Magnetic Steering Control of Multi-Cellular Bio-Hybrid Microswimmers

Lab Chip. 2014 Oct 7;14(19):3850-9. doi: 10.1039/c4lc00707g.


Bio-hybrid devices, which integrate biological cells with synthetic components, have opened a new path in miniaturized systems with the potential to provide actuation and control for systems down to a few microns in size. Here, we address the challenge of remotely controlling bio-hybrid microswimmers propelled by multiple bacterial cells. These devices have been proposed as a viable method for targeted drug delivery but have also been shown to exhibit stochastic motion. We demonstrate a method of remote magnetic control that significantly reduces the stochasticity of the motion, enabling steering control. The demonstrated microswimmers consist of multiple Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens) bacteria attached to a 6 μm-diameter superparamagnetic bead. We characterize their motion and define the parameters governing their controllability. We show that the microswimmers can be controlled along two-dimensional (2-D) trajectories using weak magnetic fields (≤10 mT) and can achieve 2-D swimming speeds up to 7.3 μm s(-1). This magnetic steering approach can be integrated with sensory-based steering in future work, enabling new control strategies for bio-hybrid microsystems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Magnetic Phenomena*
  • Microtechnology / instrumentation*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Serratia marcescens
  • Swimming / physiology