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2020


Chiroptical spectroscopy of a freely diffusing single nanoparticle
Chiroptical spectroscopy of a freely diffusing single nanoparticle

Sachs, J., Günther, J., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(4513), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Chiral plasmonic nanoparticles can exhibit strong chiroptical signals compared to the corresponding molecular response. Observations are, however, generally restricted to measurements on stationary single particles with a fixed orientation, which complicates the spectral analysis. Here, we report the spectroscopic observation of a freely diffusing single chiral nanoparticle in solution. By acquiring time-resolved circular differential scattering signals we show that the spectral interpretation is significantly simplified. We experimentally demonstrate the equivalence between time-averaged chiral spectra observed for an individual nanostructure and the corresponding ensemble spectra, and thereby demonstrate the ergodic principle for chiroptical spectroscopy. We also show how it is possible for an achiral particle to yield an instantaneous chiroptical response, whereas the time-averaged signals are an unequivocal measure of chirality. Time-resolved chiroptical spectroscopy on a freely moving chiral nanoparticle advances the field of single-particle spectroscopy, and is a means to obtain the true signature of the nanoparticle’s chirality.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Microchannels with Self-Pumping Walls
Microchannels with Self-Pumping Walls

Yu, T., Athanassiadis, A., Popescu, M., Chikkadi, V., Güth, A., Singh, D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

ACS Nano, September 2020 (article)

Abstract
When asymmetric Janus micromotors are immobilized on a surface, they act as chemically powered micropumps, turning chemical energy from the fluid into a bulk flow. However, such pumps have previously produced only localized recirculating flows, which cannot be used to pump fluid in one direction. Here, we demonstrate that an array of three-dimensional, photochemically active Au/TiO2 Janus pillars can pump water. Upon UV illumination, a water-splitting reaction rapidly creates a directional bulk flow above the active surface. By lining a 2D microchannel with such active surfaces, various flow profiles are created within the channels. Analytical and numerical models of a channel with active surfaces predict flow profiles that agree very well with the experimental results. The light-driven active surfaces provide a way to wirelessly pump fluids at small scales and could be used for real-time, localized flow control in complex microfluidic networks.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly
Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly

Huang, Y., Yu, K., Li, H., Liang, Z., Walker, D., Ferreira, P., Fischer, P., Fan, D.

Adv. Mat., (2003439), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is a multifunctional material that can be used for various applications. In the single‐crystalline form, MoS2 shows superior electronic properties. It is also an exceptionally useful nanomaterial in its polycrystalline form with applications in catalysis, energy storage, water treatment, and gas sensing. Here, the scalable fabrication of longitudinal MoS2 nanostructures, i.e., nanoribbons, and their oxide hybrids with tunable dimensions in a rational and well‐reproducible fashion, is reported. The nanoribbons, obtained at different reaction stages, that is, MoO3, MoS2/MoO2 hybrid, and MoS2, are fully characterized. The growth method presented herein has a high yield and is particularly robust. The MoS2 nanoribbons can readily be removed from its substrate and dispersed in solution. It is shown that functionalized MoS2 nanoribbons can be manipulated in solution and assembled in controlled patterns and directly on microelectrodes with UV‐click‐chemistry. Owing to the high chemical purity and polycrystalline nature, the MoS2 nanostructures demonstrate rapid optoelectronic response to wavelengths from 450 to 750 nm, and successfully remove mercury contaminants from water. The scalable fabrication and manipulation followed by light‐directed assembly of MoS2 nanoribbons, and their unique properties, will be inspiring for device fabrication and applications of the transition metal dichalcogenides.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Spatial ultrasound modulation by digitally controlling microbubble arrays
Spatial ultrasound modulation by digitally controlling microbubble arrays

Ma, Z., Melde, K., Athanassiadis, A. G., Schau, M., Richter, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(4537), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Acoustic waves, capable of transmitting through optically opaque objects, have been widely used in biomedical imaging, industrial sensing and particle manipulation. High-fidelity wavefront shaping is essential to further improve performance in these applications. An acoustic analog to the successful spatial light modulator (SLM) in optics would be highly desirable. To date there have been no techniques shown that provide effective and dynamic modulation of a sound wave and which also support scale-up to a high number of individually addressable pixels. In the present study, we introduce a dynamic spatial ultrasound modulator (SUM),which dynamically reshapes incident plane waves into complex acoustic images. Its trans-mission function is set with a digitally generated pattern of microbubbles controlled by a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) chip, which results in a binary amplitude acoustic hologram. We employ this device to project sequentially changing acoustic images and demonstrate the first dynamic parallel assembly of microparticles using a SUM.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Characterization of active matter in dense suspensions with heterodyne laser Doppler velocimetry
Characterization of active matter in dense suspensions with heterodyne laser Doppler velocimetry

Sachs, J., Kottapalli, S. N., Fischer, P., Botin, D., Palberg, T.

