Self-Phoretic Microswimmers Propel at Speeds Dependent upon an Adjacent Surface's Physicochemical Properties

Andrew Leeth Holterhoff, Mingyang Li, John G. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Self-phoretic colloids are emerging as critical components of programmable nano- and microscale active matter and may usher in a new area of complex, small-scale machinery. To date, most studies have focused upon active particles confined by gravity to a plane located just above a solid/liquid interface. Despite this ubiquity, little attention has been directed at how the physicochemical qualities of this interface might affect motion. Here, we show that both the chemical and physical properties of the solid, above which motion takes place, significantly influence the behavior of particles propelled by self-generated concentration gradients. More specifically, titania/silica (TiO2/SiO2) photoactive microswimmers move faster when the local osmotic flow over the stationary solid is diminished, which we demonstrate by reducing the magnitude of the surface's zeta potential or by increasing surface roughness. Our results suggest that consideration of surface properties is crucial for modeling self-phoretic active matter while simultaneously offering a new avenue for engineering the kinematic behavior of such systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5023-5028
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 6 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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