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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 13, 2025
  2. This study investigates the motion characteristics of soft alginate microrobots in complex fluidic environments utilizing wireless magnetic fields for actuation. The aim is to explore the diverse motion modes that arise due to shear forces in viscoelastic fluids by employing snowman-shaped microrobots. Polyacrylamide (PAA), a water-soluble polymer, is used to create a dynamic environment with non-Newtonian fluid properties. Microrobots are fabricated via an extrusion-based microcentrifugal droplet method, successfully demonstrating the feasibility of both wiggling and tumbling motions. Specifically, the wiggling motion primarily results from the interplay between the viscoelastic fluid environment and the microrobots’ non-uniform magnetization. Furthermore, it is discovered that the viscoelasticity properties of the fluid influence the motion behavior of the microrobots, leading to non-uniform behavior in complex environments for microrobot swarms. Through velocity analysis, valuable insights into the relationship between applied magnetic fields and motion characteristics are obtained, facilitating a more realistic understanding of surface locomotion for targeted drug delivery purposes while accounting for swarm dynamics and non-uniform behavior.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. Vo-Dinh, Tuan ; Ho, Ho-Pui A. ; Ray, Krishanu (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    Chemically coated micro/nanoparticles are often used in medicine to enhance drug delivery and increase drug up-take into specific areas of the body. Using a recently discovered spontaneous symmetry breaking propulsion mechanism, we demonstrate that chemically coated microparticles can swim through mucus solution under precise navigation and that certain functionalizations can dynamically change propulsion behavior. For this investigation biotin, Bitotin-PEG3-amine, and biotin chitosan were chemically functionalized onto the surfaces of magnetic microparticles using an avidin–biotin complex. These chemicals were chosen because they are used prolifically in drug delivery applications, with PEG and chitosan having well known mucoadhesive effects. Coated microparticles were then suspended in mucus synthesized from porcine stomach mucins and propelled using rotating magnetic fields. The relationship between different chemical coatings, microparticle velocity, and controllability were thoroughly explored and discussed. Results indicate that the biotinylated surface coatings altered the propulsion behavior of microparticles, with performance differences interlinked to both magnetic field properties and localized mucus properties. Precisely controlled drug carrying microparticles are envisioned to help supplant traditional drug delivery methods and enhance existing medical techniques utilizing micro/nanoparticles.

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  5. Abstract This paper seeks to design, develop, and explore the locomotive dynamics and morphological adaptability of a bacteria-inspired rod-like soft robot propelled in highly viscous Newtonian fluids. The soft robots were fabricated as tapered, hollow rod-like soft scaffolds by applying a robust and economic molding technique to a polyacrylamide-based hydrogel polymer. Cylindrical micro-magnets were embedded in both ends of the soft scaffolds, which allowed bending (deformation) and actuation under a uniform rotating magnetic field. We demonstrated that the tapered rod-like soft robot in viscous Newtonian fluids could perform two types of propulsion; boundary rolling was displayed when the soft robot was located near a boundary, and swimming was displayed far away from the boundary. In addition, we performed numerical simulations to understand the swimming propulsion along the rotating axis and the way in which this propulsion is affected by the soft robot’s design, rotation frequency, and fluid viscosity. Our results suggest that a simple geometrical asymmetry enables the rod-like soft robot to perform propulsion in the low Reynolds number ( Re ≪ 1) regime; these promising results provide essential insights into the improvements that must be made to integrate the soft robots into minimally invasive in vivo applications. 
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  6. This paper demonstrates a manipulation of snowman-shaped soft microrobots under a uniform rotating magnetic field. Each microsnowman robot consists of two biocompatible alginate microspheres with embedded magnetic nanoparticles. The soft microsnowmen were fabricated using a microfluidic device by following a centrifuge-based microfluidic droplet method. Under a uniform rotating magnetic field, the microsnowmen were rolled on the substrate surface, and the velocity response for increasing magnetic field frequencies was analyzed. Then, a microsnowman was rolled to follow different paths, which demonstrated directional controllability of the microrobot. Moreover, swarms of microsnowmen and single alginate microrobots were manipulated under the rotating magnetic field, and their velocity responses were analyzed for comparison. 
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  7. Vo-Dinh, Tuan ; Ho, Ho-Pui A. ; Ray, Krishanu (Ed.)
  8. Abstract Magnetic achiral planar microswimmers can be massively fabricated at low cost and are envisioned to be useful for in vivo biomedical applications. To understand locomotion in representative in vivo environments, we investigated the swimming performance of achiral planar microswimmers in methylcellulose solutions. We observed that these microswimmers displayed very similar swimming characteristics in methylcellulose solutions as in water. Furthermore, this study indicated that the range of precession angles increased as the concentration of MC solution increased. Last, it was demonstrated that achiral planar microswimmers with similar precession angles exhibited nearly the same dimensionless speeds in different concentrations of the methylcellulose solutions. Upon understanding swimmer kinematics, more effective control over the achiral planar microswimmers can be achieved to perform multiple biomedical tasks in in vivo environments. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Microscale propulsion impacts a diverse array of fields ranging from biology and ecology to health applications, such as infection, fertility, drug delivery, and microsurgery. However, propulsion in such viscous drag-dominated fluid environments is highly constrained, with time-reversal and geometric symmetries ruling out entire classes of propulsion. Here, we report the spontaneous symmetry-breaking propulsion of rotating spherical microparticles within non-Newtonian fluids. While symmetry analysis suggests that propulsion is not possible along the fore-aft directions, we demonstrate the existence of two equal and opposite propulsion states along the sphere’s rotation axis. We propose and experimentally corroborate a propulsion mechanism for these spherical microparticles, the simplest microswimmers to date, arising from nonlinear viscoelastic effects in rotating flows similar to the rod-climbing effect. Similar possibilities of spontaneous symmetry-breaking could be used to circumvent other restrictions on propulsion, revising notions of microrobotic design and control, drug delivery, microscale pumping, and locomotion of microorganisms. 
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