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2015


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Enzymatically active biomimetic micropropellers for the penetration of mucin gels

Walker (Schamel), D., Käsdorf, B. T., Jeong, H. H., Lieleg, O., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 1(11):e1500501, December 2015 (article)

Abstract
In the body, mucus provides an important defense mechanism by limiting the penetration of pathogens. It is therefore also a major obstacle for the efficient delivery of particle-based drug carriers. The acidic stomach lining in particular is difficult to overcome because mucin glycoproteins form viscoelastic gels under acidic conditions. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori has developed a strategy to overcome the mucus barrier by producing the enzyme urease, which locally raises the pH and consequently liquefies the mucus. This allows the bacteria to swim through mucus and to reach the epithelial surface. We present an artificial system of reactive magnetic micropropellers that mimic this strategy to move through gastric mucin gels by making use of surface-immobilized urease. The results demonstrate the validity of this biomimetic approach to penetrate biological gels, and show that externally propelled microstructures can actively and reversibly manipulate the physical state of their surroundings, suggesting that such particles could potentially penetrate native mucus.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The EChemPen: A Guiding Hand To Learn Electrochemical Surface Modifications

Valetaud, M., Loget, G., Roche, J., Hueken, N., Fattah, Z., Badets, V., Fontaine, O., Zigah, D.

J. of Chem. Ed., 92(10):1700-1704, September 2015 (article)

Abstract
The Electrochemical Pen (EChemPen) was developed as an attractive tool for learning electrochemistry. The fabrication, principle, and operation of the EChemPen are simple and can be easily performed by students in practical classes. It is based on a regular fountain pen principle, where the electrolytic solution is dispensed at a tip to locally modify a conductive surface by triggering a localized electrochemical reaction. Three simple model reactions were chosen to demonstrate the versatility of the EChemPen for teaching various electrochemical processes. We describe first the reversible writing/erasing of metal letters, then the electrodeposition of a black conducting polymer "ink", and finally the colorful writings that can be generated by titanium anodization and that can be controlled by the applied potential. These entertaining and didactic experiments are adapted for teaching undergraduate students that start to study electrochemistry by means of surface modification reactions.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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3D-printed Soft Microrobot for Swimming in Biological Fluids

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

In Conf. Proc. IEEE Eng. Med. Biol. Soc., pages: 4922-4925, August 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Microscopic artificial swimmers hold the potential to enable novel non-invasive medical procedures. In order to ease their translation towards real biomedical applications, simpler designs as well as cheaper yet more reliable materials and fabrication processes should be adopted, provided that the functionality of the microrobots can be kept. A simple single-hinge design could already enable microswimming in non-Newtonian fluids, which most bodily fluids are. Here, we address the fabrication of such single-hinge microrobots with a 3D-printed soft material. Firstly, a finite element model is developed to investigate the deformability of the 3D-printed microstructure under typical values of the actuating magnetic fields. Then the microstructures are fabricated by direct 3D-printing of a soft material and their swimming performances are evaluated. The speeds achieved with the 3D-printed microrobots are comparable to those obtained in previous work with complex fabrication procedures, thus showing great promise for 3D-printed microrobots to be operated in biological fluids.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Optimal Length of Low Reynolds Number Nanopropellers

Walker (Schamel), D., Kuebler, M., Morozov, K. I., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Nano Letters, 15(7):4412-4416, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
Locomotion in fluids at the nanoscale is dominated by viscous drag. One efficient propulsion scheme is to use a weak rotating magnetic field that drives a chiral object. Froth bacterial flagella to artificial drills, the corkscrew is a universally useful chiral shape for propulsion in viscous environments. Externally powered magnetic micro- and nanomotors have been recently developed that allow for precise fuel-free propulsion in complex media. Here, we combine analytical and numerical theory with experiments on nanostructured screw-propellers to show that the optimal length is surprisingly short only about one helical turn, which is shorter than most of the structures in use to date. The results have important implications for the design of artificial actuated nano- and micropropellers and can dramatically reduce fabrication times, while ensuring optimal performance.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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A theoretical study of potentially observable chirality-sensitive NMR effects in molecules

Garbacz, P., Cukras, J., Jaszunski, M.

