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Propulsion driven by self-oscillation via an electrohydrodynamic instability

Author(s): Zhu, L; Stone, Howard A

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Abstract: Oscillations of flagella and cilia play an important role in biology, which motivates the idea of functional mimicry as part of bioinspired applications. Nevertheless, it still remains challenging to drive their artificial counterparts to oscillate via a steady, homogeneous stimulus. Combining theory and simulations, we demonstrate a strategy to achieve this goal by using an elastoelectrohydrodynamic instability (based on the Quincke rotation instability). In particular, we show that applying a uniform dc electric field can produce self-oscillatory motion of a microrobot composed of a dielectric particle and an elastic filament. Upon tuning the electric field and filament elasticity, the microrobot exhibits three distinct behaviors: a stationary state, undulatory swimming, and steady spinning, where the swimming behavior stems from an instability emerging through a Hopf bifurcation. Our results imply the feasibility of engineering self-oscillations by leveraging the elastoviscous response to control the type of bifurcation and the form of instability. We anticipate that our strategy will be useful in a broad range of applications imitating self-oscillatory natural phenomena and biological processes.
Publication Date: 2019
Citation: Zhu, L, Stone, HA. (2019). Propulsion driven by self-oscillation via an electrohydrodynamic instability. Physical Review Fluids, 4 (10.1103/PhysRevFluids.4.061701
DOI: doi:10.1103/PhysRevFluids.4.061701
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Physical Review Fluids
Version: Author's manuscript

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