Metachronal actuation of microscopic magnetic artificial cilia generates strong microfluidic pumping†
Biological cilia that generate fluid flow or propulsion are often found to exhibit a collective wavelike metachronal motion, i.e. neighboring cilia beat slightly out-of-phase rather than synchronously. Inspired by this observation, this article experimentally demonstrates that microscopic magnetic artificial cilia (μMAC) performing a metachronal motion can generate strong microfluidic flows, though, interestingly, the mechanism is different from that in biological cilia, as is found through a systematic experimental study. The μMAC are actuated by a facile magnetic setup, consisting of an array of rod-shaped magnets. This arrangement imposes a time-dependent non-uniform magnetic field on the μMAC array, resulting in a phase difference between the beatings of adjacent μMAC, while each cilium exhibits a two-dimensional whip-like motion. By performing the metachronal 2D motion, the μMAC are able to generate a strong flow in a microfluidic chip, with velocities of up to 3000 μm s−1 in water, which, different from biological cilia, is found to be a result of combined metachronal and inertial effects, in addition to the effect of asymmetric beating. The pumping performance of the metachronal μMAC outperforms all previously reported microscopic artificial cilia, and is competitive with that of most of the existing microfluidic pumping methods, while the proposed platform requires no physical connection to peripheral equipment, reduces the usage of reagents by minimizing “dead volumes”, avoids undesirable electrical effects, and accommodates a wide range of different fluids. The 2D metachronal motion can also generate a flow with velocities up to 60 μm s−1 in pure glycerol, where Reynolds number is less than 0.05 and the flow is primarily caused by the metachronal motion of the μMAC. These findings offer a novel solution to not only create on-chip integrated micropumps, but also design swimming and walking microrobots, as well as self-cleaning and antifouling surfaces.