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 17(35):22642-22651, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Two recently predicted nuclear magnetic resonance effects, the chirality-induced rotating electric polarization and the oscillating magnetization, are examined for several experimentally available chiral molecules. We discuss in detail the requirements for experimental detection of chirality-sensitive NMR effects of the studied molecules. These requirements are related to two parameters: the shielding polarizability and the antisymmetric part of the nuclear magnetic shielding tensor. The dominant second contribution has been computed for small molecules at the coupled cluster and density functional theory levels. It was found that DFT calculations using the KT2 functional and the aug-cc-pCVTZ basis set adequately reproduce the CCSD(T) values obtained with the same basis set. The largest values of parameters, thus most promising from the experimental point of view, were obtained for the fluorine nuclei in 1,3-difluorocyclopropene and 1,3-diphenyl-2-fluoro-3-trifluoromethylcyclopropene.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dynamic Inclusion Complexes of Metal Nanoparticles Inside Nanocups

Alarcon-Correa, M., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 54(23):6730-6734, May 2015, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Host-guest inclusion complexes are abundant in molecular systems and of fundamental importance in living organisms. Realizing a colloidal analogue of a molecular dynamic inclusion complex is challenging because inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) with a well-defined cavity and portal are difficult to synthesize in high yield and with good structural fidelity. Herein, a generic strategy towards the fabrication of dynamic 1: 1 inclusion complexes of metal nanoparticles inside oxide nanocups with high yield (> 70%) and regiospecificity (> 90%) by means of a reactive double Janus nanoparticle intermediate is reported. Experimental evidence confirms that the inclusion complexes are formed by a kinetically controlled mechanism involving a delicate interplay between bipolar galvanic corrosion and alloying-dealloying oxidation. Release of the NP guest from the nanocups can be efficiently triggered by an external stimulus. Featured cover article.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Surface roughness-induced speed increase for active Janus micromotors

Choudhury, U., Soler, L., Gibbs, J. G., Sanchez, S., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 51(41):8660-8663, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a simple physical fabrication method to control surface roughness of Janus micromotors and fabricate self-propelled active Janus microparticles with rough catalytic platinum surfaces that show a four-fold increase in their propulsion speed compared to conventional Janus particles coated with a smooth Pt layer.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Active colloidal microdrills

Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 51(20):4192-4195, Febuary 2015 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a chemically driven, autonomous catalytic microdrill. An asymmetric distribution of catalyst causes the helical swimmer to twist while it undergoes directed propulsion. A driving torque and hydrodynamic coupling between translation and rotation at low Reynolds number leads to drill-like swimming behaviour.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Selectable Nanopattern Arrays for Nanolithographic Imprint and Etch-Mask Applications

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Son, K., Chen, W., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Schütz, G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Science, 2(7):1500016, 2015, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
A parallel nanolithographic patterning method is presented that can be used to obtain arrays of multifunctional nanoparticles. These patterns can simply be converted into a variety of secondary nanopatterns that are useful for nanolithographic imprint, plasmonic, and etch-mask applications.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Exciting Engineered Passive Dynamics in a Bipedal Robot

Renjewski, D., Spröwitz, A., Peekema, A., Jones, M., Hurst, J.

{IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation}, 31(5):1244-1251, IEEE, New York, NY, 2015 (article)

Abstract
A common approach in designing legged robots is to build fully actuated machines and control the machine dynamics entirely in soft- ware, carefully avoiding impacts and expending a lot of energy. However, these machines are outperformed by their human and animal counterparts. Animals achieve their impressive agility, efficiency, and robustness through a close integration of passive dynamics, implemented through mechanical components, and neural control. Robots can benefit from this same integrated approach, but a strong theoretical framework is required to design the passive dynamics of a machine and exploit them for control. For this framework, we use a bipedal spring–mass model, which has been shown to approximate the dynamics of human locomotion. This paper reports the first implementation of spring–mass walking on a bipedal robot. We present the use of template dynamics as a control objective exploiting the engineered passive spring–mass dynamics of the ATRIAS robot. The results highlight the benefits of combining passive dynamics with dynamics-based control and open up a library of spring–mass model-based control strategies for dynamic gait control of robots.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Comparing the effect of different spine and leg designs for a small bounding quadruped robot

Eckert, P., Spröwitz, A., Witte, H., Ijspeert, A. J.

In Proceedings of ICRA, pages: 3128-3133, Seattle, Washington, USA, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present Lynx-robot, a quadruped, modular, compliant machine. It alternately features a directly actuated, single-joint spine design, or an actively supported, passive compliant, multi-joint spine configuration. Both spine con- figurations bend in the sagittal plane. This study aims at characterizing these two, largely different spine concepts, for a bounding gait of a robot with a three segmented, pantograph leg design. An earlier, similar-sized, bounding, quadruped robot named Bobcat with a two-segment leg design and a directly actuated, single-joint spine design serves as a comparison robot, to study and compare the effect of the leg design on speed, while keeping the spine design fixed. Both proposed spine designs (single rotatory and active and multi-joint compliant) reach moderate, self-stable speeds.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Kinematic and gait similarities between crawling human infants and other quadruped mammals

Righetti, L., Nylen, A., Rosander, K., Ijspeert, A.

Frontiers in Neurology, 6(17), February 2015 (article)

Abstract
Crawling on hands and knees is an early pattern of human infant locomotion, which offers an interesting way of studying quadrupedalism in one of its simplest form. We investigate how crawling human infants compare to other quadruped mammals, especially primates. We present quantitative data on both the gait and kinematics of seven 10-month-old crawling infants. Body movements were measured with an optoelectronic system giving precise data on 3-dimensional limb movements. Crawling on hands and knees is very similar to the locomotion of non-human primates in terms of the quite protracted arm at touch-down, the coordination between the spine movements in the lateral plane and the limbs, the relatively extended limbs during locomotion and the strong correlation between stance duration and speed of locomotion. However, there are important differences compared to primates, such as the choice of a lateral-sequence walking gait, which is similar to most non-primate mammals and the relatively stiff elbows during stance as opposed to the quite compliant gaits of primates. These finding raise the question of the role of both the mechanical structure of the body and neural control on the determination of these characteristics.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Trajectory generation for multi-contact momentum control

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 874-880, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Simplified models of the dynamics such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM) have proven to perform well for biped walking on flat ground. However, for more complex tasks the assumptions of these models can become limiting. For example, the LIPM does not allow for the control of contact forces independently, is limited to co-planar contacts and assumes that the angular momentum is zero. In this paper, we propose to use the full momentum equations of a humanoid robot in a trajectory optimization framework to plan its center of mass, linear and angular momentum trajectories. The model also allows for planning desired contact forces for each end-effector in arbitrary contact locations. We extend our previous results on linear quadratic regulator (LQR) design for momentum control by computing the (linearized) optimal momentum feedback law in a receding horizon fashion. The resulting desired momentum and the associated feedback law are then used in a hierarchical whole body control approach. Simulation experiments show that the approach is computationally fast and is able to generate plans for locomotion on complex terrains while demonstrating good tracking performance for the full humanoid control.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Humanoid Momentum Estimation Using Sensed Contact Wrenches

Rotella, N., Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2015 IEEE-RAS 15th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 556-563, IEEE, Seoul, South Korea, 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents approaches for the estimation of quantities important for the control of the momentum of a humanoid robot. In contrast to previous approaches which use simplified models such as the Linear Inverted Pendulum Model, we present estimators based on the momentum dynamics of the robot. By using this simple yet dynamically-consistent model, we avoid the issues of using simplified models for estimation. We develop an estimator for the center of mass and full momentum which can be reformulated to estimate center of mass offsets as well as external wrenches applied to the robot. The observability of these estimators is investigated and their performance is evaluated in comparison to previous approaches.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Nanopropellers and Their Actuation in Complex Viscoelastic Media

Schamel, D., Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Miksch, C., Morozov, K. I., Leshansky, A. M., Fischer, P.