Colloid and Polymer Science, August 2020 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel approach for characterizing the properties and performance of active matter in dilute suspension as well as in crowded environments. We use Super-Heterodyne Laser-Doppler-Velocimetry (SH-LDV) to study large ensembles of catalytically active Janus particles moving under UV illumination. SH-LDV facilitates a model-free determination of the swimming speed and direction, with excellent ensemble averaging. In addition, we obtain information on the distribution of the catalytic activity. Moreover, SH-LDV operates away from walls and permits a facile correction for multiple scattering contributions. It thus allows for studies of concentrated suspensions of swimmers or of systems where swimmers propel actively in an environment crowded by passive particles. We demonstrate the versatility and the scope of the method with a few selected examples. We anticipate that SH-LDV complements established methods and paves the way for systematic measurements at previously inaccessible boundary conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters ( Early Access ), IEEE, July 2020 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation
Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation

Khadiv, M., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 36, pages: 629 - 643, IEEE, June 2020 (article)

Abstract
Step adjustment can improve the gait robustness of biped robots; however, the adaptation of step timing is often neglected as it gives rise to nonconvex problems when optimized over several footsteps. In this article, we argue that it is not necessary to optimize walking over several steps to ensure gait viability and show that it is sufficient to merely select the next step timing and location. Using this insight, we propose a novel walking pattern generator that optimally selects step location and timing at every control cycle. Our approach is computationally simple compared to standard approaches in the literature, yet guarantees that any viable state will remain viable in the future. We propose a swing foot adaptation strategy and integrate the pattern generator with an inverse dynamics controller that does not explicitly control the center of mass nor the foot center of pressure. This is particularly useful for biped robots with limited control authority over their foot center of pressure, such as robots with point feet or passive ankles. Extensive simulations on a humanoid robot with passive ankles demonstrate the capabilities of the approach in various walking situations, including external pushes and foot slippage, and emphasize the importance of step timing adaptation to stabilize walking.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Biocompatible magnetic micro‐ and nanodevices: Fabrication of FePt nanopropellers and cell transfection
Biocompatible magnetic micro‐ and nanodevices: Fabrication of FePt nanopropellers and cell transfection

Kadiri, V. M., Bussi, C., Holle, A. W., Son, K., Kwon, H., Schütz, G., Gutierrez, M. G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., 32(2001114), May 2020 (article)

Abstract
The application of nanoparticles for drug or gene delivery promises benefits in the form of single‐cell‐specific therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities. Many methods of cell transfection rely on unspecific means to increase the transport of genetic material into cells. Targeted transport is in principle possible with magnetically propelled micromotors, which allow responsive nanoscale actuation and delivery. However, many commonly used magnetic materials (e.g., Ni and Co) are not biocompatible, possess weak magnetic remanence (Fe3O4), or cannot be implemented in nanofabrication schemes (NdFeB). Here, it is demonstrated that co‐depositing iron (Fe) and platinum (Pt) followed by one single annealing step, without the need for solution processing, yields ferromagnetic FePt nanomotors that are noncytotoxic, biocompatible, and possess a remanence and magnetization that rival those of permanent NdFeB micromagnets. Active cell targeting and magnetic transfection of lung carcinoma cells are demonstrated using gradient‐free rotating millitesla fields to drive the FePt nanopropellers. The carcinoma cells express enhanced green fluorescent protein after internalization and cell viability is unaffected by the presence of the FePt nanopropellers. The results establish FePt, prepared in the L10 phase, as a promising magnetic material for biomedical applications with superior magnetic performance, especially for micro‐ and nanodevices.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interface-mediated spontaneous symmetry breaking and mutual communication between drops containing chemically active particles
Interface-mediated spontaneous symmetry breaking and mutual communication between drops containing chemically active particles

Singh, D., Domínguez, A., Choudhury, U., Kottapalli, S., Popescu, M., Dietrich, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(2210), May 2020 (article)

