Lozano, Celia

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Active particles sense micromechanical properties of glasses

2019-10, Lozano, Celia, Gomez Solano, Juan Ruben, Bechinger, Clemens

Understanding the mechanical properties of glasses is a great scientific challenge. A powerful technique to study the material response on a microscopic scale is microrheology, in which one analyses the translational dynamics of an externally driven probe particle. Here we show that the translational and rotational dynamics of a self-propelled probe particle with an unconstrained orientational motion can be used to gather information about the mechanical properties of a colloidal glassy system. We find that its rotational diffusion coefficient continuously increases towards the glass transition and drops down in the glassy state. Such unexpected behaviour demonstrates a strong coupling mechanism between the orientation of the active probe particle and the glassy structure, which can be well described by a simple rheological model. Our results suggest that active probe particles may be useful for the micromechanical characterization of complex materials.


Run-and-Tumble-Like Motion of Active Colloids in Viscoelastic Media

2018, Lozano, Celia, Gomez Solano, Juan Ruben, Bechinger, Clemens

Run-and-tumble motion is a prominent locomotion strategy employed by many living microorganisms. It is characterized by straight swimming intervals (runs), which are interrupted by sudden reorientation events (tumbles). In contrast, directional changes of synthetic microswimmers (active particles) are caused by rotational diffusion, which is superimposed with their translational motion and thus leads to rather continuous and slow particle reorientations. Here we demonstrate that active particles can also perform a swimming motion where translational and orientational changes are disentangled, similar to run-and-tumble. In our system, such motion is realized by a viscoelastic solvent and a periodic modulation of the self-propulsion velocity. Experimentally, this is achieved using light-activated Janus colloids, which are illuminated by a time-dependent laser field. We observe a strong enhancement of the effective translational and rotational motion when the modulation time is comparable to the relaxation time of the viscoelastic fluid. Our findings are explained by the relaxation of the elastic stress, which builds up during the self-propulsion, and is suddenly released when the activity is turned off. In addition to a better understanding of active motion in viscoelastic surroundings, our results may suggest novel steering strategies for synthetic microswimmers in complex environments.


Tuning the motility and directionality of self-propelled colloids

2017, Gomez Solano, Juan Ruben, Samin, Sela, Lozano, Celia, Ruedas-Batuecas, Pablo, van Roij, René, Bechinger, Clemens

Microorganisms are able to overcome the thermal randomness of their surroundings by harvesting energy to navigate in viscous fluid environments. In a similar manner, synthetic colloidal microswimmers are capable of mimicking complex biolocomotion by means of simple self-propulsion mechanisms. Although experimentally the speed of active particles can be controlled by e.g. self-generated chemical and thermal gradients, an in-situ change of swimming direction remains a challenge. In this work, we study self-propulsion of half-coated spherical colloids in critical binary mixtures and show that the coupling of local body forces, induced by laser illumination, and the wetting properties of the colloid, can be used to finely tune both the colloid’s swimming speed and its directionality. We experimentally and numerically demonstrate that the direction of motion can be reversibly switched by means of the size and shape of the droplet(s) nucleated around the colloid, depending on the particle radius and the fluid’s ambient temperature. Moreover, the aforementioned features enable the possibility to realize both negative and positive phototaxis in light intensity gradients. Our results can be extended to other types of half-coated microswimmers, provided that both of their hemispheres are selectively made active but with distinct physical properties.