Scientists Find Way to Navigate a Heavy Uphill Climb With Tiny Motors That Behave Like Rock Climbers

Heavy Metallic Microswimmers

Heavy metallic microswimmers, made of rhodium (purple) and gold, swim around in a liquid solution. When confronting a sloped wall, each rod-like swimmer will reorient its body upward due to its density imbalance, and swims up like a rock climber against gravity. A hydrodynamic effect helps to amplify the action in its reorientation. Credit: Image courtesy of Jun Zhang, NYU’s Courant Institute and NYU’s Department of Physics

A team of scientists has uncovered how heavy, motorized objects climb steep slopes — a newly discovered mechanism that also mimics how rock climbers navigate inclines.

The findings, which appear in the journal Soft Matter, stem from a series of experiments in which motorized objects were placed in liquid and then moved up tilted surfaces.

“These ‘micro-swimmers’ are about 20 times heavier than the fluid they swim in, but they were able to climb steep slopes that are almost vertical,” explains Jun Zhang, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of physics and mathematics at DOI: 10.1039/D1SM00554E

The study’s other co-authors included Quentin Brosseau, a post-doctoral researcher at the Courant Institute at the time of the research, Yang Wu, a doctoral candidate in NYU’s Department of Chemistry, Michael Ward, a professor in NYU’s Department of Chemistry, Leif Ristroph, an associate professor at the Courant Institute, Florencio Balboa Usabiaga of the Flatiron Institute, and Enkeleida Lushi of the