Artificial cilia fabricated using magnetic fiber drawing generate substantial fluid flow

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Microscopic hair-like structures, such as cilia, exist ubiquitously in nature and are used by various organisms for transportation purposes. Many efforts have been made to mimic the fluid pumping function of cilia, but most of the fabrication processes of these “artificial cilia” are tedious and expensive, hindering their practical applications. In this paper, an attractive and potentially cost-effective, magnetic fiber drawing fabrication technique of magnetic artificial cilia is demonstrated. Our artificial cilia are able to generate a substantial fluid net flow velocity of water of up to 70 µm/s (corresponding to a generated volumetric flow rate about 0.6 µL/min and a pressure difference of about 0.04 Pa) in a closed-loop microfluidic channel when actuated using an external magnetic field. A detailed analysis of the relationship between the experimentally observed cilia kinematics and corresponding induced flow is in line with a previously reported theoretical/numerical study.

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This research forms part of the research programme of the Dutch Polymer Institute DPI, project #689.

Author information

Correspondence to Ye Wang.

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Supplementary material 1 (MP4 4516 kb)

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Appendix: Solution for the pressure drop and flow rate in recirculation channel

Appendix: Solution for the pressure drop and flow rate in recirculation channel

For fully developed laminar Newtonian flow in a rectangular channel, the analytical solution for the pressure drop is given by White (1991):

$$\Delta P = \frac{{\mu V_{z} \left( {x,y} \right)L\pi^{3} }}{{4h^{2} \sum\nolimits_{i = 1,3, \ldots }^{\infty } {\frac{{\left( { - 1} \right)^{{\frac{i - 1}{2}}} }}{{i^{3} }}\cos \left( {\frac{i\pi y}{h}} \right)\left[ {1 - \frac{{\cosh \left( {{{i\pi x} \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{i\pi x} h}} \right. \kern-0pt} h}} \right)}}{{\cosh \left( {{{i\pi w} \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{i\pi w} {2h}}} \right. \kern-0pt} {2h}}} \right)}}} \right]} }}$$

where µ is the dynamic viscosity, \(V_{z} \left( {x,y} \right)\) is the flow speed at the point \(\left( {x,y} \right)\), L is the total length of the recirculation channel (8.4 mm), h is the channel height (420 µm) and w is the channel width (500 µm). At the central line (x, y) = (0, 0) of the channel, the maximum flow speed V z is measured to be 70 µm/s from the experiments, so ΔP is about 0.037 Pa.

The flow rate in the recirculation channel can be calculated from both the flow speed and the pressure drop, here we use the latter with the following equation (White 1991):

$$Q = \frac{{wh^{3} \left[ {1 - \frac{192h}{{\pi^{5} w}}\sum\nolimits_{i = 1,3,5, \ldots }^{\infty } {\frac{{\tanh \left( {{{i\pi h} \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{i\pi h} {2w}}} \right. \kern-0pt} {2w}}} \right)}}{{i^{5} }}} } \right]}}{{12\,\upmu {\text{L}}}}$$

which gives the flow rate of about 0.6 µL/min. The cilia chamber of the closed-loop device has a volume S p of 4 mm3, which gives the performance or “self-pumping frequency”, Q/S p (Laser and Santiago 2004) of the magnetic artificial cilia at about 0.15/min.

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Wang, Y., Gao, Y., Wyss, H.M. et al. Artificial cilia fabricated using magnetic fiber drawing generate substantial fluid flow. Microfluid Nanofluid 18, 167–174 (2015) doi:10.1007/s10404-014-1425-8

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  • Artificial cilia
  • Microfluidics
  • Actuators
  • Flow generation