Propulsion and controlled steering of magnetic nanohelices

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Research units

  • Western University
  • Loughborough University


Externally controlled motion of micro and nanomotors in a fluid environment constitutes a promising tool in biosensing, targeted delivery and environmental remediation. In particular, recent experiments have demonstrated that fuel-free propulsion can be achieved through the application of external magnetic fields on magnetic helically shaped structures. The magnetic interaction between helices and the rotating field induces a torque that rotates and propels them via the coupled rotational-translational motion. Recent works have shown that there exist certain optimal geometries of helical shapes for propulsion. However, experiments show that controlled motion remains a challenge at the nanoscale due to Brownian motion that interferes with the deterministic motion and makes it difficult to achieve controlled steering. In the present work we employ quantitatively accurate simulation methodology to design a setup for which magnetic nanohelices of 30 nm in radius and 180 nm in length (corresponding to previously determined optimal length to radius ratio of 6), with and without cargo, can be accurately propelled and steered in the presence of thermal fluctuations. In particular, we demonstrate fast transport of such nanomotors and devise protocols in manipulating external fields to achieve directionally controlled steering at biologically relevant temperatures.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1684-1691
Number of pages8
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

ID: 32267820