Jump to main content
Jump to site search

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

Publication details

The article was received on 23 Mar 2011, accepted on 09 May 2011 and first published on 21 Jul 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C1SM05503H
Soft Matter, 2011,7, 8169-8181

  •   Request permissions

    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

Search articles by author