Abstract
Symmetry breaking and the emergence of self-organized patterns is the hallmark of com- plexity. Here, we demonstrate that a sessile drop, containing titania powder particles with negligible self-propulsion, exhibits a transition to collective motion leading to self-organized flow patterns. This phenomenology emerges through a novel mechanism involving the interplay between the chemical activity of the photocatalytic particles, which induces Mar- angoni stresses at the liquid–liquid interface, and the geometrical confinement provided by the drop. The response of the interface to the chemical activity of the particles is the source of a significantly amplified hydrodynamic flow within the drop, which moves the particles. Furthermore, in ensembles of such active drops long-ranged ordering of the flow patterns within the drops is observed. We show that the ordering is dictated by a chemical com- munication between drops, i.e., an alignment of the flow patterns is induced by the gradients of the chemicals emanating from the active particles, rather than by hydrodynamic interactions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Spectrally selective and highly-sensitive UV photodetection with UV-A, C band specific polarity switching in silver plasmonic nanoparticle enhanced gallium oxide thin-film
Spectrally selective and highly-sensitive UV photodetection with UV-A, C band specific polarity switching in silver plasmonic nanoparticle enhanced gallium oxide thin-film

Arora, K., Singh, D., Fischer, P., Kumar, M.

Adv. Opt. Mat., March 2020 (article)

Abstract
Traditional photodetectors generally show a unipolar photocurrent response when illuminated with light of wavelength equal or shorter than the optical bandgap. Here, we report that a thin film of gallium oxide (GO) decorated with plasmonic nanoparticles, surprisingly, exhibits a change in the polarity of the photocurrent for different UV bands. Silver (Ag) nanoparticles are vacuum-deposited onto β-Ga2O3 and the AgNP@GO thin films show a record responsivity of 250 A/W, which significantly outperforms bare GO planar photodetectors. The photoresponsivity reverses sign from +157 µA/W in the UV-C band under unbiased operation to -353 µA/W in the UV-A band. The current reversal is rationalized by considering the charge dynamics stemming from hot electrons generated when the incident light excites a local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) in the Ag nanoparticles. The Ag nanoparticles improve the external quantum efficiency and detectivity by nearly one order of magnitude with high values of 1.2×105 and 3.4×1014 Jones, respectively. This plasmon-enhanced solar blind GO detector allows UV regions to be spectrally distinguished, which is useful for the development of sensitive dynamic imaging photodetectors.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Investigating photoresponsivity of graphene-silver hybrid nanomaterials in the ultraviolet
Investigating photoresponsivity of graphene-silver hybrid nanomaterials in the ultraviolet

Deshpande, P., Suri, P., Jeong, H., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, G.

J. Chem. Phys., 152, pages: 044709, January 2020 (article)

Abstract
There have been several reports of plasmonically enhanced graphene photodetectors in the visible and the near infrared regime but rarely in the ultraviolet. In a previous work, we have reported that a graphene-silver hybrid structure shows a high photoresponsivity of 13 A/W at 270 nm. Here, we consider the likely mechanisms that underlie this strong photoresponse. We investigate the role of the plasmonic layer and examine the response using silver and gold nanoparticles of similar dimensions and spatial arrangement. The effect on local doping, strain, and absorption properties of the hybrid is also probed by photocurrent measurements and Raman and UV-visible spectroscopy. We find that the local doping from the silver nanoparticles is stronger than that from gold and correlates with a measured photosensitivity that is larger in devices with a higher contact area between the plasmonic nanomaterials and the graphene layer.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate
A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate

Choi, E., Adams, F., Gengenbacher, A., Schlager, D., Palagi, S., Müller, P., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

Annals of Biomed. Eng., 48, pages: 437-446, January 2020 (article)

Abstract
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure that requires experience and skill of the surgeon. To permit surgical training under realistic conditions we report a novel phantom of the human prostate that can be resected with TURP. The phantom mirrors the anatomy and haptic properties of the gland and permits quantitative evaluation of important surgical performance indicators. Mixtures of soft materials are engineered to mimic the physical properties of the human tissue, including the mechanical strength, the electrical and thermal conductivity, and the appearance under an endoscope. Electrocautery resection of the phantom closely resembles the procedure on human tissue. Ultrasound contrast agent was applied to the central zone, which was not detectable by the surgeon during the surgery but showed high contrast when imaged after the surgery, to serve as a label for the quantitative evaluation of the surgery. Quantitative criteria for performance assessment are established and evaluated by automated image analysis. We present the workflow of a surgical simulation on a prostate phantom followed by quantitative evaluation of the surgical performance. Surgery on the phantom is useful for medical training, and enables the development and testing of endoscopic and minimally invasive surgical instruments.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems
Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems

Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., January 2020 (article)

Abstract
A robot senses its environment, processes the sensory information, acts in response to these inputs, and possibly communicates with the outside world. Robots generally achieve these tasks with electronics-based hardware or by receiving inputs from some external hardware. In contrast, simple microorganisms can autonomously perceive, act, and communicate via purely physicochemical processes in soft material systems. A key property of biological systems is that they are built from energy-consuming ‘active’ units. Exciting developments in material science show that even very simple artificial active building blocks can show surprisingly rich emergent behaviors. Active non-equilibrium systems are therefore predicted to play an essential role to realize interactive materials. A major challenge is to find robust ways to couple and integrate the energy-consuming building blocks to the mechanical structure of the material. However, success in this endeavor will lead to a new generation of sophisticated micro- and soft-robotic systems that can operate autonomously.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Self-supervised motion deblurring
Self-supervised motion deblurring

Liu, P., Janai, J., Pollefeys, M., Sattler, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Motion blurry images challenge many computer vision algorithms, e.g., feature detection, motion estimation, or object recognition. Deep convolutional neural networks are state-of-the-art for image deblurring. However, obtaining training data with corresponding sharp and blurry image pairs can be difficult. In this paper, we present a differentiable reblur model for self-supervised motion deblurring, which enables the network to learn from real-world blurry image sequences without relying on sharp images for supervision. Our key insight is that motion cues obtained from consecutive images yield sufficient information to inform the deblurring task. We therefore formulate deblurring as an inverse rendering problem, taking into account the physical image formation process: we first predict two deblurred images from which we estimate the corresponding optical flow. Using these predictions, we re-render the blurred images and minimize the difference with respect to the original blurry inputs. We use both synthetic and real dataset for experimental evaluations. Our experiments demonstrate that self-supervised single image deblurring is really feasible and leads to visually compelling results.

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pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]


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Semi-Supervised Learning of Multi-Object 3D Scene Representations

Elich, C., Oswald, M. R., Pollefeys, M., Stueckler, J.

CoRR, abs/2010.04030, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Representing scenes at the granularity of objects is a prerequisite for scene understanding and decision making. We propose a novel approach for learning multi-object 3D scene representations from images. A recurrent encoder regresses a latent representation of 3D shapes, poses and texture of each object from an input RGB image. The 3D shapes are represented continuously in function-space as signed distance functions (SDF) which we efficiently pre-train from example shapes in a supervised way. By differentiable rendering we then train our model to decompose scenes self-supervised from RGB-D images. Our approach learns to decompose images into the constituent objects of the scene and to infer their shape, pose and texture from a single view. We evaluate the accuracy of our model in inferring the 3D scene layout and demonstrate its generative capabilities.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Learning Neural Light Transport
Learning Neural Light Transport

Sanzenbacher, P., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In recent years, deep generative models have gained significance due to their ability to synthesize natural-looking images with applications ranging from virtual reality to data augmentation for training computer vision models. While existing models are able to faithfully learn the image distribution of the training set, they often lack controllability as they operate in 2D pixel space and do not model the physical image formation process. In this work, we investigate the importance of 3D reasoning for photorealistic rendering. We present an approach for learning light transport in static and dynamic 3D scenes using a neural network with the goal of predicting photorealistic images. In contrast to existing approaches that operate in the 2D image domain, our approach reasons in both 3D and 2D space, thus enabling global illumination effects and manipulation of 3D scene geometry. Experimentally, we find that our model is able to produce photorealistic renderings of static and dynamic scenes. Moreover, it compares favorably to baselines which combine path tracing and image denoising at the same computational budget.

