Peer Fischer is a Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart and he heads the independent Micro Nano and Molecular Systems Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart.
He received a BSc. degree in Physics from Imperial College London and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He was a NATO (DAAD) Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University, before joining the Rowland Institute at Harvard. At Harvard he held a Rowland Fellowship and directed an interdisciplinary research lab for five years. In 2009 he received an Attract Award from the Fraunhofer Society which led him to set up a photonics lab at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques in Freiburg. In 2011 he moved his lab to the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, and since 2013 he is a Professor at the University of Stuttgart.
Peer Fischer won an ERC Grant as a consolidator in 2011 and in 2016 he won a World Technology Award. He received an ERC Advanced Grant in 2018. He is a member of the Max Planck – EPFL Center for Molecular Nanoscience and Technology, and the research network on Learning Systems with ETH Zürich. Peer Fischer is a Founding Editorial Board Member of the journal AAAS Science Robotics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Professor Fischer has broad research interests including 3d nanofabrication & assembly, micro- and nano-robotics, active matter, interaction of optical, electric, magnetic, and acoustic fields with matter at small length scales, chirality, and molecular systems engineering.
BSc. degree in Physics from Imperial College London
Nature Reviews Materials, 3, pages: 113–124, May 2018 (article)
Microorganisms can move in complex media, respond to the environment and self-organize. The field of microrobotics strives to achieve these functions in mobile robotic systems of sub-millimetre size. However, miniaturization of traditional robots and their control systems to the microscale is not a viable approach. A promising alternative strategy in developing microrobots is to implement sensing, actuation and control directly in the materials, thereby mimicking biological matter. In this Review, we discuss design principles and materials for the implementation of robotic functionalities in microrobots. We examine different biological locomotion strategies, and we discuss how they can be artificially recreated in magnetic microrobots and how soft materials improve control and performance. We show that smart, stimuli-responsive materials can act as on-board sensors and actuators and that ‘active matter’ enables autonomous motion, navigation and collective behaviours. Finally, we provide a critical outlook for the field of microrobotics and highlight the challenges that need to be overcome to realize sophisticated microrobots, which one day might rival biological machines.
Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology, pages: 26028, (Editors: Margaret Harris), IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors, April 2018 (article)
Peer Fischer outlines the prospects for creating “nanoswimmers” that can be steered through the body to deliver drugs directly to their targets Molecules don’t move very fast on their own. If they had to rely solely on diffusion – a slow and inefficient process linked to the Brownian motion of small particles and molecules in solution – then a protein molecule, for instance, would take around three weeks to travel a single centimetre down a nerve fibre. This is why active transport mechanisms exist in cells and in the human body: without them, all the processes of life would happen at a pace that would make snails look speedy.
Abstract Phototactic microorganisms are commonly observed to respond to natural sunlight by swimming upward against gravity. This study demonstrates that synthetic photochemically active microswimmers can also swim against gravity. The particles initially sediment and, when illuminated at low light intensities exhibit wall‐bound states of motion near the bottom surface. Upon increasing the intensity of light, the artificial swimmers lift off from the wall and swim against gravity and away from the light source. This motion in the bulk has been further confirmed using holographic microscopy. A theoretical model is presented within the framework of self‐diffusiophoresis, which allows to unequivocally identify the photochemical activity and the phototactic response as key mechanisms in the observed phenomenology. Since the lift‐off threshold intensity depends on the particle size, it can be exploited to selectively address particles with the same density from a polydisperse mixture of active particles and move them in or out of the boundary region. This study provides a simple design strategy to fabricate artificial microswimmers whose two‐ or three‐dimensional swimming behavior can be controlled with light.
Abstract In this article, a chiral plasmonic hydrogen‐sensing platform using palladium‐based nanohelices is demonstrated. Such 3D chiral nanostructures fabricated by nanoglancing angle deposition exhibit strong circular dichroism both experimentally and theoretically. The chiroptical properties of the palladium nanohelices are altered upon hydrogen uptake and sensitively depend on the hydrogen concentration. Such properties are well suited for remote and spark‐free hydrogen sensing in the flammable range. Hysteresis is reduced, when an increasing amount of gold is utilized in the palladium‐gold hybrid helices. As a result, the linearity of the circular dichroism in response to hydrogen is significantly improved. The chiral plasmonic sensor scheme is of potential interest for hydrogen‐sensing applications, where good linearity and high sensitivity are required.
