Colloidal systems, Electrostatics, Optimization algorithms, Computer simulation, Control theory, Electrophoresis, Chemical reaction dynamics, Microfluidic devices, Chemotaxis, Brownian motion


Biological systems rely on chemical gradients to direct motion through both chemotaxis and signaling, but synthetic approaches for doing the same are still relatively naïve. Consequently, we present a novel method for using chemical gradients to manipulate the position and velocity of colloidal particles in a microfluidic device. Specifically, we show that a set of spatially localized chemical reactions that are sufficiently controllable can be used to steer colloidal particles via diffusiophoresis along an arbitrary trajectory. To accomplish this, we develop a control method for steering colloidal particles with chemical gradients using nonlinear model predictive control with a model based on the unsteady Green’s function solution of the diffusion equation. We illustrate the effectiveness of our approach using Brownian dynamics simulations that steer single particles along paths, such as circle, square, and figure-eight. We subsequently compare our results with published techniques for steering colloids using electric fields, and we provide an analysis of the physical parameter space where our approach is useful. Based on these findings, we conclude that it is theoretically possible to explicitly steer particles via chemical gradients in a microfluidics paradigm.

Original Publication Citation

Biomicrofluidics 17, 014107 (2023);

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



AIP Publishing




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering


Chemical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor