Confined Motion: Motility of Active Microparticles in Cell-Sized Lipid Vesicles

Shidong Song, Antoni Llopis-Lorente, Alexander F. Mason, Loai K. E. A. Abdelmohsen, and Jan C. M. van Hest

Published: 3 August 2022


Active materials can transduce external energy into kinetic energy at the nano and micron length scales. This unique feature has sparked much research, which ranges from achieving fundamental understanding of their motility to the assessment of potential applications. Traditionally, motility is studied as a function of internal features such as particle topology, while external parameters such as energy source are assessed mainly in bulk. However, in real-life applications, confinement plays a crucial role in determining the type of motion active particles can adapt. This feature has been however surprisingly underexplored experimentally. Here, we showcase a tunable experimental platform to gain an insight into the dynamics of active particles in environments with restricted 3D topology. Particularly, we examined the autonomous motion of coacervate micromotors confined in giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) spanning 10–50 μm in diameter and varied parameters including fuel and micromotor concentration. We observed anomalous diffusion upon confinement, leading to decreased motility, which was more pronounced in smaller compartments. The results indicate that the theoretically predicted hydrodynamic effect dominates the motion mechanism within this platform. Our study provides a versatile approach to understand the behavior of active matter under controlled, compartmentalized conditions.

Full Access Link: Journal of the American Chemical Society