ACS Nano, 8(9):8794-8801, June 2014, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Tissue and biological fluids are complex viscoelastic media with a nanoporous macromolecular structure. Here, we demonstrate that helical nanopropellers can be controllably steered through such a biological gel. The screw-propellers have a filament diameter of about 70 nm and are smaller than previously reported nanopropellers as well as any swimming microorganism. We show that the nanoscrews will move through high-viscosity solutions with comparable velocities to that of larger micropropellers, even though they are so small that Brownian forces suppress their actuation in pure water. When actuated in viscoelastic hyaluronan gels, the nanopropellers appear to have a significant advantage, as they are of the same size range as the gel’s mesh size. Whereas larger helices will show very low or negligible propulsion in hyaluronan solutions, the nanoscrews actually display significantly enhanced propulsion velocities that exceed the highest measured speeds in Newtonian fluids. The nanopropellers are not only promising for applications in the extracellular environment but small enough to be taken up by cells.

Featured cover article.

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Video - Helical Micro and Nanopropellers for Applications in Biological Fluidic Environments link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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3D nanofabrication on complex seed shapes using glancing angle deposition

Hyeon-Ho, J., Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Reindl, T., Waizmann, U., Weis, J., Fischer, P.

In 2014 IEEE 27th International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS), pages: 437-440, January 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Three-dimensional (3D) fabrication techniques promise new device architectures and enable the integration of more components, but fabricating 3D nanostructures for device applications remains challenging. Recently, we have performed glancing angle deposition (GLAD) upon a nanoscale hexagonal seed array to create a variety of 3D nanoscale objects including multicomponent rods, helices, and zigzags [1]. Here, in an effort to generalize our technique, we present a step-by-step approach to grow 3D nanostructures on more complex nanoseed shapes and configurations than before. This approach allows us to create 3D nanostructures on nanoseeds regardless of seed sizes and shapes.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Roombots: A hardware perspective on 3D self-reconfiguration and locomotion with a homogeneous modular robot

Spröwitz, A., Moeckel, R., Vespignani, M., Bonardi, S., Ijspeert, A. J.

{Robotics and Autonomous Systems}, 62(7):1016-1033, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this work we provide hands-on experience on designing and testing a self-reconfiguring modular robotic system, Roombots (RB), to be used among others for adaptive furniture. In the long term, we envision that RB can be used to create sets of furniture, such as stools, chairs and tables that can move in their environment and that change shape and functionality during the day. In this article, we present the first, incremental results towards that long term vision. We demonstrate locomotion and reconfiguration of single and metamodule RB over 3D surfaces, in a structured environment equipped with embedded connection ports. RB assemblies can move around in non-structured environments, by using rotational or wheel-like locomotion. We show a proof of concept for transferring a Roombots metamodule (two in-series coupled RB modules) from the non-structured environment back into the structured grid, by aligning the RB metamodule in an entrapment mechanism. Finally, we analyze the remaining challenges to master the full Roombots scenario, and discuss the impact on future Roombots hardware.

dlg

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Circular polarization interferometry: circularly polarized modes of cholesteric liquid crystals

Sanchez-Castillo, A., Eslami, S., Giesselmann, F., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 22(25):31227-31236, 2014 (article)