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arxiv [BibTex]


HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking
HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking

Luiten, J., Osep, A., Dendorfer, P., Torr, P., Geiger, A., Leal-Taixe, L., Leibe, B.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2020 (article)

Abstract
Multi-Object Tracking (MOT) has been notoriously difficult to evaluate. Previous metrics overemphasize the importance of either detection or association. To address this, we present a novel MOT evaluation metric, HOTA (Higher Order Tracking Accuracy), which explicitly balances the effect of performing accurate detection, association and localization into a single unified metric for comparing trackers. HOTA decomposes into a family of sub-metrics which are able to evaluate each of five basic error types separately, which enables clear analysis of tracking performance. We evaluate the effectiveness of HOTA on the MOTChallenge benchmark, and show that it is able to capture important aspects of MOT performance not previously taken into account by established metrics. Furthermore, we show HOTA scores better align with human visual evaluation of tracking performance.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Visual-Inertial Mapping with Non-Linear Factor Recovery

Usenko, V., Demmel, N., Schubert, D., Stückler, J., Cremers, D.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 5, 2020, accepted for presentation at IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2020, to appear, arXiv:1904.06504 (article)

Abstract
Cameras and inertial measurement units are complementary sensors for ego-motion estimation and environment mapping. Their combination makes visual-inertial odometry (VIO) systems more accurate and robust. For globally consistent mapping, however, combining visual and inertial information is not straightforward. To estimate the motion and geometry with a set of images large baselines are required. Because of that, most systems operate on keyframes that have large time intervals between each other. Inertial data on the other hand quickly degrades with the duration of the intervals and after several seconds of integration, it typically contains only little useful information. In this paper, we propose to extract relevant information for visual-inertial mapping from visual-inertial odometry using non-linear factor recovery. We reconstruct a set of non-linear factors that make an optimal approximation of the information on the trajectory accumulated by VIO. To obtain a globally consistent map we combine these factors with loop-closing constraints using bundle adjustment. The VIO factors make the roll and pitch angles of the global map observable, and improve the robustness and the accuracy of the mapping. In experiments on a public benchmark, we demonstrate superior performance of our method over the state-of-the-art approaches.

ev

Code Preprint [BibTex]

Code Preprint [BibTex]

2016


Wireless actuation with functional acoustic surfaces
Wireless actuation with functional acoustic surfaces

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Adams, F., Fischer, P.

Appl. Phys. Lett., 109(19):191602, November 2016, APL Editor's pick. APL News. (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization calls for micro-actuators that can be powered wirelessly and addressed individually. Here, we develop functional surfaces consisting of arrays of acoustically resonant microcavities, and we demonstrate their application as two-dimensional wireless actuators. When remotely powered by an acoustic field, the surfaces provide highly directional propulsive forces in fluids through acoustic streaming. A maximal force of similar to 0.45mN is measured on a 4 x 4 mm(2) functional surface. The response of the surfaces with bubbles of different sizes is characterized experimentally. This shows a marked peak around the micro-bubbles' resonance frequency, as estimated by both an analytical model and numerical simulations. The strong frequency dependence can be exploited to address different surfaces with different acoustic frequencies, thus achieving wireless actuation with multiple degrees of freedom. The use of the functional surfaces as wireless ready-to-attach actuators is demonstrated by implementing a wireless and bidirectional miniaturized rotary motor, which is 2.6 x 2.6 x 5 mm(3) in size and generates a stall torque of similar to 0.5 mN.mm. The adoption of micro-structured surfaces as wireless actuators opens new possibilities in the development of miniaturized devices and tools for fluidic environments that are accessible by low intensity ultrasound fields.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Nanomotors
Nanomotors

Alarcon-Correa, M., Walker (Schamel), D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Eur. Phys. J.-Special Topics, 225(11-12):2241-2254, November 2016 (article)

Abstract
This minireview discusses whether catalytically active macromolecules and abiotic nanocolloids, that are smaller than motile bacteria, can self-propel. Kinematic reversibility at low Reynolds number demands that self-propelling colloids must break symmetry. Methods that permit the synthesis and fabrication of Janus nanocolloids are therefore briefly surveyed, as well as means that permit the analysis of the nanocolloids' motion. Finally, recent work is reviewed which shows that nanoagents are small enough to penetrate the complex inhomogeneous polymeric network of biological fluids and gels, which exhibit diverse rheological behaviors.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots
Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Reigh, S. Y., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Sanchez-Castillo, A., Kapernaum, N., Giesselmann, F., Wiersma, D. S., Lauga, E., Fischer, P.

