Self-assembly and complex manipulation of colloidal mesoscopic particles by active thermocapillary stress†
We demonstrate that the active thermocapillary stresses induced by multiple microbubbles offer simple routes to directed self-assembly and complex but controllable micromanipulation of mesoscopic colloidal particles embedded in a liquid. The microbubbles are nucleated on a liquid–glass interface using optical tweezers. The flow around a single bubble causes self-assembly of the particles in rings at the bubble-base, while an asymmetric temperature profile generated across the bubble interface breaks the azimuthal symmetry of the flow, and induces simultaneous accumulation and repulsion of particles at different axial planes with respect to the bubble. The flow due to two adjacent bubbles leads to more diverse effects including the sorting of particles, and to local vorticity that causes radial and axial rotation of the particles – the latter being obtained for the first time using optical tweezers. The sorting is enabled by nucleating the bubbles on spatially discrete temperature profiles, while the vorticity is generated by nucleating them in the presence of a temperature gradient which once again causes a strong symmetry-breaking in the azimuthal flow. The flow profiles obtained in the experiments are explained by analytical solutions or qualitative explanations of the associated thermocapillary problem employing the Stokes and heat equations.