Self-starting micromotors in a bacterial bath

Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Jan 30;102(4):048104. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.048104. Epub 2009 Jan 30.


Micromotors pushed by biological entities, such as motile bacteria, constitute a fascinating way to convert chemical energy into mechanical work at the micrometer scale. Here we show, by using numerical simulations, that a properly designed asymmetric object can be spontaneously set into the desired motion when immersed in a chaotic bacterial bath. Our findings open the way to conceive new hybrid microdevices exploiting the mechanical power production of bacterial organisms. Moreover, the system provides an example of how, in contrast with equilibrium thermal baths, the irreversible chaotic motion of active particles can be rectified by asymmetric environments.

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Flagella / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Swimming


  • Molecular Motor Proteins