Nature Materials, 15(6):647–653, November 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views. (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms move in challenging environments by periodic changes in body shape. In contrast, current artificial microrobots cannot actively deform, exhibiting at best passive bending under external fields. Here, by taking advantage of the wireless, scalable and spatiotemporally selective capabilities that light allows, we show that soft microrobots consisting of photoactive liquid-crystal elastomers can be driven by structured monochromatic light to perform sophisticated biomimetic motions. We realize continuum yet selectively addressable artificial microswimmers that generate travelling-wave motions to self-propel without external forces or torques, as well as microrobots capable of versatile locomotion behaviours on demand. Both theoretical predictions and experimental results confirm that multiple gaits, mimicking either symplectic or antiplectic metachrony of ciliate protozoa, can be achieved with single microswimmers. The principle of using structured light can be extended to other applications that require microscale actuation with sophisticated spatiotemporal coordination for advanced microrobotic technologies.

pf

Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer DOI [BibTex]

Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer DOI [BibTex]


Capture of 2D Microparticle Arrays via a UV-Triggered Thiol-yne ``Click{''} Reaction
Capture of 2D Microparticle Arrays via a UV-Triggered Thiol-yne “Click” Reaction

Walker (Schamel), D., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 28(44):9846-9850, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
Immobilization of colloidal assemblies onto solid supports via a fast UV-triggered click-reaction is achieved. Transient assemblies of microparticles and colloidal materials can be captured and transferred to solid supports. The technique does not require complex reaction conditions, and is compatible with a variety of particle assembly methods.

pf

DOI [BibTex]


Magnesium plasmonics for UV applications and chiral sensing
Magnesium plasmonics for UV applications and chiral sensing

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 52(82):12179-12182, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate that chiral magnesium nanoparticles show remarkable plasmonic extinction- and chiroptical-effects in the ultraviolet region. The Mg nanohelices possess an enhanced local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) sensitivity due to the strong dispersion of most substances in the UV region.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Holograms for acoustics
Holograms for acoustics

Melde, K., Mark, A. G., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Nature, 537, pages: 518-522, September 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views, Nature Video. (article)

Abstract
Holographic techniques are fundamental to applications such as volumetric displays(1), high-density data storage and optical tweezers that require spatial control of intricate optical(2) or acoustic fields(3,4) within a three-dimensional volume. The basis of holography is spatial storage of the phase and/or amplitude profile of the desired wavefront(5,6) in a manner that allows that wavefront to be reconstructed by interference when the hologram is illuminated with a suitable coherent source. Modern computer-generated holography(7) skips the process of recording a hologram from a physical scene, and instead calculates the required phase profile before rendering it for reconstruction. In ultrasound applications, the phase profile is typically generated by discrete and independently driven ultrasound sources(3,4,8-12); however, these can only be used in small numbers, which limits the complexity or degrees of freedom that can be attained in the wavefront. Here we introduce monolithic acoustic holograms, which can reconstruct diffraction-limited acoustic pressure fields and thus arbitrary ultrasound beams. We use rapid fabrication to craft the holograms and achieve reconstruction degrees of freedom two orders of magnitude higher than commercial phased array sources. The technique is inexpensive, appropriate for both transmission and reflection elements, and scales well to higher information content, larger aperture size and higher power. The complex three-dimensional pressure and phase distributions produced by these acoustic holograms allow us to demonstrate new approaches to controlled ultrasonic manipulation of solids in water, and of liquids and solids in air. We expect that acoustic holograms will enable new capabilities in beam-steering and the contactless transfer of power, improve medical imaging, and drive new applications of ultrasound.

pf

Video - Holograms for Sound DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video - Holograms for Sound DOI Project Page [BibTex]


A loop-gap resonator for chirality-sensitive nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER)
A loop-gap resonator for chirality-sensitive nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER)

Garbacz, P., Fischer, P., Kraemer, S.

J. Chem. Phys., 145(10):104201, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
Direct detection of molecular chirality is practically impossible by methods of standard nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that is based on interactions involving magnetic-dipole and magnetic-field operators. However, theoretical studies provide a possible direct probe of chirality by exploiting an enantiomer selective additional coupling involving magnetic-dipole, magnetic-field, and electric field operators. This offers a way for direct experimental detection of chirality by nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER). This method uses both resonant magnetic and electric radiofrequency (RF) fields. The weakness of the chiral interaction though requires a large electric RF field and a small transverse RF magnetic field over the sample volume, which is a non-trivial constraint. In this study, we present a detailed study of the NMER concept and a possible experimental realization based on a loop-gap resonator. For this original device, the basic principle and numerical studies as well as fabrication and measurements of the frequency dependence of the scattering parameter are reported. By simulating the NMER spin dynamics for our device and taking the F-19 NMER signal of enantiomer-pure 1,1,1-trifluoropropan-2-ol, we predict a chirality induced NMER signal that accounts for 1%-5% of the standard achiral NMR signal. Published by AIP Publishing.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Active Nanorheology with Plasmonics
Active Nanorheology with Plasmonics

