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Synergistic Speed Enhancement of an Electric-Photochemical Hybrid Micromotor by Tilt Rectification

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posted on 16.06.2020, 15:35 by Zuyao Xiao, Shifang Duan, Pengzhao Xu, Jingqin Cui, Hepeng Zhang, Wei Wang
A hybrid micromotor is an active colloid powered by more than one power source, often exhibiting expanded functionality and controllability than those of a singular energy source. However, these power sources are often applied orthogonally, leading to stacked propulsion that is just a sum of two independent mechanisms. Here, we report that TiO2–Pt Janus micromotors, when subject to both UV light and AC electric fields, move up to 90% faster than simply adding up the speed powered by either source. This unexpected synergy between light and electric fields, we propose, arises from the fact that an electrokinetically powered TiO2–Pt micromotor moves near a substrate with a tilted Janus interface that, upon the application of an electric field, becomes rectified to be vertical to the substrate. Control experiments with magnetic fields and three types of micromotors unambiguously and quantitatively show that the tilting angle of a micromotor correlates positively with its instantaneous speed, reaching maximum at a vertical Janus interface. Such “tilting-induced retardation” could affect a wide variety of chemically powered micromotors, and our findings are therefore helpful in understanding the dynamics of micromachines in confinement.