Advanced Materials, 30(3):1704507, December 2017, 1704507 (article)
Acoustic assembly promises a route toward rapid parallel fabrication of whole objects directly from solution. This study reports the contact-free and maskless assembly, and fixing of silicone particles into arbitrary 2D shapes using ultrasound fields. Ultrasound passes through an acoustic hologram to form a target image. The particles assemble from a suspension along lines of high pressure in the image due to acoustic radiation forces and are then fixed (crosslinked) in a UV-triggered reaction. For this, the particles are loaded with a photoinitiator by solvent-induced swelling. This localizes the reaction and allows the bulk suspension to be reused. The final fabricated parts are mechanically stable and self-supporting.
New Journal of Physics, 19, pages: 125010, December 2017 (article)
Abstract We study both experimentally and theoretically the dynamics of chemically self-propelled Janus colloids moving atop a two-dimensional crystalline surface. The surface is a hexagonally close-packed monolayer of colloidal particles of the same size as the mobile one. The dynamics of the self-propelled colloid reflects the competition between hindered diffusion due to the periodic surface and enhanced diffusion due to active motion. Which contribution dominates depends on the propulsion strength, which can be systematically tuned by changing the concentration of a chemical fuel. The mean-square displacements obtained from the experiment exhibit enhanced diffusion at long lag times. Our experimental data are consistent with a Langevin model for the effectively two-dimensional translational motion of an active Brownian particle in a periodic potential, combining the confining effects of gravity and the crystalline surface with the free rotational diffusion of the colloid. Approximate analytical predictions are made for the mean-square displacement describing the crossover from free Brownian motion at short times to active diffusion at long times. The results are in semi-quantitative agreement with numerical results of a refined Langevin model that treats translational and rotational degrees of freedom on the same footing.
Endoscopy enables minimally invasive procedures in many medical fields, such as urology. However, current endoscopes are normally cable-driven, which limits their dexterity and makes them hard to miniaturize. Indeed current urological endoscopes have an outer diameter of about 3 mm and still only possess one bending degree of freedom. In this paper, we report a novel wireless actuation mechanism that increases the dexterity and that permits the miniaturization of a urological endoscope. The novel actuator consists of thin active surfaces that can be readily attached to any device and are wirelessly powered by ultrasound. The surfaces consist of two-dimensional arrays of micro-bubbles, which oscillate under ultrasound excitation and thereby generate an acoustic streaming force. Bubbles of different sizes are addressed by their unique resonance frequency, thus multiple degrees of freedom can readily be incorporated. Two active miniaturized devices (with a side length of around 1 mm) are demonstrated: a miniaturized mechanical arm that realizes two degrees of freedom, and a flexible endoscope prototype equipped with a camera at the tip. With the flexible endoscope, an active endoscopic examination is successfully performed in a rabbit bladder. This results show the potential medical applicability of surface actuators wirelessly powered by ultrasound penetrating through biological tissues.
Advanced Materials Interfaces, 4(21):1700933, September 2017 (article)
A major challenge that prevents the miniaturization of mechanically actuated systems is the lack of suitable methods that permit the efficient transfer of power to small scales. Acoustic energy holds great potential, as it is wireless, penetrates deep into biological tissues, and the mechanical vibrations can be directly converted into directional forces. Recently, active acoustic surfaces are developed that consist of 2D arrays of microcavities holding microbubbles that can be excited with an external acoustic field. At resonance, the surfaces give rise to acoustic streaming and thus provide a highly directional propulsive force. Here, this study advances these wireless surface actuators by studying their force output as the size of the bubble-array is increased. In particular, a general method is reported to dramatically improve the propulsive force, demonstrating that the surface actuators are actually able to propel centimeter-scale devices. To prove the flexibility of the functional surfaces as wireless ready-to-attach actuator, a mobile mini-robot capable of propulsion in water along multiple directions is presented. This work paves the way toward effectively exploiting acoustic surfaces as a novel wireless actuation scheme at small scales.
Advanced Science, 4(12):1700234, September 2017 (article)
Nanoparticles composed of functional materials hold great promise for applications due to their unique electronic, optical, magnetic, and catalytic properties. However, a number of functional materials are not only difficult to fabricate at the nanoscale, but are also chemically unstable in solution. Hence, protecting nanoparticles from corrosion is a major challenge for those applications that require stability in aqueous solutions and biological fluids. Here, this study presents a generic scheme to grow hybrid 3D nanoparticles that are completely encapsulated by a nm thick protective shell. The method consists of vacuum-based growth and protection, and combines oblique physical vapor deposition with atomic layer deposition. It provides wide flexibility in the shape and composition of the nanoparticles, and the environments against which particles are protected. The work demonstrates the approach with multifunctional nanoparticles possessing ferromagnetic, plasmonic, and chiral properties. The present scheme allows nanocolloids, which immediately corrode without protection, to remain functional, at least for a week, in acidic solutions.
