Send to

Choose Destination
Nat Commun. 2014;5:3081. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4081.

A self-propelled biohybrid swimmer at low Reynolds number.

Author information

Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA.


Many microorganisms, including spermatozoa and forms of bacteria, oscillate or twist a hair-like flagella to swim. At this small scale, where locomotion is challenged by large viscous drag, organisms must generate time-irreversible deformations of their flagella to produce thrust. To date, there is no demonstration of a self propelled, synthetic flagellar swimmer operating at low Reynolds number. Here we report a microscale, biohybrid swimmer enabled by a unique fabrication process and a supporting slender-body hydrodynamics model. The swimmer consists of a polydimethylsiloxane filament with a short, rigid head and a long, slender tail on which cardiomyocytes are selectively cultured. The cardiomyocytes contract and deform the filament to propel the swimmer at 5-10 μm s(-1), consistent with model predictions. We then demonstrate a two-tailed swimmer swimming at 81 μm s(-1). This small-scale, elementary biohybrid swimmer can serve as a platform for more complex biological machines.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center