Abstract
We describe a novel polarization interferometer which permits the determination of the refractive indices for circularly-polarized light. It is based on a Jamin-Lebedeff interferometer, modified with waveplates, and permits us to experimentally determine the refractive indices n(L) and n(R) of the respectively left- and right-circularly polarized modes in a cholesteric liquid crystal. Whereas optical rotation measurements only determine the circular birefringence, i.e. the difference (n(L) - n(R)), the interferometer also permits the determination of their absolute values. We report refractive indices of a cholesteric liquid crystal in the region of selective (Bragg) reflection as a function of temperature. (C) 2014 Optical Society of America

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Self-Propelling Nanomotors in the Presence of Strong Brownian Forces

Lee, T., Alarcon-Correa, M., Miksch, C., Hahn, K., Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

NANO LETTERS, 14(5):2407-2412, 2014 (article)

Abstract
Motility in living systems is due to an array of complex molecular nanomotors that are essential for the function and survival of cells. These protein nanomotors operate not only despite of but also because of stochastic forces. Artificial means of realizing motility rely on local concentration or temperature gradients that are established across a particle, resulting in slip velocities at the particle surface and thus motion of the particle relative to the fluid. However, it remains unclear if these artificial motors can function at the smallest of scales, where Brownian motion dominates and no actively propelled living organisms can be found. Recently, the first reports have appeared suggesting that the swimming mechanisms of artificial structures may also apply to enzymes that are catalytically active. Here we report a scheme to realize artificial Janus nanoparticles (JNPs) with an overall size that is comparable to that of some enzymes similar to 30 nm. Our JNPs can catalyze the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen and thus actively move by self-electrophoresis. Geometric anisotropy of the Pt-Au Janus nanoparticles permits the simultaneous observation of their translational and rotational motion by dynamic light scattering. While their dynamics is strongly influenced by Brownian rotation, the artificial Janus nanomotors show bursts of linear ballistic motion resulting in enhanced diffusion.

pf

DOI [BibTex]


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Automatic Generation of Reduced CPG Control Networks for Locomotion of Arbitrary Modular Robot Structures

Bonardi, S., Vespignani, M., Möckel, R., Van den Kieboom, J., Pouya, S., Spröwitz, A., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, University of California, Barkeley, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The design of efficient locomotion controllers for arbitrary structures of reconfigurable modular robots is challenging because the morphology of the structure can change dynamically during the completion of a task. In this paper, we propose a new method to automatically generate reduced Central Pattern Generator (CPG) networks for locomotion control based on the detection of bio-inspired sub-structures, like body and limbs, and articulation joints inside the robotic structure. We demonstrate how that information, coupled with the potential symmetries in the structure, can be used to speed up the optimization of the gaits and investigate its impact on the solution quality (i.e. the velocity of the robotic structure and the potential internal collisions between robotic modules). We tested our approach on three simulated structures and observed that the reduced network topologies in the first iterations of the optimization process performed significantly better than the fully open ones.

dlg

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Shape control in wafer-based aperiodic 3D nanostructures

Hyeon-Ho, J., Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Reindl, T., Waizmann, U., Weis, J., Fischer, P.

NANOTECHNOLOGY, 25(23), 2014, Cover article. (article)

Abstract
Controlled local fabrication of three-dimensional (3D) nanostructures is important to explore and enhance the function of single nanodevices, but is experimentally challenging. We present a scheme based on e-beam lithography (EBL) written seeds, and glancing angle deposition (GLAD) grown structures to create nanoscale objects with defined shapes but in aperiodic arrangements. By using a continuous sacrificial corral surrounding the features of interest we grow isolated 3D nanostructures that have complex cross-sections and sidewall morphology that are surrounded by zones of clean substrate.

