Hydrodynamic synchronization of light driven microrotors

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Jul 20;109(3):034104. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.034104. Epub 2012 Jul 17.


Hydrodynamic synchronization is a fundamental physical phenomenon by which self-sustained oscillators communicate through perturbations in the surrounding fluid and converge to a stable synchronized state. This is an important factor for the emergence of regular and coordinated patterns in the motions of cilia and flagella. When dealing with biological systems, however, it is always hard to disentangle internal signaling mechanisms from external purely physical couplings. We have used the combination of two-photon polymerization and holographic optical trapping to build a mesoscale model composed of chiral propellers rotated by radiation pressure. The two microrotors can be synchronized by hydrodynamic interactions alone although the relative torques have to be finely tuned. Dealing with a micron sized system we treat synchronization as a stochastic phenomenon and show that the phase lag between the two microrotors is distributed according to a stationary Fokker-Planck equation for an overdamped particle over a tilted periodic potential. Synchronized states correspond to minima in this potential whose locations are shown to depend critically on the detailed geometry of the propellers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cilia / physiology
  • Flagella / physiology
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Oscillometry / methods*