Assembly Modulated by Particle Position and Shape: A New Concept in Self-Assembly

Joe W Tavacoli, Julien Heuvingh, Olivia Du Roure

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In this communication we outline how the bespoke arrangements and design of micron-sized superparamagnetic shapes provide levers to modulate their assembly under homogeneous magnetic fields. We label this new approach, 'assembly modulated by particle position and shape' (APPS). Specifically, using rectangular lattices of superparamagnetic micron-sized cuboids, we construct distinct microstructures by adjusting lattice pitch and angle of array with respect to a magnetic field. Broadly, we find two modes of assembly: (1) immediate 2D jamming of the cuboids as they rotate to align with the applied field (rotation-induced jamming) and (2) aggregation via translation after their full alignment (dipole-dipole assembly). The boundary between these two assembly pathways is independent on field strength being solely a function of the cuboid's dimensions, lattice pitch, and array angle with respect to field-a relationship which we capture, along with other features of the assembly process, in a 'phase diagram'. In doing so, we set out initial design rules to build custom made assemblies. Moreover, these assemblies can be made flexible thanks to the hinged contacts of their particle building blocks. This flexibility, combined with the superparamagnetic nature of the architectures, renders our assembly method particularly appropriate for the construction of complex actuators at a scale hitherto not possible.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1291
Issue number11
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • MEMS
  • Magnetic systems
  • Microrobotics
  • Self-assembly

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