Cover article.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Active Microrheology of the Vitreous of the Eye applied to Nanorobot Propulsion

Qiu, T., Schamel, D., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

In 2014 IEEE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION (ICRA), pages: 3801-3806, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation ICRA, 2014, Best Automation Paper Award – Finalist. (inproceedings)

Abstract
Biomedical applications of micro or nanorobots require active movement through complex biological fluids. These are generally non-Newtonian (viscoelastic) fluids that are characterized by complicated networks of macromolecules that have size-dependent rheological properties. It has been suggested that an untethered microrobot could assist in retinal surgical procedures. To do this it must navigate the vitreous humor, a hydrated double network of collagen fibrils and high molecular-weight, polyanionic hyaluronan macromolecules. Here, we examine the characteristic size that potential robots must have to traverse vitreous relatively unhindered. We have constructed magnetic tweezers that provide a large gradient of up to 320 T/m to pull sub-micron paramagnetic beads through biological fluids. A novel two-step electrical discharge machining (EDM) approach is used to construct the tips of the magnetic tweezers with a resolution of 30 mu m and high aspect ratio of similar to 17:1 that restricts the magnetic field gradient to the plane of observation. We report measurements on porcine vitreous. In agreement with structural data and passive Brownian diffusion studies we find that the unhindered active propulsion through the eye calls for nanorobots with cross-sections of less than 500 nm.

Best Automation Paper Award – Finalist.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Swimming by reciprocal motion at low Reynolds number

Qiu, T., Lee, T., Mark, A. G., Morozov, K. I., Muenster, R., Mierka, O., Turek, S., Leshansky, A. M., Fischer, P.

NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 5, 2014, Max Planck Press Release. (article)

Abstract
Biological microorganisms swim with flagella and cilia that execute nonreciprocal motions for low Reynolds number (Re) propulsion in viscous fluids. This symmetry requirement is a consequence of Purcell's scallop theorem, which complicates the actuation scheme needed by microswimmers. However, most biomedically important fluids are non-Newtonian where the scallop theorem no longer holds. It should therefore be possible to realize a microswimmer that moves with reciprocal periodic body-shape changes in non-Newtonian fluids. Here we report a symmetric `micro-scallop', a single-hinge microswimmer that can propel in shear thickening and shear thinning (non-Newtonian) fluids by reciprocal motion at low Re. Excellent agreement between our measurements and both numerical and analytical theoretical predictions indicates that the net propulsion is caused by modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate. This reciprocal swimming mechanism opens new possibilities in designing biomedical microdevices that can propel by a simple actuation scheme in non-Newtonian biological fluids.

Max Planck Press Release.

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Video - A Swimming Micro-Scallop Video - Winner of the Micro-robotic Design Challenge in Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics DOI [BibTex]

Video - A Swimming Micro-Scallop Video - Winner of the Micro-robotic Design Challenge in Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics DOI [BibTex]


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Nanohelices by shadow growth

Gibbs, J. G., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Eslami, S., Schamel, D., Fischer, P.

NANOSCALE, 6(16):9457-9466, 2014 (article)

Abstract
The helix has remarkable qualities and is prevalent in many fields including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. This shape, which is chiral by nature, is ubiquitous in biology with perhaps the most famous example being DNA. Other naturally occurring helices are common at the nanoscale in the form of protein secondary structures and in various macromolecules. Nanoscale helices exhibit a wide range of interesting mechanical, optical, and electrical properties which can be intentionally engineered into the structure by choosing the correct morphology and material. As technology advances, these fabrication parameters can be fine-tuned and matched to the application of interest. Herein, we focus on the fabrication and properties of nanohelices grown by a dynamic shadowing growth method combined with fast wafer-scale substrate patterning which has a number of distinct advantages. We review the fabrication methodology and provide several examples that illustrate the generality and utility of nanohelices shadow-grown on nanopatterns.

pf

Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


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Chiral Nanomagnets

Eslami, S., Gibbs, J. G., Rechkemmer, Y., van Slageren, J., Alarcon-Correa, M., Lee, T., Mark, A. G., Rikken, G. L. J. A., Fischer, P.

