Velev says the micrometer-sized particles convert the electrical field into liquid motion around them and then unexpectedly propel themselves perpendicular to the direction of the powered electrodes – not in the direction of the electrical field, as would be expected. The particles always travel in the same orientation: with the plastic "face" as the front of the mini-submarine and the metallic "face" in the rear, Velev added.
The phenomenon – called "induced-charge electrophoresis," which had been predicted in a theoretical model by the MIT collaborator – had not been demonstrated previously.
The term "Janus particle" comes from the name of a Roman god with two faces. Velev says that these materials have the potential to perform a variety of applications.
"You can imagine other types of Janus particles comprising a 'smart gel' that responds to a change in its environment and then releases drugs, for example," Velev says. Fabricating these responsive materials on the microscale and nanoscale is an exciting and rapidly developing area of science, he adds.
"We are able to create tiny Janus particles of the same size and shape and are beginning to learn how to give them functionality," Velev said. "The next step is to create more complex particles that are able to perform more specialized functions in addition to propelling themselves around."
The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and a Camile and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar grant.
Dr. Orlin Velev | EurekAlert!
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