In the absence of inertia, a reciprocal swimmer achieves no net motion in a viscous Newtonian fluid. Here, using tracking methods and birefringence imaging, we investigate the ability of a reciprocally actuated particle to translate through a complex fluid that possesses a network. A geometrically polar particle, a rod with a bead on one end, is reciprocally rotated using magnetic fields. The particle is immersed in a wormlike micellar (WLM) solution that is known to be susceptible to the formation of shear bands and other localized structures due to shear-induced remodeling of its microstructure. Results show that the nonlinearities present in this WLM solution break time-reversal symmetry under certain conditions, and enable propulsion of an artificial “swimmer.” We find three regimes dependent on the Deborah number (De): net motion towards the bead-end of the particle at low De, net motion towards the rod-end of the particle at intermediate De, and no appreciable propulsion at high De. At low De, where the particle time scale is longer than the fluid relaxation time, we believe that propulsion is caused by an imbalance in the fluid first normal stress differences between the two ends of the particle (bead and rod). At De ∼ 1, however, we observe the emergence of a region of network anisotropy near the rod using birefringence imaging. This anisotropy suggests alignment of the micellar network, which is “locked in” due to the shorter time scale of the particle relative to the fluid.



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