A mobile microrobot is a sub-millimeter size untethered machine with partly or fully self-contained capabilities for locomotion, sensing, functional operation, and control. Due to its small size and wireless mobility, it can operate in confined, hard-to-reach, and dynamic environments, and can be programmed for multiple tasks. Microrobotics has emerged as a rapidly growing research field by integrating robotics with micro/nanoscale engineering and physics, materials science, biology, and chemistry. At comparable length scales, the innate functioning of cells, such as bacteria, algae, neutrophils, or multicellular microorganisms, such as trypanosomes, can provide a rich source of inspiration to create similarly performing synthetic robot designs. Alternatively, microorganisms themselves can provide the locomotion, sensing, and control behavior in a biohybrid microrobot design. The interested readers are directed to read more here dedicated to the design principles of microrobots.
Untethered mobile microrobots have the potential to transform medicine in a radical way. Their small size and wireless mobility can enable access to and navigation in confined, small, hard-to-reach, and sensitive inner body sites, where they can provide new ways of minimally invasive interventions and targeted diagnosis and therapy down to the cellular length scales with high precision and repeatability. To enable intelligent capabilities at the microscopic size scales, my research focuses on new materials, design and fabrication strategies.
New Materials for Microrobots
Conventionally, a robot is made to perceive and learn by means of on-board sensing and computational capabilities, so that it can decide an appropriate response in given environmental conditions. Achieving such computational capabilities at the smaller dimensions is a major research question. Programmable physical and chemical properties of microrobots, dynamically interacting with its surrounding world, sensing, and adapting to the changes in the environment can enable robust design routes for making sophisticated systems at the microscale. In nature, organisms without brains, such as slime molds, bacteria, and plants, already use physical intelligence as the main route of making decisions and adaptations to complex and evolving conditions. To this end, I am developing new materials and fabrication strategies combining the design pillars required for medical microrobots.