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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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Untethered Magnetic Micromanipulation

Diller, E., Sitti, M.

In Micro-and Nanomanipulation Tools, 13, 10, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, November 2015 (inbook)

Abstract
This chapter discusses the methods and state of the art in microscale manipulation in remote environments using untethered microrobotic devices. It focuses on manipulation at the size scale of tens to hundreds of microns, where small size leads to a dominance of microscale physical effects and challenges in fabrication and actuation. To motivate the challenges of operating at this size scale, the chapter includes coverage of the physical forces relevant to microrobot motion and manipulation below the millimeter-size scale. It then introduces the actuation methods commonly used in untethered manipulation schemes, with particular focus on magnetic actuation due to its wide use in the field. The chapter divides these manipulation techniques into two types: contact manipulation, which relies on direct pushing or grasping of objects for motion, and noncontact manipulation, which relies indirectly on induced fluid flow from the microrobot motion to move objects without any direct contact.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Compliant wing design for a flapping wing micro air vehicle

Colmenares, D., Kania, R., Zhang, W., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 32-39, September 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we examine several wing designs for a motor-driven, flapping-wing micro air vehicle capable of liftoff. The full system consists of two wings independently driven by geared pager motors that include a spring in parallel with the output shaft. The linear transmission allows for resonant operation, while control is achieved by direct drive of the wing angle. Wings used in previous work were chosen to be fully rigid for simplicity of modeling and fabrication. However, biological wings are highly flexible and other micro air vehicles have successfully utilized flexible wing structures for specialized tasks. The goal of our study is to determine if wing flexibility can be generally used to increase wing performance. Two approaches to lift improvement using flexible wings are explored, resonance of the wing cantilever structure and dynamic wing twisting. We design and test several wings that are compared using different figures of merit. A twisted design improved lift per power by 73.6% and maximum lift production by 53.2% compared to the original rigid design. Wing twist is then modeled in order to propose optimal wing twist profiles that can maximize either wing efficiency or lift production.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Methods of forming dry adhesive structures

Sitti, M., Murphy, M., Aksak, B.

September 2015, US Patent 9,120,953 (patent)

Abstract
Methods of forming dry adhesives including a method of making a dry adhesive including applying a liquid polymer to the second end of the stem, molding the liquid polymer on the stem in a mold, wherein the mold includes a recess having a cross-sectional area that is less than a cross-sectional area of the second end of the stem, curing the liquid polymer in the mold to form a tip at the second end of the stem, wherein the tip includes a second layer stem; corresponding to the recess in the mold, and removing the tip from the mold after the liquid polymer cures.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Millimeter-scale magnetic swimmers using elastomeric undulations

Zhang, J., Diller, E.

In 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 1706-1711, September 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper presents a new soft-bodied millimeterscale swimmer actuated by rotating uniform magnetic fields. The proposed swimmer moves through internal undulatory deformations, resulting from a magnetization profile programmed into its body. To understand the motion of the swimmer, a mathematical model is developed to describe the general relationship between the deflection of a flexible strip and its magnetization profile. As a special case, the situation of the swimmer on the water surface is analyzed and predictions made by the model are experimentally verified. Experimental results show the controllability of the proposed swimmer under a computer vision-based closed-loop controller. The swimmers have nominal dimensions of 1.5×4.9×0.06 mm and a top speed of 50 mm/s (10 body lengths per second). Waypoint following and multiagent control are demonstrated for swimmers constrained at the air-water interface and underwater swimming is also shown, suggesting the promising potential of this type of swimmer in biomedical and microfluidic applications.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Experimental investigation of optimal adhesion of mushroomlike elastomer microfibrillar adhesives

Marvi, H., Song, S., Sitti, M.

