Impact of surface charge on the motion of light-activated Janus micromotors
Control over micromotors' motion is of high relevance for lab-on-a-chip and biomedical engineering, wherein such particles encounter complex microenvironments. Here, we introduce an efficient way to influence Janus micromotors' direction of motion and speed by modifying their surface properties and those of their immediate surroundings. We fabricated light-responsive Janus micromotors with positive and negative surface charge, both driven by ionic self-diffusiophoresis. These were used to observe direction-of-motion reversal in proximity to glass substrates for which we varied the surface charge. Quantitative analysis allowed us to extract the dependence of the particle velocity on the surface charge density of the substrate. This constitutes the first quantitative demonstration of the substrate's surface charge on the motility of the light-activated diffusiophoretic motors in water. We provide qualitative understanding of these observations in terms of osmotic flow along the substrate generated through the ions released by the propulsion mechanism. Our results constitute a crucial step in moving toward practical application of self-phoretic artificial micromotors.