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Synthesis and Propulsion of Magnetic Dimers under Orthogonally Applied Electric and Magnetic Fields

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posted on 22.07.2021, 20:37 authored by Xingrui Zhu, Yan Gao, Ramona Mhana, Tao Yang, Benjamin L. Hanson, Xingfu Yang, Jingjing Gong, Ning Wu
Anisotropic particles have been widely used to make micro/nanomotors that convert chemical, ultrasonic, electrical, or magnetic energy into mechanical energy. The moving directions of most colloidal motors are, however, difficult to control. For example, asymmetric dimers with two lobes of different sizes, ζ-potential, or chemical composition have shown rich propulsion behaviors under alternating current (AC) electric fields due to unbalanced electrohydrodynamic flow. While they always propel in a direction perpendicular to the applied electric field, their moving directions along the substrate are hard to control, limiting their applications for cargo delivery. Inspired by two separate engine and steering wheel systems in automobiles, we use orthogonally applied AC electric field and direct current (DC) magnetic field to control the dimer’s speed and direction independently. To this end, we first synthesize magnetic dimers by coating dopamine-functionalized nanoparticles on geometrically asymmetric polystyrene dimers. We further characterize their static and dynamic susceptibilities by measuring the hysteresis diagram and rotation speed experimentally and comparing them with theoretical predictions. The synthesized dimers align their long axes quickly with a planar DC magnetic field, allowing us to control the particles’ orientation accurately. The propulsion speed of the dimers, on the other hand, is tunable by an AC electric field applied perpendicularly to the substrate. As a result, we can direct the particle’s motion with predesigned trajectories of complex shapes. Our bulk-synthesis approach has the potential to make other types of magnetically anisotropic particles. And the combination of electric and magnetic fields will help pave the way for the assembly of magnetically anisotropic particles into complex structures.