Bacterial ratchet motors

R. Di Leonardo*, L. Angelani, D. Dell'Arciprete, G. Ruocco, V. Iebba, S. Schippa, M. P. Conte, F. Mecarini, F. De Angelis, Enzo Di Fabrizio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

384 Scopus citations

Abstract

Self-propelling bacteria are a nanotechnology dream. These unicellular organisms are not just capable of living and reproducing, but they can swim very efficiently, sense the environment, and look for food, all packaged in a body measuring a few microns. Before such perfect machines can be artificially assembled, researchers are beginning to explore new ways to harness bacteria as propelling units for microdevices. Proposed strategies require the careful task of aligning and binding bacterial cells on synthetic surfaces in order to have them work cooperatively. Here we show that asymmetric environments can produce a spontaneous and unidirectional rotation of nanofabricated objects immersed in an active bacterial bath. The propulsion mechanism is provided by the self-assembly of motile Escherichia coli cells along the rotor boundaries. Our results highlight the technological implications of active matter's ability to overcome the restrictions imposed by the second law of thermodynamics on equilibrium passive fluids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9541-9545
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume107
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - May 25 2010

Keywords

  • Biological motors
  • Ratchet effect
  • Self-propulsion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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