Stochastic dynamics of dissolving active particles

  • Alexander ChamollyEmail author
  • Eric Lauga
Open Access
Regular Article


The design of artificial microswimmers has generated significant research interest in recent years, for promise in applications such as nanomotors and targeted drug-delivery. However, many current designs suffer from a common problem, namely the swimmers remain in the fluid indefinitely, posing risks of clogging and damage. Inspired by recently proposed experimental designs, we investigate mathematically the dynamics of degradable active particles. We develop and compare two distinct chemical models for the decay of a swimmer, taking into account the material composition and nature of the chemical or enzymatic reaction at its surface. These include a model for dissolution without a reaction, as well as models for a reacting swimmer studied in the limit of large and small Damköhler number. A new dimensionless parameter emerges that allows the classification of colloids into ballistic and diffusive type. Using this parameter, we perform an asymptotic analysis to derive expressions for colloid lifetimes and their total mean squared displacement from release and validate these by numerical Monte Carlo simulations of the associated Langevin dynamics. Supported by general scaling relationships, our theoretical results provide new insight into the experimental applicability of a wide range of designs for degradable active colloids.

Graphical abstract


Soft Matter: Colloids and Nanoparticles 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical PhysicsUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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