Theses Doctoral

Quincke Oscillators: Dynamics, synchronization, and assembly of self-oscillating colloids

Zhang, Zhengyan

Active colloids are small particles that can convert external energy supply into self-propulsion. Because of the existence of the energy current inside and across the system, active colloids exhibit behaviors that are far away from thermodynamic equilibrium. During the past decades, active colloids have been used to provide models for many different non-equilibrium system studies and have been designed to complete tasks on small scale. By tuning the particle size, shape, etc, or changing the actuation methods of the active colloid systems, people have developed a large number of different active colloid systems. Among all active colloid systems, the Quincke rotation system can effectively propel particles with rapid speed. This phenomenon refers to the spontaneous rolling of a dielectric sphere in a weakly conducting liquid under a DC electric field.

Although the basic mechanism of a single Quincke roller has been well explained, some behaviors that occur in complex environments or with multiple Quincke particles are still mysteries. For example, one particle will move back and forth on the bottom electrode under a high electric DC field. This so-called Quincke Oscillation motion cannot be explained by the previous models well. So a new model is required. In this dissertation, we will focus on explaining this newly-discovered dynamic in the Quincke system. Then we will study the collective dynamics of multiple Quincke oscillators with designed experiments and models.

In Chapter 1, the background and different actuation methods of active colloid systems are first introduced. Then the Quincke rotation system and its field-dependent dynamics are explained with a classic leaky dielectric model. The recent research results with Quincke systems are shortly reviewed afterward. In Chapter 2, we introduce the experimentally discovered Quincke Oscillation phenomenon. Then we reveal its dependency on liquid conductivity and particle size. This dynamic is finally explained by the asymmetric charging of the particle surface in the field-induced boundary layer near the electrode. This work opens the door to the study of the collective dynamics of Quincke oscillators.

In Chapter 3, we first introduce a dynamical model considering the charge, dipole, and quadrupole moments of the sphere and predict its oscillatory motion under a non-uniform liquid conductivity environment. Then we study the behavior of two coupled Quincke oscillators with far-field hydrodynamic and electrostatic interactions. The numerical simulations predict the synchronization and alignment of two oscillators with fixed positions. We further develop a model based on weakly coupled oscillator assumptions by considering the relative phase and oscillating orientations of two oscillators. The model successfully explains the numerical simulation results and can be applied to other active colloid systems with multiple mobile oscillators.

In Chapter 4, we show that the Quincke oscillators can assemble into a cluster and oscillate with high synchronization and alignment. This formation of the cluster can also increase the oscillation frequency of the oscillators. By considering the perfect contact rolling of the oscillators on the electrode, we develop a weakly coupled oscillator theory model. This model explains the tendency of particles to synchronize and align in a cluster and predicts the increase of the oscillation frequency when particles are in synchronized phases. The cluster is stabilized due to the existing phase waves observed in experiments and simulations.

In Chapter 5, we introduce two other studies on Quincke rollers with different experimental designs. Particles of helical shape exhibit self-propulsion in the liquid bulk and highlight the role of shape in controlling particle dynamics. For multiple spheres in a height-confined system, the particles display a transition from a fluctuating state to an absorbing stable state depending on their density and the applied field strength. This work provides an experimental model for studying absorbing state. In Chapter 6, the development of the Quincke system study is reviewed and some future directions are suggested.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Chemical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Bishop, Kyle J.M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 31, 2023