (human serum), emphasizing the robustness of their propulsion performance and their promise for biomedical applications.

Graphical abstract: High-speed propulsion of flexible nanowire motors: Theory and experiments

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Article information

23 Mar 2011
09 May 2011
First published
21 Jul 2011

Soft Matter, 2011,7, 8169-8181
Article type

High-speed propulsion of flexible nanowire motors: Theory and experiments

O. S. Pak, W. Gao, J. Wang and E. Lauga, Soft Matter, 2011, 7, 8169
DOI: 10.1039/C1SM05503H

Social activity

Search articles by author