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2020


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI [BibTex]

2020


DOI [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Thermal Effects on the Crystallization Kinetics, and Interfacial Adhesion of Single-Crystal Phase-Change Gallium
Thermal Effects on the Crystallization Kinetics, and Interfacial Adhesion of Single-Crystal Phase-Change Gallium

Yunusa, M., Lahlou, A., Sitti, M.

Advanced Materials, Wiley Online Library, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Although substrates play an important role upon crystallization of supercooled liquids, the influences of surface temperature and thermal property have remained elusive. Here, the crystallization of supercooled phase‐change gallium (Ga) on substrates with different thermal conductivity is studied. The effect of interfacial temperature on the crystallization kinetics, which dictates thermo‐mechanical stresses between the substrate and the crystallized Ga, is investigated. At an elevated surface temperature, close to the melting point of Ga, an extended single‐crystal growth of Ga on dielectric substrates due to layering effect and annealing is realized without the application of external fields. Adhesive strength at the interfaces depends on the thermal conductivity and initial surface temperature of the substrates. This insight can be applicable to other liquid metals for industrial applications, and sheds more light on phase‐change memory crystallization.

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[BibTex]


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Nanoerythrosome-functionalized biohybrid microswimmers

Nicole, Oncay, Yunus, Birgul, Metin Sitti

2020 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Injectable Nanoelectrodes Enable Wireless Deep Brain Stimulation of Native Tissue in Freely Moving Mice
Injectable Nanoelectrodes Enable Wireless Deep Brain Stimulation of Native Tissue in Freely Moving Mice

Kozielski, K. L., Jahanshahi, A., Gilbert, H. B., Yu, Y., Erin, O., Francisco, D., Alosaimi, F., Temel, Y., Sitti, M.

bioRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2020 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Statistical reprogramming of macroscopic self-assembly with dynamic boundaries

Utku, , Massimo, , Zoey, , Sitti,

2020 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Controlling two-dimensional collective formation and cooperative behavior of magnetic microrobot swarms
Controlling two-dimensional collective formation and cooperative behavior of magnetic microrobot swarms

Dong, X., Sitti, M.

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Magnetically actuated mobile microrobots can access distant, enclosed, and small spaces, such as inside microfluidic channels and the human body, making them appealing for minimally invasive tasks. Despite their simplicity when scaling down, creating collective microrobots that can work closely and cooperatively, as well as reconfigure their formations for different tasks, would significantly enhance their capabilities such as manipulation of objects. However, a challenge of realizing such cooperative magnetic microrobots is to program and reconfigure their formations and collective motions with under-actuated control signals. This article presents a method of controlling 2D static and time-varying formations among collective self-repelling ferromagnetic microrobots (100 μm to 350 μm in diameter, up to 260 in number) by spatially and temporally programming an external magnetic potential energy distribution at the air–water interface or on solid surfaces. A general design method is introduced to program external magnetic potential energy using ferromagnets. A predictive model of the collective system is also presented to predict the formation and guide the design procedure. With the proposed method, versatile complex static formations are experimentally demonstrated and the programmability and scaling effects of formations are analyzed. We also demonstrate the collective mobility of these magnetic microrobots by controlling them to exhibit bio-inspired collective behaviors such as aggregation, directional motion with arbitrary swarm headings, and rotational swarming motion. Finally, the functions of the produced microrobotic swarm are demonstrated by controlling them to navigate through cluttered environments and complete reconfigurable cooperative manipulation tasks.

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DOI [BibTex]


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TUM Flyers: Vision-Based MAV Navigation for Systematic Inspection of Structures

Usenko, V., Stumberg, L. V., Stückler, J., Cremers, D.

In Bringing Innovative Robotic Technologies from Research Labs to Industrial End-users: The Experience of the European Robotics Challenges, 136, pages: 189-209, Springer International Publishing, 2020 (inbook)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Analytical classical density functionals from an equation learning network

Lin, S., Martius, G., Oettel, M.

The Journal of Chemical Physics, 152(2):021102, 2020, arXiv preprint \url{https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.12752} (article)

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Preprint_PDF DOI [BibTex]

Preprint_PDF DOI [BibTex]


Characterization and Thermal Management of a DC Motor-Driven Resonant Actuator for Miniature Mobile Robots with Oscillating Limbs
Characterization and Thermal Management of a DC Motor-Driven Resonant Actuator for Miniature Mobile Robots with Oscillating Limbs

