Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking†
Self-propelling chemical motors have thus far required the fabrication of Janus particles with an asymmetric catalyst distribution. Here, we demonstrate that simple, isotropic colloids can spontaneously assemble to yield dimer motors that self-propel. In a mixture of isotropic titanium dioxide colloids with photo-chemical catalytic activity and passive silica colloids, light illumination causes diffusiophoretic attractions between the active and passive particles and leads to the formation of dimers. The dimers constitute a symmetry-broken motor, whose dynamics can be fully controlled by the illumination conditions. Computer simulations reproduce the dynamics of the colloids and are in good agreement with experiments. The current work presents a simple route to obtain large numbers of self-propelling chemical motors from a dispersion of spherically symmetric colloids through spontaneous symmetry breaking.