Metachronal patterns in artificial cilia for low Reynolds number fluid propulsion

Edoardo Milana, Rongjing Zhang, Maria Rosaria Vetrano, Sam Peerlinck, Michael De Volder, Patrick R Onck, Dominiek Reynaerts, Benjamin Gorissen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Cilia are hair-like organelles, present in arrays that collectively beat to generate flow. Given their small size and consequent low Reynolds numbers, asymmetric motions are necessary to create a net flow. Here, we developed an array of six soft robotic cilia, which are individually addressable, to both mimic nature's symmetry-breaking mechanisms and control asymmetries to study their influence on fluid propulsion. Our experimental tests are corroborated with fluid dynamics simulations, where we find a good agreement between both and show how the kymographs of the flow are related to the phase shift of the metachronal waves. Compared to synchronous beating, we report a 50% increase of net flow speed when cilia move in an antiplectic wave with phase shift of -π/3 and a decrease for symplectic waves. Furthermore, we observe the formation of traveling vortices in the direction of the wave when metachrony is applied.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabd2508
JournalScience Advances
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2020



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