Self-assembling complex and swimming structures at the mesoscale
When soft ferromagnetic particles are suspended at air-water interfaces in the presence of a vertical magnetic field, dipole-dipole repulsion competes with capillary attraction such that (sub)millimeter structures self-assemble. The complex arrangements of such floating bodies are emphasized, and the capillary interaction characterized.
By adding a horizontal and oscillating magnetic field, periodic deformations of the assembly are induced. We show that collective particle motions induce locomotion at low Reynolds number.
The physical mechanisms and geometrical ingredients behind this cooperative locomotion are identified. These physical mechanisms can be exploited at the mesoscale, offering the possibility to create artificial and versatile microscopic swimmers. Moreover, we show that it is possible to generate complex structures that are able to capture particles, perform cargo transport, fluid mixing, etc…