Fine balance of chemotactic and hydrodynamic torques: When microswimmers orbit a pillar just once

Phys Rev E. 2019 Oct;100(4-1):040601. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.100.040601.


We study the detention statistics of self-propelling droplet microswimmers attaching to microfluidic pillars. These droplets show negative autochemotaxis: they shed a persistent repulsive trail of spent fuel that biases them to detach from pillars in a specific size range after orbiting them just once. We have designed a microfluidic assay recording microswimmers in pillar arrays of varying diameter, derived detention statistics via digital image analysis, and interpreted these statistics via the Langevin dynamics of an active Brownian particle model. By comparing data from orbits with and without residual chemical field, we can independently estimate quantities such as hydrodynamic and chemorepulsive torques, chemical coupling constants and diffusion coefficients, as well as their dependence on environmental factors such as wall curvature. This type of analysis is generalizable to many kinds of microswimmers.