ACS PHOTONICS, 1(11):1231-1236, 2014 (article)

Abstract
We report on the enhanced optical properties of chiral magnetic nanohelices with critical dimensions comparable to the ferromagnetic domain size. They are shown to be ferromagnetic at room temperature, have defined chirality, and exhibit large optical activity in the visible as verified by electron microscopy, superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) magnetometry, natural circular dichroism (NCD), and magnetic circular dichroism (MCD) measurements. The structures exhibit magneto-chiral dichroism (MChD), which directly demonstrates coupling between their structural chirality and magnetism. A chiral nickel (Ni) film consisting of an array of nanohelices similar to 100 nm in length exhibits an MChD anisotropy factor g(MChD) approximate to 10(-4) T-1 at room temperature in a saturation field of similar to 0.2 T, permitting polarization-independent control of the film's absorption properties through magnetic field modulation. This is also the first report of MChD in a material with structural chirality on the order of the wavelength of light, and therefore the Ni nanohelix array is a metamaterial with magnetochiral properties that can be tailored through a dynamic deposition process.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Wireless powering of e-swimmers

Roche, J., Carrara, S., Sanchez, J., Lannelongue, J., Loget, G., Bouffier, L., Fischer, P., Kuhn, A.

SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 4, 2014 (article)

Abstract
Miniaturized structures that can move in a controlled way in solution and integrate various functionalities are attracting considerable attention due to the potential applications in fields ranging from autonomous micromotors to roving sensors. Here we introduce a concept which allows, depending on their specific design, the controlled directional motion of objects in water, combined with electronic functionalities such as the emission of light, sensing, signal conversion, treatment and transmission. The approach is based on electric field-induced polarization, which triggers different chemical reactions at the surface of the object and thereby its propulsion. This results in a localized electric current that can power in a wireless way electronic devices in water, leading to a new class of electronic swimmers (e-swimmers).

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Swelling and shrinking behaviour of photoresponsive phosphonium-based ionogel microstructures

Czugala, M., O’Connell, C., Blin, C., Fischer, P., Fraser, K. J., Benito-Lopez, F., Diamond, D.

SENSORS AND ACTUATORS B-CHEMICAL, 194, pages: 105-113, 2014 (article)

Abstract
Photoresponsive N-isopropylacrylamide ionogel microstructures are presented in this study. These ionogels are synthesised using phosphonium based room temperature ionic liquids, together with the photochromic compound benzospiropyran. The microstructures can be actuated using light irradiation, facilitating non-contact and non-invasive operation. For the first time, the characterisation of the swelling and shrinking behaviour of several photopatterned ionogel microstructures is presented and the influence of surface-area-to-volume ratio on the swelling kinetics is evaluated. It was found that the swelling and shrinking behaviour of the ionogels is strongly dependent on the nature of the ionic liquid. In particular, the {[}P-6,P-6,P-6,P-14]{[}NTf2] ionogel exhibits the greatest degree of swelling, reaching up to 180\% of its initial size, and the fastest shrinkage rate (k(sh) = 29 +/- 4 x 10(-2) s(-1)). (C) 2014 Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Kinematic primitives for walking and trotting gaits of a quadruped robot with compliant legs

Spröwitz, A. T., Ajallooeian, M., Tuleu, A., Ijspeert, A. J.

Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 8(27):1-13, 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this work we research the role of body dynamics in the complexity of kinematic patterns in a quadruped robot with compliant legs. Two gait patterns, lateral sequence walk and trot, along with leg length control patterns of different complexity were implemented in a modular, feed-forward locomotion controller. The controller was tested on a small, quadruped robot with compliant, segmented leg design, and led to self-stable and self-stabilizing robot locomotion. In-air stepping and on-ground locomotion leg kinematics were recorded, and the number and shapes of motion primitives accounting for 95\% of the variance of kinematic leg data were extracted. This revealed that kinematic patterns resulting from feed-forward control had a lower complexity (in-air stepping, 2–3 primitives) than kinematic patterns from on-ground locomotion (νm4 primitives), although both experiments applied identical motor patterns. The complexity of on-ground kinematic patterns had increased, through ground contact and mechanical entrainment. The complexity of observed kinematic on-ground data matches those reported from level-ground locomotion data of legged animals. Results indicate that a very low complexity of modular, rhythmic, feed-forward motor control is sufficient for level-ground locomotion in combination with passive compliant legged hardware.

