Guidance of active particles at liquid–liquid interfaces near surfaces†
Artificial microswimmers have the potential for applications in many fields, ranging from targeted cargo delivery and mobile sensing to environmental remediation. In many of these applications, the artificial swimmers will operate in complex media necessarily involving liquid–liquid interfaces. Here, we experimentally study the motion of chemically powered phoretic active colloids close to liquid–liquid interfaces while swimming next to a solid substrate. In a system involving this complex geometry, we find that the active particles have an alignment interaction with both the neighbouring solid and liquid interfaces, allowing for a robust guiding mechanism along the liquid interface. We compare with minimal active Brownian simulations to show that these phoretically active particles stay along the interfaces for much longer times and lengths than expected for standard active Brownian particles. We also track the propulsion speeds of these particles and find a reduced speed close to the liquid–liquid interface. We report an interesting non-linear dependence of this reduction on the particle's bulk speed.