Langmuir, 31(37):10119-10124, American Chemical Society, August 2015 (article)

Abstract
Optimal fiber designs for the maximal pull-off force have been indispensable for increasing the attachment performance of recently introduced gecko-inspired reversible micro/nanofibrillar adhesives. There are several theoretical studies on such optimal designs; however, due to the lack of three-dimensional (3D) fabrication techniques that can fabricate such optimal designs in 3D, there have not been many experimental investigations on this challenge. In this study, we benefitted from recent advances in two-photon lithography techniques to fabricate mushroomlike polyurethane elastomer fibers with different aspect ratios of tip to stalk diameter (β) and tip wedge angles (θ) to investigate the effect of these two parameters on the pull-off force. We found similar trends to those predicted theoretically. We found that β has an impact on the slope of the force-displacement curve while both β and θ play a role in the stress distribution and crack propagation. We found that these effects are coupled and the optimal set of parameters also depends on the fiber material. This is the first experimental verification of such optimal designs proposed for mushroomlike microfibers. This experimental approach could be used to evaluate a wide range of complex microstructured adhesive designs suggested in the literature and optimize them.

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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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Micro-fiber arrays with tip coating and transfer method for preparing same

Sitti, M., Washburn, N. R., Glass, P. S., Chung, H.

July 2015, US Patent 9,079,215 (patent)

Abstract
Present invention describes a patterned and coated micro- and nano-scale fibers elastomeric material for enhanced adhesion in wet or dry environments. A multi-step fabrication process including optical lithography, micromolding, polymer synthesis, dipping, stamping, and photopolymerization is described to produce uniform arrays of micron-scale fibers with mushroom-shaped tips coated with a thin layer of an intrinsically adhesive synthetic polymer, such as lightly crosslinked p(DMA-co-MEA).

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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pH-taxis of biohybrid microsystems

Zhuang, J., Carlsen, R. W., Sitti, M.

Scientific reports, 5, Nature Publishing Group, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
The last decade has seen an increasing number of studies developing bacteria and other cell-integrated biohybrid microsystems. However, the highly stochastic motion of these microsystems severely limits their potential use. Here, we present a method that exploits the pH sensing of flagellated bacteria to realize robust drift control of multi-bacteria propelled microrobots. Under three specifically configured pH gradients, we demonstrate that the microrobots exhibit both unidirectional and bidirectional pH-tactic behaviors, which are also observed in free-swimming bacteria. From trajectory analysis, we find that the swimming direction and speed biases are two major factors that contribute to their tactic drift motion. The motion analysis of microrobots also sheds light on the propulsion dynamics of the flagellated bacteria as bioactuators. It is expected that similar driving mechanisms are shared among pH-taxis, chemotaxis, and thermotaxis. By identifying the mechanism that drives the tactic behavior of bacteria-propelled microsystems, this study opens up an avenue towards improving the control of biohybrid microsystems. Furthermore, assuming that it is possible to tune the preferred pH of bioactuators by genetic engineering, these biohybrid microsystems could potentially be applied to sense the pH gradient induced by cancerous cells in stagnant fluids inside human body and realize targeted drug delivery.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Fiberbot: A miniature crawling robot using a directional fibrillar pad

Han, Y., Marvi, H., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3122-3127, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Vibration-driven locomotion has been widely used for crawling robot studies. Such robots usually have a vibration motor as the actuator and a fibrillar structure for providing directional friction on the substrate. However, there has not been any studies about the effect of fiber structure on robot crawling performance. In this paper, we develop Fiberbot, a custom made mini vibration robot, for studying the effect of fiber angle on robot velocity, steering, and climbing performance. It is known that the friction force with and against fibers depends on the fiber angle. Thus, we first present a new fabrication method for making millimeter scale fibers at a wide range of angles. We then show that using 30° angle fibers that have the highest friction anisotropy (ratio of backward to forward friction force) among the other fibers we fabricated in this study, Fiberbot speed on glass increases to 13.8±0.4 cm/s (compared to ν = 0.6±0.1 cm/s using vertical fibers). We also demonstrate that the locomotion direction of Fiberbot depends on the tilting direction of fibers and we can steer the robot by rotating the fiber pad. Fiberbot could also climb on glass at inclinations of up to 10° when equipped with fibers of high friction anisotropy. We show that adding a rigid tail to the robot it can climb on glass at 25° inclines. Moreover, the robot is able to crawl on rough surfaces such as wood (ν = 10.0±0.2 cm/s using 30° fiber pad). Fiberbot, a low-cost vibration robot equipped with a custom-designed fiber pad with steering and climbing capabilities could be used for studies on collective behavior on a wide range of topographies as well as search and exploratory missions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Platform design and tethered flight of a motor-driven flapping-wing system