dlg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Dual Execution of Optimized Contact Interaction Trajectories

Toussaint, M., Ratliff, N., Bohg, J., Righetti, L., Englert, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 47-54, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Efficient manipulation requires contact to reduce uncertainty. The manipulation literature refers to this as funneling: a methodology for increasing reliability and robustness by leveraging haptic feedback and control of environmental interaction. However, there is a fundamental gap between traditional approaches to trajectory optimization and this concept of robustness by funneling: traditional trajectory optimizers do not discover force feedback strategies. From a POMDP perspective, these behaviors could be regarded as explicit observation actions planned to sufficiently reduce uncertainty thereby enabling a task. While we are sympathetic to the full POMDP view, solving full continuous-space POMDPs in high-dimensions is hard. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach in which trajectory optimization objectives are augmented with new terms that reward uncertainty reduction through contacts, explicitly promoting funneling. This augmentation shifts the responsibility of robustness toward the actual execution of the optimized trajectories. Directly tracing trajectories through configuration space would lose all robustness-dual execution achieves robustness by devising force controllers to reproduce the temporal interaction profile encoded in the dual solution of the optimization problem. This work introduces dual execution in depth and analyze its performance through robustness experiments in both simulation and on a real-world robotic platform.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Voorhies, R. C., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Bohg, J., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing experiments on a torque-controlled humanoid with hierarchical inverse dynamics

Herzog, A., Righetti, L., Grimminger, F., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Full Dynamics LQR Control of a Humanoid Robot: An Experimental Study on Balancing and Squatting

Mason, S., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 374-379, IEEE, Madrid, Spain, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humanoid robots operating in human environments require whole-body controllers that can offer precise tracking and well-defined disturbance rejection behavior. In this contribution, we propose an experimental evaluation of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) using a linearization of the full robot dynamics together with the contact constraints. The advantage of the controller is that it explicitly takes into account the coupling between the different joints to create optimal feedback controllers for whole-body control. We also propose a method to explicitly regulate other tasks of interest, such as the regulation of the center of mass of the robot or its angular momentum. In order to evaluate the performance of linear optimal control designs in a real-world scenario (model uncertainty, sensor noise, imperfect state estimation, etc), we test the controllers in a variety of tracking and balancing experiments on a torque controlled humanoid (e.g. balancing, split plane balancing, squatting, pushes while squatting, and balancing on a wheeled platform). The proposed control framework shows a reliable push recovery behavior competitive with more sophisticated balance controllers, rejecting impulses up to 11.7 Ns with peak forces of 650 N, with the added advantage of great computational simplicity. Furthermore, the controller is able to track squatting trajectories up to 1 Hz without relinearization, suggesting that the linearized dynamics is sufficient for significant ranges of motion.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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State Estimation for a Humanoid Robot

Rotella, N., Bloesch, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 952-958, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for state estimation on a humanoid robot platform using only common proprioceptive sensors and knowledge of leg kinematics. The presented approach extends that detailed in prior work on a point-foot quadruped platform by adding the rotational constraints imposed by the humanoid's flat feet. As in previous work, the proposed Extended Kalman Filter accommodates contact switching and makes no assumptions about gait or terrain, making it applicable on any humanoid platform for use in any task. A nonlinear observability analysis is performed on both the point-foot and flat-foot filters and it is concluded that the addition of rotational constraints significantly simplifies singular cases and improves the observability characteristics of the system. Results on a simulated walking dataset demonstrate the performance gain of the flat-foot filter as well as confirm the results of the presented observability analysis.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]