(111h) Emergent Microrobotic Oscillators Via Asymmetry-Induced Order | AIChE

(111h) Emergent Microrobotic Oscillators Via Asymmetry-Induced Order


Yang, J. F. - Presenter, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Berrueta, T., Northwestern University
Brooks, A., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Liu, A. T., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Zhang, G., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yang, S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Koman, V., MIT
Murphey, T., Northwestern University
Strano, M., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Spontaneous low-frequency oscillations on the order of several hertz are the drivers of many crucial processes in nature. From bacterial swimming to mammal gaits, the conversion of static energy inputs into slowly oscillating electrical and mechanical power is key to the autonomy of organisms across scales. However, the fabrication of slow artificial oscillators at micrometre scales remains a major roadblock towards the development of fully-autonomous microrobots. Here, we report the emergence of a low-frequency relaxation oscillator from a simple collective of active microparticles interacting at the air-liquid interface of a peroxide drop. Their collective oscillations form chemomechanical and electrochemical limit cycles that enable the transduction of ambient chemical energy into periodic mechanical motion and on-board electrical currents. Surprisingly, the collective can oscillate robustly even as more particles are introduced, but only when we add a single particle with modified reactivity to intentionally break the system’s permutation symmetry. We explain such emergent order through a novel thermodynamic mechanism for asymmetry-induced order. The energy harvested from the stabilized system oscillations enables the use of on-board electronic components, which we demonstrate by cyclically and synchronously driving microrobotic arms. This work highlights a new strategy for achieving low-frequency oscillations at the microscale that are otherwise difficult to observe outside of natural systems, paving the way for future microrobotic autonomy.