Han, Koohee; Snezhko, Alexey
Inspired by nature, active matter exemplified by self-organization of motile units into macroscopic structures holds great promise for advanced tunable materials capable of flocking, shape-shifting, and self-healing. Active particles driven by external fields have repeatedly demonstrated potential for complex self-organization and collective behavior, yet how to guide the direction of their collective motion largely remains unexplored. Here, we report a system of microscopic ferromagnetic rollers driven by an alternating magnetic field that demonstrates programmable control of the direction of a self-organized coherent vortical motion (i.e., chirality). Facilitated by a droplet confinement, the rollers get synchronized and display either right- or left-handed spontaneous vortical motion, such that their moving direction determines the vortex chirality. We reveal that one can remotely command a flock of magnetic rollers to switch or maintain its chiral state by modulating a phase shift of the sinusoidal magnetic field powering the active rollers. Building on our findings, we realize a self-assembled remotely controlled micro-pump architecture capable of switching the fluid transport direction on demand. Our studies may stimulate new design strategies for directed transport and flocking robotics at the microscale based on active colloids.