Hines, L., Colmenares, D., Sitti, M.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 5838-5845, May 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we examine two design modifications to a tethered motor-driven flapping-wing system. Previously, we had demonstrated a simple mechanism utilizing a linear transmission for resonant operation and direct drive of the wing flapping angle for control. The initial two-wing system had a weight of 2.7 grams and a maximum lift-to-weight ratio of 1.4. While capable of vertical takeoff, in open-loop flight it demonstrated instability and pitch oscillations at the wing flapping frequency, leading to flight times of only a few wing strokes. Here the effect of vertical wing offset as well as an alternative multi-wing layout is investigated and experimentally tested with newly constructed prototypes. With only a change in vertical wing offset, stable open-loop flight of the two-wing flapping system is shown to be theoretically possible, but difficult to achieve with our current design and operating parameters. Both of the new two and four-wing systems, however, prove capable of flying to the end of the tether, with the four-wing system prototype eliminating disruptive wing beat oscillations.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Structural optimization for flexure-based parallel mechanisms–Towards achieving optimal dynamic and stiffness properties

Lum, G. Z., Teo, T. J., Yeo, S. H., Yang, G., Sitti, M.

Precision Engineering, 42, pages: 195-207, Elsevier, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Flexure-based parallel mechanisms (FPMs) are a type of compliant mechanisms that consist of a rigid end-effector that is articulated by several parallel, flexible limbs (a.k.a. sub-chains). Existing design methods can enhance the FPMs’ dynamic and stiffness properties by conducting a size optimization on their sub-chains. A similar optimization process, however, was not performed for their sub-chains’ topology, and this may severely limit the benefits of a size optimization. Thus, this paper proposes to use a structural optimization approach to synthesize and optimize the topology, shape and size of the FPMs’ sub-chains. The benefits of this approach are demonstrated via the design and development of a planar X − Y − θz FPM. A prototype of this FPM was evaluated experimentally to have a large workspace of 1.2 mm × 1.2 mm × 6°, a fundamental natural frequency of 102 Hz, and stiffness ratios that are greater than 120. The achieved properties show significant improvement over existing 3-degrees-of-freedom compliant mechanisms that can deflect more than 0.5 mm and 0.5°. These compliant mechanisms typically have stiffness ratios that are less than 60 and a fundamental natural frequency that is less than 45 Hz.

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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.

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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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Controlled surface topography regulates collective 3D migration by epithelial–mesenchymal composite embryonic tissues

Song, J., Shawky, J. H., Kim, Y., Hazar, M., LeDuc, P. R., Sitti, M., Davidson, L. A.

Biomaterials, 58, pages: 1-9, Elsevier, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topography. Most studies on surface topography and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multi-cellular tissues to topographical cues. Here, we examine the response to complex topographical cues of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis. We control topography using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multi-cellular systems in these MPAs. We find that the topography regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing of the MPAs we uncover how 3D topographical cues disrupt collective cell migration. We find surface topography can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Transfer Printing of Metallic Microstructures on Adhesion-Promoting Hydrogel Substrates

Wu, H., Sariola, V., Zhu, C., Zhao, J., Sitti, M., Bettinger, C. J.

Advanced Materials, 27(22):3398-3404, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
Fabrication schemes that integrate inorganic microstructures with hydrogel substrates are essential for advancing flexible electronics. A transfer printing process that is made possible through the design and synthesis of adhesion-promoting hydrogels as target substrates is reported. This fabrication technique may advance ultracompliant electronics by melding microfabricated structures with swollen hydrogel substrates.

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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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dry adhesives and methods for making dry adhesives

Sitti, M., Murphy, M., Aksak, B.

