Metallic Nanodimers as Phototactic Thermoplasmonic Nanoswimmers

We assess the potentiality of several geometries of metallic nanodimers (one of the simplest thermoplasmonic systems) as candidates for active particles (nanoswimmers) propelled and controlled by light (phototaxis).
The studied nanodimers are formed by two spherical nanoparticles of gold, silver, or copper with radii ranging from 20 to 100 nm. Contrary to most proposals, which assume the asymmetry of the systems as a requirement for self-propulsion, our results show that nanodimers made of identical nanoparticles are excellent candidates for phototactic self-thermophoretic systems. Nonsymmetrical nanodimers, although having a tunable effective diffusion, possess much lower or null average thermophoretic forces. We show that the effective diffusion and the net thermophoretic force in both types of systems depend strongly on the wavelength of the incident light, which makes these properties highly tunable. Our study may result useful for the design of simple-to-make but controllable self-propelled nanoparticles, which can find numerous applications.