Anti-Biofouling and Self-Cleaning Surfaces Featured with Magnetic Artificial Cilia

Shuaizhong Zhang, Pan Zuo, Ye Wang, Patrick R. Onck, Jaap M.J. den Toonder (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The fouling of surfaces submerged in a liquid is a serious problem for many applications including lab-on-a-chip devices and marine sensors. Inspired by the versatility of cilia in manipulating fluids and particles, it is experimentally demonstrated that surfaces partially covered with magnetic artificial cilia (MAC) have the capacity to efficiently prevent attachment and adhesion of real biofouling agents—microalgae Scenedesmus sp. Actuation of the MAC resulted in over 99% removal of the algae for two different scenarios: (1) actuating the MAC immediately after injecting the algae into a microfluidic chip, demonstrating antifouling and (2) starting to actuate the MAC 1 week after injecting the algae into the chip and leaving them to grow in static conditions, showing self-cleaning. It is shown that the local and global flows generated by the actuated MAC are substantial, resulting in hydrodynamic shear forces acting on the algae, which are likely to be key to efficient antifouling and self-cleaning. These findings and insights will potentially lead to novel types of self-cleaning and antifouling strategies, which may have a relevant practical impact on different fields and applications including lab-on-a-chip devices and water quality analyzers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27726-27736
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
Issue number24
Early online date8 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2020


S.Z. is financially supported by the China Scholarship Council under grant no. 201506030055. The research leading to these results has also received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 833214. We would like to thank Lucien Cleven, Erwin Dekkers, and Edwin Suijkerbuijk for constructing the magnetic actuation setup, Dr. Allison Schaap and Junyi Yao for the useful suggestions on culturing algae, and Dr. Mark van Turnhout for helping in taking phase-contrast microscopy images of the algae.

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme833214
European Research Council
China Scholarship Council201506030055


    • biofouling
    • anti-biofouling
    • self-cleaning
    • magnetic artificial cilia
    • lab-on-a-chip


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