Artificial Tribotactic Microscopic Walkers: Walking Based on Friction Gradients

TitleArtificial Tribotactic Microscopic Walkers: Walking Based on Friction Gradients
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSteimel, JP, Aragones, JL, Alexander-Katz, A
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Date Published2014/10/22/

Friction, the resistive force between two surfaces sliding past each other, is at the core of a wide diversity of locomotion schemes. While such schemes are well described for homogeneous environments, locomotion based on friction in inhomogeneous environments has not received much attention. Here we introduce and demonstrate the concept of tribotaxis, a motion that is guided by gradients in the friction coefficient. Our system is composed of microwalkers that undergo an effective frictional interaction with biological receptors on the substrate, which is regulated by the density of such receptors. When actuated stochastically, microwalkers migrate to regions of higher friction, much like a chemotactic cell migrates to regions of higher chemoattractant concentration. Simulations and theory based on biased random walks are in excellent agreement with experiments. We foresee important implications for tribotaxis in artificial and natural locomotion in biological environments.