Magnetic steering control of multi-cellular bio-hybrid microswimmers†
Bio-hybrid devices, which integrate biological cells with synthetic components, have opened a new path in miniaturized systems with the potential to provide actuation and control for systems down to a few microns in size. Here, we address the challenge of remotely controlling bio-hybrid microswimmers propelled by multiple bacterial cells. These devices have been proposed as a viable method for targeted drug delivery but have also been shown to exhibit stochastic motion. We demonstrate a method of remote magnetic control that significantly reduces the stochasticity of the motion, enabling steering control. The demonstrated microswimmers consist of multiple Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens) bacteria attached to a 6 μm-diameter superparamagnetic bead. We characterize their motion and define the parameters governing their controllability. We show that the microswimmers can be controlled along two-dimensional (2-D) trajectories using weak magnetic fields (≤10 mT) and can achieve 2-D swimming speeds up to 7.3 μm s−1. This magnetic steering approach can be integrated with sensory-based steering in future work, enabling new control strategies for bio-hybrid microsystems.