Self-consistent nonlocal feedback theory for electrocatalytic swimmers with heterogeneous surface chemical kinetics

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We present a self-consistent nonlocal feedback theory for the phoretic propulsion mechanisms of electrocatalytic micromotors or nanomotors. These swimmers, such as bimetallic platinum and gold rods catalyzing decomposition of hydrogen peroxide in aqueous solution, have received considerable theoretical attention. In contrast, the heterogeneous electrochemical processes with nonlocal feedback that are the actual "engines" of such motors are relatively neglected. We present a flexible approach to these processes using bias potential as a control parameter field and a locally-open-circuit reference state, carried through in detail for a spherical motor. While the phenomenological flavor makes meaningful contact with experiment easier, required inputs can also conceivably come from, e.g., Frumkin-Butler-Volmer kinetics. Previously obtained results are recovered in the weak-heterogeneity limit and improved small-basis approximations tailored to structural heterogeneity are presented. Under the assumption of weak inhomogeneity, a scaling form is deduced for motor speed as a function of fuel concentration and swimmer size. We argue that this form should be robust and demonstrate a good fit to experimental data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062303
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 10 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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