In 2017 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2017 (inproceedings)
Soft mobile microrobots whose deformation can be directly controlled by an external field can adapt to move in different environments. This is the case for the light-driven microrobots based on liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs). Here we show that the soft microrobots can move through an agarose hydrogel by means of light-controlled travelling-wave motions. This is achieved by exploiting the inherent rise of the LCE temperature above the melting temperature of the agarose gel, which facilitates penetration of the microrobot through the hydrogel. The locomotion performance is investigated as a function of the travelling-wave parameters, showing that effective propulsion can be obtained by adapting the generated motion to the specific environmental conditions.
Advanced Materials, 29, pages: 1701328, June 2017, 32 (article)
The collective phenomena exhibited by artificial active matter systems present novel routes to fabricating out-of-equilibrium microscale assemblies. Here, the crystallization of passive silica colloids into well-controlled 2D assemblies is shown, which is directed by a small number of self-propelled active colloids. The active colloids are titania–silica Janus particles that are propelled when illuminated by UV light. The strength of the attractive interaction and thus the extent of the assembled clusters can be regulated by the light intensity. A remarkably small number of the active colloids is sufficient to induce the assembly of the dynamic crystals. The approach produces rationally designed colloidal clusters and crystals with controllable sizes, shapes, and symmetries. This multicomponent active matter system offers the possibility of obtaining structures and assemblies that cannot be found in equilibrium systems.
Advanced Materials, 29(30):1701024, June 2017, Back Cover (article)
Nanodiamonds are emerging as nanoscale quantum probes for bio-sensing and imaging. This necessitates the development of new methods to accurately manipulate their position and orientation in aqueous solutions. The realization of an “active” nanodiamond (ND) swimmer in fluids, composed of a ND crystal containing nitrogen vacancy centers and a light-driven self-thermophoretic micromotor, is reported. The swimmer is propelled by a local temperature gradient created by laser illumination on its metal-coated side. Its locomotion—from translational to rotational motion—is successfully controlled by shape-dependent hydrodynamic interactions. The precise engineering of the swimmer's geometry is achieved by self-assembly combined with physical vapor shadow growth. The optical addressability of the suspended ND swimmers is demonstrated by observing the electron spin resonance in the presence of magnetic fields. Active motion at the nanoscale enables new sensing capabilities combined with active transport including, potentially, in living organisms.
ANNALS OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, 45(4):963-972, April 2017 (article)
Organ models are used for planning and simulation of operations, developing new surgical instruments, and training purposes. There is a substantial demand for in vitro organ phantoms, especially in urological surgery. Animal models and existing simulator systems poorly mimic the detailed morphology and the physical properties of human organs. In this paper, we report a novel fabrication process to make a human kidney phantom with realistic anatomical structures and physical properties. The detailed anatomical structure was directly acquired from high resolution CT data sets of human cadaveric kidneys. The soft phantoms were constructed using a novel technique that combines 3D wax printing and polymer molding. Anatomical details and material properties of the phantoms were validated in detail by CT scan, ultrasound, and endoscopy. CT reconstruction, ultrasound examination, and endoscopy showed that the designed phantom mimics a real kidney's detailed anatomy and correctly corresponds to the targeted human cadaver's upper urinary tract. Soft materials with a tensile modulus of 0.8-1.5 MPa as well as biocompatible hydrogels were used to mimic human kidney tissues. We developed a method of constructing 3D organ models from medical imaging data using a 3D wax printing and molding process. This method is cost-effective means for obtaining a reproducible and robust model suitable for surgical simulation and training purposes.
In Microbiorobotics (Second edition) , pages: 133 - 162, 8, Micro and Nano Technologies, Second edition, Elsevier, Boston, March 2017 (incollection)
Abstract Swimming microorganisms are a source of inspiration for small scale robots that are intended to operate in fluidic environments including complex biomedical fluids. Nature has devised swimming strategies that are effective at small scales and at low Reynolds number. These include the rotary corkscrew motion that, for instance, propels a flagellated bacterial cell, as well as the asymmetric beat of appendages that sperm cells or ciliated protozoa use to move through fluids. These mechanisms can overcome the reciprocity that governs the hydrodynamics at small scale. The complex molecular structure of biologically important fluids presents an additional challenge for the effective propulsion of microrobots. In this chapter it is shown how physical and chemical approaches are essential in realizing engineered abiotic micro- and nanorobots that can move in biomedically important environments. Interestingly, we also describe a microswimmer that is effective in biological viscoelastic fluids that does not have a natural analogue.
