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Optimization of Chiral Structures for Microscale Propulsion

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posted on 13.02.2013, 00:00 by Eric E. Keaveny, Shawn W. Walker, Michael J. Shelley
Recent advances in micro- and nanoscale fabrication techniques allow for the construction of rigid, helically shaped microswimmers that can be actuated using applied magnetic fields. These swimmers represent the first steps toward the development of microrobots for targeted drug delivery and minimally invasive surgical procedures. To assess the performance of these devices and improve on their design, we perform shape optimization computations to determine swimmer geometries that maximize speed in the direction of a given applied magnetic torque. We directly assess aspects of swimmer shapes that have been developed in previous experimental studies, including helical propellers with elongated cross sections and attached payloads. From these optimizations, we identify key improvements to existing designs that result in swimming speeds that are 70–470% of their original values.