Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



NATURE COMMUNICATIONS | (2021) 12:6455 | |


open access


Cilia are short, hair-like appendages ubiquitous in various biological systems, which have evolved to manipulate and gather food in liquids at regimes where viscosity dominates inertia. Inspired by these natural systems, synthetic cilia have been developed and utilized in microfluidics and microrobotics to achieve functionalities such as propulsion, liquid pumping and mixing, and particle manipulation. Here, we demonstrate ultrasound-activated synthetic ciliary bands that mimic the natural arrangements of ciliary bands on the surface of starfish larva. Our system leverages nonlinear acoustics at microscales to drive bulk fluid motion via acoustically actuated small-amplitude oscillations of synthetic cilia. By arranging the planar ciliary bands angled towards (+) or away (−) from each other, we achieve bulk fluid motion akin to a flow source or sink. We further combine these flow characteristics with a physical principle to circumvent the scallop theorem and realize acoustic-based propulsion at microscales. Finally, inspired by the feeding mechanism of a starfish larva, we demonstrate an analogous microparticle trap by arranging + and − ciliary bands adjacent to each other.