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Alarcon-Correa, M., Eslami, S., Qiu, T., Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, 16(8):4887-4894, July 2016 (article)

Abstract
Nanoplasmonic systems are valued for their strong optical response and their small size. Most plasmonic sensors and systems to date have been rigid and passive. However, rendering these structures dynamic opens new possibilities for applications. Here we demonstrate that dynamic plasmonic nanoparticles can be used as mechanical sensors to selectively probe the rheological properties of a fluid in situ at the nanoscale and in microscopic volumes. We fabricate chiral magneto-plasmonic nanocolloids that can be actuated by an external magnetic field, which in turn allows for the direct and fast modulation of their distinct optical response. The method is robust and allows nanorheological measurements with a mechanical sensitivity of similar to 0.1 cP, even in strongly absorbing fluids with an optical density of up to OD similar to 3 (similar to 0.1% light transmittance) and in the presence of scatterers (e.g., 50% v/v red blood cells).

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Dispersion and shape engineered plasmonic nanosensors
Dispersion and shape engineered plasmonic nanosensors

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Oswald, P., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 7, pages: 11331, March 2016 (article)

Abstract
Biosensors based on the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of individual metallic nanoparticles promise to deliver modular, low-cost sensing with high-detection thresholds. However, they continue to suffer from relatively low sensitivity and figures of merit (FOMs). Herein we introduce the idea of sensitivity enhancement of LSPR sensors through engineering of the material dispersion function. Employing dispersion and shape engineering of chiral nanoparticles leads to remarkable refractive index sensitivities (1,091 nmRIU(-1) at lambda = 921 nm) and FOMs (>2,800 RIU-1). A key feature is that the polarization-dependent extinction of the nanoparticles is now characterized by rich spectral features, including bipolar peaks and nulls, suitable for tracking refractive index changes. This sensing modality offers strong optical contrast even in the presence of highly absorbing media, an important consideration for use in complex biological media with limited transmission. The technique is sensitive to surface-specific binding events which we demonstrate through biotin-avidin surface coupling.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Magnetic Propulsion of Microswimmers with DNA-Based Flagellar Bundles
Magnetic Propulsion of Microswimmers with DNA-Based Flagellar Bundles

Maier, A. M., Weig, C., Oswald, P., Frey, E., Fischer, P., Liedl, T.

Nano Letters, 16(2):906-910, January 2016 (article)

Abstract
We show that DNA-based self-assembly can serve as a general and flexible tool to construct artificial flagella of several micrometers in length and only tens of nanometers in diameter. By attaching the DNA flagella to biocompatible magnetic microparticles, we provide a proof of concept demonstration of hybrid structures that, when rotated in an external magnetic field, propel by means of a flagellar bundle, similar to self-propelling peritrichous bacteria. Our theoretical analysis predicts that flagellar bundles that possess a length-dependent bending stiffness should exhibit a superior swimming speed compared to swimmers with a single appendage. The DNA self-assembly method permits the realization of these improved flagellar bundles in good agreement with our quantitative model. DNA flagella with well-controlled shape could fundamentally increase the functionality of fully biocompatible nanorobots and extend the scope and complexity of active materials.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Gaussian Process-Based Predictive Control for Periodic Error Correction
Gaussian Process-Based Predictive Control for Periodic Error Correction

Klenske, E. D., Zeilinger, M., Schölkopf, B., Hennig, P.

IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology , 24(1):110-121, 2016 (article)

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


Dual Control for Approximate Bayesian Reinforcement Learning
Dual Control for Approximate Bayesian Reinforcement Learning

Klenske, E. D., Hennig, P.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 17(127):1-30, 2016 (article)

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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NimbRo Explorer: Semi-Autonomous Exploration and Mobile Manipulation in Rough Terrain

Stueckler, J., Schwarz, M., Schadler, M., Topalidou-Kyniazopoulou, A., Behnke, S.

