Clustering of Janus particles in an optical potential driven by hydrodynamic fluxes†
Self-organisation is driven by the interactions between the individual components of a system mediated by the environment, and is one of the most important strategies used by many biological systems to develop complex and functional structures. Furthermore, biologically-inspired self-organisation offers opportunities to develop the next generation of materials and devices for electronics, photonics and nanotechnology. In this work, we demonstrate experimentally that a system of Janus particles (silica microspheres half-coated with gold) aggregates into clusters in the presence of a Gaussian optical potential and disaggregates when the optical potential is switched off. We show that the underlying mechanism is the existence of a hydrodynamic flow induced by a temperature gradient generated by the light absorption at the metallic patches on the Janus particles. We also perform simulations, which agree well with the experiments and whose results permit us to clarify the underlying mechanism. The possibility of hydrodynamic-flux-induced reversible clustering may have applications in the fields of drug delivery, cargo transport, bioremediation and biopatterning.