Do magnetic micro-swimmers move like eukaryotic cells?

Marcus Roper, Rémi Dreyfus, Jean Baudry, Marc Fermigier, Jérôme Bibette, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Recent advances in micro-machining allow very small cargos, such as single red blood cells, to be moved by outfitting them with tails made of micrometre-sized paramagnetic particles yoked together by polymer bridges. When a time-varying magnetic field is applied to such a filament, it bends from side to side and propels itself through the fluid, dragging the load behind it. Here, experimental data and a mathematical model are presented showing the dependence of the swimming speed and direction of the magnetic micro-swimmer upon tunable parameters, such as the field strength and frequency and the filament length. The propulsion of the filament arises from the propagation of bending waves between free and tethered ends: here we show that this gives the micro-swimmer a gait that is intermediate between a eukaryotic cell and a waggled elastic rod. Finally, we extract from the model design principles for constructing the fastest swimming micro-swimmer by tuning experimental parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-904
Number of pages28
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2092
StatePublished - Apr 8 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Mathematics
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • Biofluid dynamics
  • Continuum modelling
  • Micro-swimming
  • Reciprocal theorem


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