Journal of Field Robotics (JFR), 33(4):411-430, Wiley, 2016 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Probabilistic Duality for Parallel Gibbs Sampling without Graph Coloring
Probabilistic Duality for Parallel Gibbs Sampling without Graph Coloring

Mescheder, L., Nowozin, S., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2016 (article)

Abstract
We present a new notion of probabilistic duality for random variables involving mixture distributions. Using this notion, we show how to implement a highly-parallelizable Gibbs sampler for weakly coupled discrete pairwise graphical models with strictly positive factors that requires almost no preprocessing and is easy to implement. Moreover, we show how our method can be combined with blocking to improve mixing. Even though our method leads to inferior mixing times compared to a sequential Gibbs sampler, we argue that our method is still very useful for large dynamic networks, where factors are added and removed on a continuous basis, as it is hard to maintain a graph coloring in this setup. Similarly, our method is useful for parallelizing Gibbs sampling in graphical models that do not allow for graph colorings with a small number of colors such as densely connected graphs.

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pdf [BibTex]


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Multi-Layered Mapping and Navigation for Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicles

Droeschel, D., Nieuwenhuisen, M., Beul, M., Stueckler, J., Holz, D., Behnke, S.

Journal of Field Robotics (JFR), 33(4):451-475, 2016 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Map-Based Probabilistic Visual Self-Localization
Map-Based Probabilistic Visual Self-Localization

Brubaker, M. A., Geiger, A., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Trans. on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 2016 (article)

Abstract
Accurate and efficient self-localization is a critical problem for autonomous systems. This paper describes an affordable solution to vehicle self-localization which uses odometry computed from two video cameras and road maps as the sole inputs. The core of the method is a probabilistic model for which an efficient approximate inference algorithm is derived. The inference algorithm is able to utilize distributed computation in order to meet the real-time requirements of autonomous systems in some instances. Because of the probabilistic nature of the model the method is capable of coping with various sources of uncertainty including noise in the visual odometry and inherent ambiguities in the map (e.g., in a Manhattan world). By exploiting freely available, community developed maps and visual odometry measurements, the proposed method is able to localize a vehicle to 4m on average after 52 seconds of driving on maps which contain more than 2,150km of drivable roads.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


Enzymatically active biomimetic micropropellers for the penetration of mucin gels
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


The EChemPen: A Guiding Hand To Learn Electrochemical Surface Modifications
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Optimal Length of Low Reynolds Number Nanopropellers
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Dynamic Inclusion Complexes of Metal Nanoparticles Inside Nanocups
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Surface roughness-induced speed increase for active Janus micromotors
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Active colloidal microdrills
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Interpretation of Linear Solvers

Hennig, P.

SIAM Journal on Optimization, 25(1):234-260, 2015 (article)

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Web PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Web PDF link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Optimizing Average Precision using Weakly Supervised Data
Optimizing Average Precision using Weakly Supervised Data

Behl, A., Mohapatra, P., Jawahar, C. V., Kumar, M. P.

IEEE Trans. on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 2015 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Selectable Nanopattern Arrays for Nanolithographic Imprint and Etch-Mask Applications
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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Efficient Dense Rigid-Body Motion Segmentation and Estimation in RGB-D Video

Stueckler, J., Behnke, S.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 113(3):233-245, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic numerics and uncertainty in computations

Hennig, P., Osborne, M. A., Girolami, M.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 471(2179), 2015 (article)

Abstract
We deliver a call to arms for probabilistic numerical methods: algorithms for numerical tasks, including linear algebra, integration, optimization and solving differential equations, that return uncertainties in their calculations. Such uncertainties, arising from the loss of precision induced by numerical calculation with limited time or hardware, are important for much contemporary science and industry. Within applications such as climate science and astrophysics, the need to make decisions on the basis of computations with large and complex data have led to a renewed focus on the management of numerical uncertainty. We describe how several seminal classic numerical methods can be interpreted naturally as probabilistic inference. We then show that the probabilistic view suggests new algorithms that can flexibly be adapted to suit application specifics, while delivering improved empirical performance. We provide concrete illustrations of the benefits of probabilistic numeric algorithms on real scientific problems from astrometry and astronomical imaging, while highlighting open problems with these new algorithms. Finally, we describe how probabilistic numerical methods provide a coherent framework for identifying the uncertainty in calculations performed with a combination of numerical algorithms (e.g. both numerical optimizers and differential equation solvers), potentially allowing the diagnosis (and control) of error sources in computations.

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [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]

2014


Nanopropellers and Their Actuation in Complex Viscoelastic Media
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]