The realization of reconfigurable modular microrobots could aid drug delivery and microsurgery by allowing a single system to navigate diverse environments and perform multiple tasks. So far, microrobotic systems are limited by insufficient versatility; for instance, helical shapes commonly used for magnetic swimmers cannot effectively assemble and disassemble into different size and shapes. Here by using microswimmers with simple geometries constructed of spherical particles, we show how magnetohydrodynamics can be used to assemble and disassemble modular microrobots with different physical characteristics. We develop a mechanistic physical model that we use to improve assembly strategies. Furthermore, we experimentally demonstrate the feasibility of dynamically changing the physical properties of microswimmers through assembly and disassembly in a controlled fluidic environment. Finally, we show that different configurations have different swimming properties by examining swimming speed dependence on configuration size.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation (DMR 1306794) and Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology (KEIT) funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) (NO. 10052980) awards to M.J. Kim, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRF) award to U.K. Cheang, and National Science Foundation (DMR 1307497 and CMMI-1435652) awards to H.C.F.
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