Bioinspired helical microswimmers based on vascular plants

Nano Lett. 2014 Jan 8;14(1):305-10. doi: 10.1021/nl404044d. Epub 2013 Dec 6.


Plant-based bioinspired magnetically propelled helical microswimmers are described. The helical microstructures are derived from spiral water-conducting vessels of different plants, harnessing the intrinsic biological structures of nature. Geometric variables of the spiral vessels, such as the helix diameter and pitch, can be controlled by mechanical stretching for the precise fabrication and consistent performance of helical microswimmers. Xylem vessels of a wide variety of different plants have been evaluated for the consistency and reproducibility of their helical parameters. Sequential deposition of thin Ti and Ni layers directly on the spiral vessels, followed by dicing, leads to an extremely simple and cost-efficient mass-production of functional helical microswimmers. The resulting plant-based magnetic microswimmers display efficient propulsion, with a speed of over 250 μm/s, as well as powerful locomotion in biological media such as human serum. The influence of actuation frequencies on the swimming velocity is investigated. Such use of plant vessels results in significant savings in the processing costs and provides an extremely simple, cost-effective fabrication route for the large-scale production of helical magnetic swimmers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomimetics / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Materials Testing
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Metal Nanoparticles / ultrastructure*
  • Microfluidics / instrumentation*
  • Molecular Imprinting / methods
  • Motion
  • Particle Size
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Swimming*
  • Xylem / chemistry
  • Xylem / ultrastructure*