Colmenares, D., Kania, R., Liu, M., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:2002.00798, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we characterize the performance of and develop thermal management solutions for a DC motor-driven resonant actuator developed for flapping wing micro air vehicles. The actuator, a DC micro-gearmotor connected in parallel with a torsional spring, drives reciprocal wing motion. Compared to the gearmotor alone, this design increased torque and power density by 161.1% and 666.8%, respectively, while decreasing the drawn current by 25.8%. Characterization of the actuator, isolated from nonlinear aerodynamic loading, results in standard metrics directly comparable to other actuators. The micro-motor, selected for low weight considerations, operates at high power for limited duration due to thermal effects. To predict system performance, a lumped parameter thermal circuit model was developed. Critical model parameters for this micro-motor, two orders of magnitude smaller than those previously characterized, were identified experimentally. This included the effects of variable winding resistance, bushing friction, speed-dependent forced convection, and the addition of a heatsink. The model was then used to determine a safe operation envelope for the vehicle and to design a weight-optimal heatsink. This actuator design and thermal modeling approach could be applied more generally to improve the performance of any miniature mobile robot or device with motor-driven oscillating limbs or loads.

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[BibTex]


Magnetic Resonance Imaging System--Driven Medical Robotics
Magnetic Resonance Imaging System–Driven Medical Robotics

Erin, O., Boyvat, M., Tiryaki, M. E., Phelan, M., Sitti, M.

Advanced Intelligent Systems, 2, Wiley Online Library, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system–driven medical robotics is an emerging field that aims to use clinical MRI systems not only for medical imaging but also for actuation, localization, and control of medical robots. Submillimeter scale resolution of MR images for soft tissues combined with the electromagnetic gradient coil–based magnetic actuation available inside MR scanners can enable theranostic applications of medical robots for precise image‐guided minimally invasive interventions. MRI‐driven robotics typically does not introduce new MRI instrumentation for actuation but instead focuses on converting already available instrumentation for robotic purposes. To use the advantages of this technology, various medical devices such as untethered mobile magnetic robots and tethered active catheters have been designed to be powered magnetically inside MRI systems. Herein, the state‐of‐the‐art progress, challenges, and future directions of MRI‐driven medical robotic systems are reviewed.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Pros and Cons: Magnetic versus Optical Microrobots
Pros and Cons: Magnetic versus Optical Microrobots

Sitti, M., Wiersma, D. S.

Advanced Materials, Wiley Online Library, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Mobile microrobotics has emerged as a new robotics field within the last decade to create untethered tiny robots that can access and operate in unprecedented, dangerous, or hard‐to‐reach small spaces noninvasively toward disruptive medical, biotechnology, desktop manufacturing, environmental remediation, and other potential applications. Magnetic and optical actuation methods are the most widely used actuation methods in mobile microrobotics currently, in addition to acoustic and biological (cell‐driven) actuation approaches. The pros and cons of these actuation methods are reported here, depending on the given context. They can both enable long‐range, fast, and precise actuation of single or a large number of microrobots in diverse environments. Magnetic actuation has unique potential for medical applications of microrobots inside nontransparent tissues at high penetration depths, while optical actuation is suitable for more biotechnology, lab‐/organ‐on‐a‐chip, and desktop manufacturing types of applications with much less surface penetration depth requirements or with transparent environments. Combining both methods in new robot designs can have a strong potential of combining the pros of both methods. There is still much progress needed in both actuation methods to realize the potential disruptive applications of mobile microrobots in real‐world conditions.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Selectively Controlled Magnetic Microrobots with Opposing Helices
Selectively Controlled Magnetic Microrobots with Opposing Helices

Giltinan, J., Katsamba, P., Wang, W., Lauga, E., Sitti, M.

Applied Physics Letters, 116, AIP Publishing LLC, 2020 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Acoustically powered surface-slipping mobile microrobots
Acoustically powered surface-slipping mobile microrobots

Aghakhani, A., Yasa, O., Wrede, P., Sitti, M.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117, National Acad Sciences, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Untethered synthetic microrobots have significant potential to revolutionize minimally invasive medical interventions in the future. However, their relatively slow speed and low controllability near surfaces typically are some of the barriers standing in the way of their medical applications. Here, we introduce acoustically powered microrobots with a fast, unidirectional surface-slipping locomotion on both flat and curved surfaces. The proposed three-dimensionally printed, bullet-shaped microrobot contains a spherical air bubble trapped inside its internal body cavity, where the bubble is resonated using acoustic waves. The net fluidic flow due to the bubble oscillation orients the microrobot's axisymmetric axis perpendicular to the wall and then propels it laterally at very high speeds (up to 90 body lengths per second with a body length of 25 µm) while inducing an attractive force toward the wall. To achieve unidirectional locomotion, a small fin is added to the microrobot’s cylindrical body surface, which biases the propulsion direction. For motion direction control, the microrobots are coated anisotropically with a soft magnetic nanofilm layer, allowing steering under a uniform magnetic field. Finally, surface locomotion capability of the microrobots is demonstrated inside a three-dimensional circular cross-sectional microchannel under acoustic actuation. Overall, the combination of acoustic powering and magnetic steering can be effectively utilized to actuate and navigate these microrobots in confined and hard-to-reach body location areas in a minimally invasive fashion.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Bio-inspired Flexible Twisting Wings Increase Lift and Efficiency of a Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle
Bio-inspired Flexible Twisting Wings Increase Lift and Efficiency of a Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle

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

arXiv preprint arXiv:2001.11586, 2020 (article)

Abstract
We investigate the effect of wing twist flexibility on lift and efficiency of a flapping-wing micro air vehicle capable of liftoff. Wings used previously were chosen to be fully rigid due to modeling and fabrication constraints. 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 dynamic twisting of flexible wings can increase overall aerodynamic lift and efficiency. A flexible twisting wing design was found to increase aerodynamic efficiency by 41.3%, translational lift production by 35.3%, and the effective lift coefficient by 63.7% compared to the rigid-wing design. These results exceed the predictions of quasi-steady blade element models, indicating the need for unsteady computational fluid dynamics simulations of twisted flapping wings.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms
Cohesive self-organization of mobile microrobotic swarms

Yigit, B., Alapan, Y., Sitti, M.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1907.05856, 2020 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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[BibTex]


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Multifunctional Surface Microrollers for Targeted Cargo Delivery in Physiological Blood Flow

Yunus, , Ugur, , Alp, , Metin,

2020 (article) Accepted

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[BibTex]


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Visual-Inertial Mapping with Non-Linear Factor Recovery

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

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

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

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Bioinspired underwater locomotion of light-driven liquid crystal gels
Bioinspired underwater locomotion of light-driven liquid crystal gels

Shahsavan, H., Aghakhani, A., Zeng, H., Guo, Y., Davidson, Z. S., Priimagi, A., Sitti, M.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, National Acad Sciences, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Untethered dynamic shape programming and control of soft materials have significant applications in technologies such as soft robots, medical devices, organ-on-a-chip, and optical devices. Here, we present a solution to remotely actuate and move soft materials underwater in a fast, efficient, and controlled manner using photoresponsive liquid crystal gels (LCGs). LCG constructs with engineered molecular alignment show a low and sharp phase-transition temperature and experience considerable density reduction by light exposure, thereby allowing rapid and reversible shape changes. We demonstrate different modes of underwater locomotion, such as crawling, walking, jumping, and swimming, by localized and time-varying illumination of LCGs. The diverse locomotion modes of smart LCGs can provide a new toolbox for designing efficient light-fueled soft robots in fluid-immersed media.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Differentiation of blackbox combinatorial solvers
Differentiation of blackbox combinatorial solvers

Vlastelica, M., Paulus, A., Musil, V., Martius, G., Rolı́nek, M.

In International Conference on Learning Representations, ICLR’20, 2020 (incollection)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Additive manufacturing of cellulose-based materials with continuous, multidirectional stiffness gradients
Additive manufacturing of cellulose-based materials with continuous, multidirectional stiffness gradients

Giachini, P., Gupta, S., Wang, W., Wood, D., Yunusa, M., Baharlou, E., Sitti, M., Menges, A.

Science Advances, 6, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Functionally graded materials (FGMs) enable applications in fields such as biomedicine and architecture, but their fabrication suffers from shortcomings in gradient continuity, interfacial bonding, and directional freedom. In addition, most commercial design software fail to incorporate property gradient data, hindering explorations of the design space of FGMs. Here, we leveraged a combined approach of materials engineering and digital processing to enable extrusion-based multimaterial additive manufacturing of cellulose-based tunable viscoelastic materials with continuous, high-contrast, and multidirectional stiffness gradients. A method to engineer sets of cellulose-based materials with similar compositions, yet distinct mechanical and rheological properties, was established. In parallel, a digital workflow was developed to embed gradient information into design models with integrated fabrication path planning. The payoff of integrating these physical and digital tools is the ability to achieve the same stiffness gradient in multiple ways, opening design possibilities previously limited by the rigid coupling of material and geometry.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2015


Untethered Magnetic Micromanipulation
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]

2015


DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Experimental investigation of optimal adhesion of mushroomlike elastomer microfibrillar adhesives
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]


pH-taxis of biohybrid microsystems
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]


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


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


Transfer Printing of Metallic Microstructures on Adhesion-Promoting Hydrogel Substrates
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]


Biomedical applications of untethered mobile milli/microrobots
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]


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


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


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


Actively controlled fibrillar friction surfaces
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.

pi

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Quantifying Emergent Behavior of Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Olbrich, E.

Entropy, 17(10):7266, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]