March 2015, US Patent App. 14/625,162 (patent)

Abstract
Dry adhesives and methods for forming dry adhesives. A method of forming a dry adhesive structure on a substrate, comprises: forming a template backing layer of energy sensitive material on the substrate; forming a template layer of energy sensitive material on the template backing layer; exposing the template layer to a predetermined pattern of energy; removing a portion of the template layer related to the predetermined pattern of energy, and leaving a template structure formed from energy sensitive material and connected to the substrate via the template backing layer.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Biomedical applications of untethered mobile milli/microrobots

Sitti, M., Ceylan, H., Hu, W., Giltinan, J., Turan, M., Yim, S., Diller, E.

Proceedings of the IEEE, 103(2):205-224, IEEE, March 2015 (article)

Abstract
Untethered robots miniaturized to the length scale of millimeter and below attract growing attention for the prospect of transforming many aspects of health care and bioengineering. As the robot size goes down to the order of a single cell, previously inaccessible body sites would become available for high-resolution in situ and in vivo manipulations. This unprecedented direct access would enable an extensive range of minimally invasive medical operations. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of the current advances in biomedical untethered mobile milli/microrobots. We put a special emphasis on the potential impacts of biomedical microrobots in the near future. Finally, we discuss the existing challenges and emerging concepts associated with designing such a miniaturized robot for operation inside a biological environment for biomedical applications.

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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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Collective 3D Migration of Embryonic Epithelial Mesenchymal Composite Tissues are Regulated by Surface Topology

Song, J., Shawky, J., Kim, Y. T., Hazar, M., Sitti, M., LeDuc, P. R., Davidson, L. A.

Biophysical Journal, 108(2):455a, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Cells in tissues encounter a range of physical cues as they migrate. Probing single cell and collective migratory responses to physically defined three-dimensional (3D) microenvironments and the factors that modulate those responses are critical to understanding how tissue migration is regulated during development, regeneration, and cancer. One key physical factor that regulates cell migration is topology. Most studies on surface topology and cell mechanics have been carried out with single migratory cells, yet little is known about the spreading and motility response of 3D complex multicellular tissues to topological cues. Here, we examine the behaviors of microsurgically isolated tissue explants composed of epithelial and mesenchymal cell layers from naturally 3D organized embryos of the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis to complex topological cues. We control topology using fabricated micropost arrays (MPAs) with different diameters (e.g., different spacing gaps) and investigate the collective 3D migration of these multicellular systems in these MPAs. Our topographical controlled approach for cellular application enables us to achieve a high degree of control over micropost positioning and geometry via simple, accurate, and repeatable microfabrication processes. We find that the topology regulates both collective and individual cell migration and that dense MPAs reduce but do not eliminate tissue spreading. By modulating cell size through the cell cycle inhibitor Mitomycin C or the spacing within MPAs we discover a role for topology in disrupting collective enhancement of cell migration. We find 3D topological cues can direct both single cell motility and tissue spreading, altering tissue-scale processes that enable efficient conversion of single cell motility into collective movement.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Three-dimensional heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels using an untethered mobile microgripper

Chung, S. E., Dong, X., Sitti, M.

Lab on a Chip, 15(7):1667-1676, Royal Society of Chemistry, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
Three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels in enclosed aquatic environments is demonstrated using a remotely actuated and controlled magnetic microgripper by a customized electromagnetic coil system. The microgripper uses different ‘stick–slip’ and ‘rolling’ locomotion in 2D and also levitation in 3D by magnetic gradient-based pulling force. This enables the microrobot to precisely manipulate each microgel by controlling its position and orientation in all x–y–z directions. Our microrobotic assembly method broke the barrier of limitation on the number of assembled microgel layers, because it enabled precise 3D levitation of the microgripper. We used the gripper to assemble microgels that had been coded with different colours and shapes onto prefabricated polymeric microposts. This eliminates the need for extra secondary cross-linking to fix the final construct. We demonstrated assembly of microgels on a single micropost up to ten layers. By increasing the number and changing the distribution of the posts, complex heterogeneous microsystems were possible to construct in 3D.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Integrating mechanism synthesis and topological optimization technique for stiffness-oriented design of a three degrees-of-freedom flexure-based parallel mechanism

Lum, G. Z., Teo, T. J., Yang, G., Yeo, S. H., Sitti, M.

Precision Engineering, 39, pages: 125-133, Elsevier, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a new design approach to synthesize multiple degrees-of-freedom (DOF) flexure-based parallel mechanism (FPM). Termed as an integrated design approach, it is a systematic design methodology, which integrates both classical mechanism synthesis and modern topology optimization technique, to deliver an optimized multi-DOF FPM. This design approach is separated into two levels. At sub-chain level, a novel topology optimization technique, which uses the classical linkage mechanisms as DNA seeds, is used to synthesize the compliant joints or limbs. At configuration level, the optimal compliant joints are used to form the parallel limbs of the multi-DOF FPM and another stage of optimization was conducted to determine the optimal space distribution between these compliant joints so as to generate a multi-DOF FPM with optimized stiffness characteristic. In this paper, the design of a 3-DOF planar motion FPM was used to demonstrate the effectiveness and accuracy of this proposed design approach.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Actively controlled fibrillar friction surfaces

Marvi, H, Han, Y, Sitti, M

Applied Physics Letters, 106(5):051602, AIP Publishing, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
In this letter, we propose a technique by which we can actively adjust frictional properties of elastic fibrillar structures in different directions. Using a mesh attached to a two degree-of-freedom linear stage, we controlled the active length and the tilt angle of fibers, independently. Thus, we were able to achieve desired levels of friction forces in different directions and significantly improve passive friction anisotropies observed in the same fiber arrays. The proposed technique would allow us to readily control the friction anisotropy and the friction magnitude of fibrillar structures in any planar direction.

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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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Series of Multilinked Caterpillar Track-type Climbing Robots

Lee, G., Kim, H., Seo, K., Kim, J., Sitti, M., Seo, T.

Journal of Field Robotics, November 2014 (article)

Abstract
Climbing robots have been widely applied in many industries involving hard to access, dangerous, or hazardous environments to replace human workers. Climbing speed, payload capacity, the ability to overcome obstacles, and wall-to-wall transitioning are significant characteristics of climbing robots. Here, multilinked track wheel-type climbing robots are proposed to enhance these characteristics. The robots have been developed for five years in collaboration with three universities: Seoul National University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Yeungnam University. Four types of robots are presented for different applications with different surface attachment methods and mechanisms: MultiTank for indoor sites, Flexible caterpillar robot (FCR) and Combot for heavy industrial sites, and MultiTrack for high-rise buildings. The method of surface attachment is different for each robot and application, and the characteristics of the joints between links are designed as active or passive according to the requirement of a given robot. Conceptual design, practical design, and control issues of such climbing robot types are reported, and a proper choice of the attachment methods and joint type is essential for the successful multilink track wheel-type climbing robot for different surface materials, robot size, and computational costs.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Geckogripper: A soft, inflatable robotic gripper using gecko-inspired elastomer micro-fiber adhesives

Song, S., Majidi, C., Sitti, M.

In Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2014), 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 4624-4629, September 2014 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper proposes GeckoGripper, a novel soft, inflatable gripper based on the controllable adhesion mechanism of gecko-inspired micro-fiber adhesives, to pick-and-place complex and fragile non-planar or planar parts serially or in parallel. Unlike previous fibrillar structures that use peel angle to control the manipulation of parts, we developed an elastomer micro-fiber adhesive that is fabricated on a soft, flexible membrane, increasing the adaptability to non-planar three-dimensional (3D) geometries and controllability in adhesion. The adhesive switching ratio (the ratio between the maximum and minimum adhesive forces) of the developed gripper was measured to be around 204, which is superior to previous works based on peel angle-based release control methods. Adhesion control mechanism based on the stretch of the membrane and superior adaptability to non-planar 3D geometries enable the micro-fibers to pick-and-place various 3D parts as shown in demonstrations.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Segmented molecular design of self-healing proteinaceous materials.

