Propulsion of Active Colloids by Self-Induced Field Gradients

Alicia Boymelgreen, Gilad Yossifon*, Touvia Miloh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previously, metallodielectric Janus particles have been shown to travel with their dielectric hemisphere forward under low frequency applied electric fields as a result of asymmetric induced-charge electroosmotic flow. Here, it is demonstrated that at high frequencies, well beyond the charge relaxation time of the electric double layer induced around the particle, rather than the velocity decaying to zero, the Janus particles reverse direction, traveling with their metallic hemisphere forward. It is proposed that such motion is the result of a surface force, arising from localized nonuniform electric field gradients, induced by the dual symmetry-breaking of an asymmetric particle adjacent to a wall, which act on the induced dipole of the particle to drive net motion even in a uniform AC field. Although the field is external, since the driving gradient is induced on the particle level, it may be considered an active colloid. We have thus termed this propulsion mechanism "self-dielectrophoresis", to distinguish from traditional dielectrophoresis where the driving nonuniform field is externally fixed and the particle direction is restricted. It is demonstrated theoretically and experimentally that the critical frequency at which the particle reverses direction can be characterized by a nondimensional parameter which is a function of electrolyte concentration and particle size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9540-9547
Number of pages8
Issue number37
StatePublished - 20 Sep 2016


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