JOURNAL OF PHYSICS D-APPLIED PHYSICS, 50(11), Febuary 2017 (article)
Self-propelled particles are one prototype of synthetic active matter used to understand complex biological processes, such as the coordination of movement in bacterial colonies or schools of fishes. Collective patterns such as clusters were observed for such systems, reproducing features of biological organization. However, one limitation of this model is that the synthetic assemblies are made of identical individuals. Here we introduce an active system based on magnetic particles at colloidal scales. We use identical but also randomly-shaped magnetic micropropellers and show that they exhibit dynamic and reversible pattern formation.
LAB ON A CHIP, 17(10):1761-1768, Febuary 2017, Recent HOT Article (article)
A variety of diagnostic and therapeutic medical technologies rely on long term implantation of an electronic device to monitor or regulate a patient's condition. One proposed approach to powering these devices is to use a biofuel cell to convert the chemical energy from blood nutrients into electrical current to supply the electronics. We present here an enzymatic microbiofuel cell whose electrodes are directly integrated into a digital electronic circuit. Glucose oxidizing and oxygen reducing enzymes are immobilized on microelectrodes of an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) using redox hydrogels to produce an enzymatic biofuel cell, capable of harvesting electrical power from just a single droplet of 5 mM glucose solution. Optimisation of the fuel cell voltage and power to match the requirements of the electronics allow self-powered operation of the on-board digital circuitry. This study represents a step towards implantable self-powered electronic devices that gather their energy from physiological fluids.
ADVANCED MATERIALS, 29(13), January 2017 (article)
Masked by rotational anisotropies, the nonlinear chiroptical response of a metamaterial is initially completely inaccessible. Upon rotating the sample the chiral information emerges. These results highlight the need for a general method to extract the true chiral contributions to the nonlinear optical signal, which would be hugely valuable in the present context of increasingly complex chiral meta/nanomaterials.
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. (C) 2016 Author(s).
EUROPEAN PHYSICAL JOURNAL-SPECIAL TOPICS, 225(11-12):2241-2254, November 2016 (article)
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.
NATURE MATERIALS, 15(6):647+, November 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views. (article)
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.
ADVANCED MATERIALS, 28(44):9846+, September 2016 (article)
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.
CHEMICAL COMMUNICATIONS, 52(82):12179-12182, September 2016 (article)
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.
NATURE, 537(7621):518+, September 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views, Nature Video. (article)
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.
Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views, Nature Video.
JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 145(10), September 2016 (article)
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.
In 2016 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2016 (inproceedings)
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.
NANO LETTERS, 16(8):4887-4894, July 2016 (article)
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).
In 2016 IEEE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION (ICRA), pages: 4951-4956, May 2016 (inproceedings)
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.
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.
NANO LETTERS, 16(2):906-910, January 2016 (article)
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.
Google Patents, 2016, WO Patent App. PCT/EP2016/056,377 (misc)
The present invention relates to a method for encapsulating a nanostructure, the method comprising the steps of: -providing a substrate; -forming a plug composed of plug material at said substrate; -forming a nanostructure (on or) at said plug; -forming a shell composed of at least one shell material on external surfaces of the nanostructure, with the at least one shell material covering said nanostructure and at least some of the plug material,whereby the shell and the plug encapsulate the nanostructure. The invention further relates to a coated nanostructure and to the use of a coated nanostructure.
Science Advances, 1(11), American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 2015 (article)
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.
In 2015 37TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE IEEE ENGINEERING IN MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY SOCIETY (EMBC), pages: 4922-4925, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Conference Proceedings, August 2015, 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), Milan, ITALY, AUG 25-29, 2015 (inproceedings)
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.
pfQiu, T., Palagi, S., Fischer, P.3D-printed Soft Microrobot for Swimming in Biological Fluids
In 2015 37TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE IEEE ENGINEERING IN MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY SOCIETY (EMBC), pages: 4922-4925, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Conference Proceedings, August 2015, 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), Milan, ITALY, AUG 25-29, 2015 (inproceedings)
NANO LETTERS, 15(7):4412-4416, June 2015 (article)
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.
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION, 54(23):6730+, May 2015, Featured cover article. (article)
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.
CHEMICAL COMMUNICATIONS, 51(41):8660-8663, April 2015 (article)
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.
CHEMICAL COMMUNICATIONS, 51(20):4192-4195, Febuary 2015 (article)
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.
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.
ACS Nano, 8(9):8794-8801, June 2014, Featured cover article. (article)
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.
In 2014 IEEE 27th International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS), pages: 437-440, January 2014 (inproceedings)
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 . 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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 5, 2014, Max Planck Press Release. (article)
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.
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.
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.
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).
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems