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2019


Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels
Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels

Choi, E., Jeong, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Remotely controlled, automated actuation and manipulation at the microscale is essential for a number of micro-manufacturing, biology, and lab-on-a-chip applications. To transport and manipulate micro-objects, arrays of remotely controlled micro-actuators are required, which, in turn, typically require complex and expensive solid-state chips. Here, we show that a continuous surface can function as a highly parallel, many-degree of freedom, wirelessly-controlled microactuator with seamless deformation. The soft continuous surface is based on a hydrogel that undergoes a volume change in response to applied light. The fabrication of the hydrogels and the characterization of their optical and thermomechanical behaviors are reported. The temperature-dependent localized deformation of the hydrogel is also investigated by numerical simulations. Static and dynamic deformations are obtained in the soft material by projecting light fields at high spatial resolution onto the surface. By controlling such deformations in open loop and especially closed loop, automated photoactuation is achieved. The surface deformations are then exploited to examine how inert microbeads can be manipulated autonomously on the surface. We believe that the proposed approach suggests ways to implement universal 2D micromanipulation schemes that can be useful for automation in microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip applications.

pf

[BibTex]

2019


[BibTex]


Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and  Lithotripsy
Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and Lithotripsy

Li., D., Suarez-Ibarrola, R., Choi, E., Jeong, M., Gratzke, C., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Organ models are important for medical training and surgical planning. With the fast development of additive fabrication technologies, including 3D printing, the fabrication of 3D organ phantoms with precise anatomical features becomes possible. Here, we develop the first high-resolution kidney phantom based on soft material assembly, by combining 3D printing and polymer molding techniques. The phantom exhibits both the detailed anatomy of a human kidney and the elasticity of soft tissues. The phantom assembly can be separated into two parts on the coronal plane, thus large renal calculi are readily placed at any desired location of the calyx. With our sealing method, the assembled phantom withstands a hydraulic pressure that is four times the normal intrarenal pressure, thus it allows the simulation of medical procedures under realistic pressure conditions. The medical diagnostics of the renal calculi is performed by multiple imaging modalities, including X-ray, ultrasound imaging and endoscopy. The endoscopic lithotripsy is also successfully performed on the phantom. The use of a multifunctional soft phantom assembly thus shows great promise for the simulation of minimally invasive medical procedures under realistic conditions.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


A Magnetic Actuation System for the  Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials
A Magnetic Actuation System for the Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials

Jeong, M., Choi, E., Li., D., Palagi, S., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Microrheology is a key technique to characterize soft materials at small scales. The microprobe is wirelessly actuated and therefore typically only low forces or torques can be applied, which limits the range of the applied strain. Here, we report a new magnetic actuation system for microrheology consisting of an array of rotating permanent magnets, which achieves a rotating magnetic field with a spatially homogeneous high field strength of ~100 mT in a working volume of ~20×20×20 mm3. Compared to a traditional electromagnetic coil system, the permanent magnet assembly is portable and does not require cooling, and it exerts a large magnetic torque on the microprobe that is an order of magnitude higher than previous setups. Experimental results demonstrate that the measurement range of the soft gels’ elasticity covers at least five orders of magnitude. With the large actuation torque, it is also possible to study the fracture mechanics of soft biomaterials at small scales.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2018


Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields
Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields

Rohr, A. V., Trimpe, S., Marco, A., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

In International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2018, pages: 6199-6206, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 2018, October 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft microrobots based on photoresponsive materials and controlled by light fields can generate a variety of different gaits. This inherent flexibility can be exploited to maximize their locomotion performance in a given environment and used to adapt them to changing environments. However, because of the lack of accurate locomotion models, and given the intrinsic variability among microrobots, analytical control design is not possible. Common data-driven approaches, on the other hand, require running prohibitive numbers of experiments and lead to very sample-specific results. Here we propose a probabilistic learning approach for light-controlled soft microrobots based on Bayesian Optimization (BO) and Gaussian Processes (GPs). The proposed approach results in a learning scheme that is highly data-efficient, enabling gait optimization with a limited experimental budget, and robust against differences among microrobot samples. These features are obtained by designing the learning scheme through the comparison of different GP priors and BO settings on a semisynthetic data set. The developed learning scheme is validated in microrobot experiments, resulting in a 115% improvement in a microrobot’s locomotion performance with an experimental budget of only 20 tests. These encouraging results lead the way toward self-adaptive microrobotic systems based on lightcontrolled soft microrobots and probabilistic learning control.

ics pf

arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


A machine from machines
A machine from machines

Fischer, P.

Nature Physics, 14, pages: 1072–1073, July 2018 (misc)

Abstract
Building spinning microrotors that self-assemble and synchronize to form a gear sounds like an impossible feat. However, it has now been achieved using only a single type of building block -- a colloid that self-propels.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets
Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets

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

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3595-3600, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Wireless actuation by magnetic fields allows for the operation of untethered miniaturized devices, e.g. in biomedical applications. Nevertheless, generating large controlled forces over relatively large distances is challenging. Magnetic torques are easier to generate and control, but they are not always suitable for the tasks at hand. Moreover, strong magnetic fields are required to generate a sufficient torque, which are difficult to achieve with electromagnets. Here, we demonstrate a soft miniaturized actuator that transforms an externally applied magnetic torque into a controlled linear force. We report the design, fabrication and characterization of both the actuator and the magnetic field generator. We show that the magnet assembly, which is based on a set of rotating permanent magnets, can generate strong controlled oscillating fields over a relatively large workspace. The actuator, which is 3D-printed, can lift a load of more than 40 times its weight. Finally, we show that the actuator can be further miniaturized, paving the way towards strong, wirelessly powered microactuators.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2016


Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom
Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Wiersma, D. S., Fischer, P.

In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the development of microrobots, i.e. robots at the sub-millimeter scale, is the difficulty of adopting traditional solutions for power, control and, especially, actuation. As a result, most current microrobots are directly manipulated by external fields, and possess only a few passive degrees of freedom (DOFs). We have reported a strategy that enables embodiment, remote powering and control of a large number of DOFs in mobile soft microrobots. These consist of photo-responsive materials, such that the actuation of their soft continuous body can be selectively and dynamically controlled by structured light fields. Here we use finite-element modelling to evaluate the effective number of DOFs that are addressable in our microrobots. We also demonstrate that by this flexible approach different actuation patterns can be obtained, and thus different locomotion performances can be achieved within the very same microrobot. The reported results confirm the versatility of the proposed approach, which allows for easy application-specific optimization and online reconfiguration of the microrobot's behavior. Such versatility will enable advanced applications of robotics and automation at the micro scale.

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DOI [BibTex]

2016


DOI [BibTex]


Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming
Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming

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

In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Miniaturized actuators are a key element for the manipulation and automation at small scales. Here, we propose a new miniaturized actuator, which consists of an array of micro gas bubbles immersed in a fluid. Under ultrasonic excitation, the oscillation of micro gas bubbles results in acoustic streaming and provides a propulsive force that drives the actuator. The actuator was fabricated by lithography and fluidic streaming was observed under ultrasound excitation. Theoretical modelling and numerical simulations were carried out to show that lowing the surface tension results in a larger amplitude of the bubble oscillation, and thus leads to a higher propulsive force. Experimental results also demonstrate that the propulsive force increases 3.5 times when the surface tension is lowered by adding a surfactant. An actuator with a 4×4 mm 2 surface area provides a driving force of about 0.46 mN, suggesting that it is possible to be used as a wireless actuator for small-scale robots and medical instruments.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design
Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design

Mark, A. G., Palagi, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

In 2016 IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 4951-4956, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Soft materials are being adopted in robotics in order to facilitate biomedical applications and in order to achieve simpler and more capable robots. One route to simplification is to design the robot's body using `smart materials' that carry the burden of control and actuation. Metamaterials enable just such rational design of the material properties. Here we present a soft robot that exploits mechanical metamaterials for the intrinsic synchronization of two passive clutches which contact its travel surface. Doing so allows it to move through an enclosed passage with an inchworm motion propelled by a single actuator. Our soft robot consists of two 3D-printed metamaterials that implement auxetic and normal elastic properties. The design, fabrication and characterization of the metamaterials are described. In addition, a working soft robot is presented. Since the synchronization mechanism is a feature of the robot's material body, we believe that the proposed design will enable compliant and robust implementations that scale well with miniaturization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Towards Photo-Induced Swimming: Actuation of Liquid Crystalline  Elastomer in Water
Towards Photo-Induced Swimming: Actuation of Liquid Crystalline Elastomer in Water

cerretti, G., Martella, D., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Wiersma, D.

In Proc. of SPIE 9738, pages: Laser 3D Manufacturing III, 97380T, April 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Liquid Crystalline Elastomers (LCEs) are very promising smart materials that can be made sensitive to different external stimuli, such as heat, pH, humidity and light, by changing their chemical composition. In this paper we report the implementation of a nematically aligned LCE actuator able to undergo large light-induced deformations. We prove that this property is still present even when the actuator is submerged in fresh water. Thanks to the presence of azo-dye moieties, capable of going through a reversible trans-cis photo-isomerization, and by applying light with two different wavelengths we managed to control the bending of such actuator in the liquid environment. The reported results represent the first step towards swimming microdevices powered by light.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


3D-printed Soft Microrobot for Swimming in Biological Fluids
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]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]