Sariola, V., Pena-Francesch, A., Jung, H., Çetinkaya, M., Pacheco, C., Sitti, M., Demirel, M. C.

Scientific reports, 5, pages: 13482-13482, Nature Publishing Group, July 2014 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical assembly of self-healing adhesive proteins creates strong and robust structural and interfacial materials, but understanding of the molecular design and structure–property relationships of structural proteins remains unclear. Elucidating this relationship would allow rational design of next generation genetically engineered self-healing structural proteins. Here we report a general self-healing and -assembly strategy based on a multiphase recombinant protein based material. Segmented structure of the protein shows soft glycine- and tyrosine-rich segments with self-healing capability and hard beta-sheet segments. The soft segments are strongly plasticized by water, lowering the self-healing temperature close to body temperature. The hard segments self-assemble into nanoconfined domains to reinforce the material. The healing strength scales sublinearly with contact time, which associates with diffusion and wetting of autohesion. The finding suggests that recombinant structural proteins from heterologous expression have potential as strong and repairable engineering materials.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Bio-Hybrid Cell-Based Actuators for Microsystems

Carlsen, R. W., Sitti, M.

Small, 10(19):3831-3851, June 2014 (article)

Abstract
As we move towards the miniaturization of devices to perform tasks at the nano and microscale, it has become increasingly important to develop new methods for actuation, sensing, and control. Over the past decade, bio-hybrid methods have been investigated as a promising new approach to overcome the challenges of scaling down robotic and other functional devices. These methods integrate biological cells with artificial components and therefore, can take advantage of the intrinsic actuation and sensing functionalities of biological cells. Here, the recent advancements in bio-hybrid actuation are reviewed, and the challenges associated with the design, fabrication, and control of bio-hybrid microsystems are discussed. As a case study, focus is put on the development of bacteria-driven microswimmers, which has been investigated as a targeted drug delivery carrier. Finally, a future outlook for the development of these systems is provided. The continued integration of biological and artificial components is envisioned to enable the performance of tasks at a smaller and smaller scale in the future, leading to the parallel and distributed operation of functional systems at the microscale.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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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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Convertor

Fischer, P., Mark, A.

May 2014 (patent)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Fibrillar structures to reduce viscous drag on aerodynamic and hydrodynamic wall surfaces

Castillo, L., Aksak, B., Sitti, M.

March 2014, US Patent App. 14/774,767 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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The design of microfibers with mushroom-shaped tips for optimal adhesion

Sitti, M., Aksak, B.

February 2014, US Patent App. 14/766,561 (misc)

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[BibTex]

[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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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[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.

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Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


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Continuously distributed magnetization profile for millimeter-scale elastomeric undulatory swimming

Diller, E., Zhuang, J., Zhan Lum, G., Edwards, M. R., Sitti, M.

Applied Physics Letters, 104(17):174101, AIP, 2014 (article)

Abstract
We have developed a millimeter-scale magnetically driven swimming robot for untethered motion at mid to low Reynolds numbers. The robot is propelled by continuous undulatory deformation, which is enabled by the distributed magnetization profile of a flexible sheet. We demonstrate control of a prototype device and measure deformation and speed as a function of magnetic field strength and frequency. Experimental results are compared with simple magnetoelastic and fluid propulsion models. The presented mechanism provides an efficient remote actuation method at the millimeter scale that may be suitable for further scaling down in size for microrobotics applications in biotechnology and healthcare

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) 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.

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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).

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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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Biopsy using a Magnetic Capsule Endoscope Carrying, Releasing and Retrieving Untethered Micro-Grippers

Yim, S., Gultepe, E., Gracias, D. H., Sitti, M.

IEEE Trans. on Biomedical Engineering, 61(2):513-521, IEEE, 2014 (article)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Investigation of tip current and normal force measured simultaneously during local oxidation of titanium using dual-mode scanning probe microscopy

Ozcan, O., Hu, W., Sitti, M., Bain, J., Ricketts, D.

IET Micro \& Nano Letters, 9(5):332-336, IET, 2014 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]