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2017


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Active colloidal propulsion over a crystalline surface

Choudhury, U., Straube, A., Fischer, P., Gibbs, J., Höfling, F.

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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2017


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning

Marco, A., Hennig, P., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

Proceedings of the 56th IEEE Annual Conference on Decision and Control (CDC), pages: 5193-5200, IEEE, IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, December 2017 (conference)

Abstract
Finding optimal feedback controllers for nonlinear dynamic systems from data is hard. Recently, Bayesian optimization (BO) has been proposed as a powerful framework for direct controller tuning from experimental trials. For selecting the next query point and finding the global optimum, BO relies on a probabilistic description of the latent objective function, typically a Gaussian process (GP). As is shown herein, GPs with a common kernel choice can, however, lead to poor learning outcomes on standard quadratic control problems. For a first-order system, we construct two kernels that specifically leverage the structure of the well-known Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR), yet retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulations of uncertain linear and nonlinear systems demonstrate that the LQR kernels yield superior learning performance.

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arXiv PDF On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning - CDC presentation DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF On the Design of LQR Kernels for Efficient Controller Learning - CDC presentation DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Wireless Acoustic-Surface Actuators for Miniaturized Endoscopes

Qiu, T., Adams, F., Palagi, S., Melde, K., Mark, A. G., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P.

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 9(49):42536 - 42543, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optimizing Long-term Predictions for Model-based Policy Search

Doerr, A., Daniel, C., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Marco, A., Schaal, S., Toussaint, M., Trimpe, S.

Proceedings of 1st Annual Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL), 78, pages: 227-238, (Editors: Sergey Levine and Vincent Vanhoucke and Ken Goldberg), 1st Annual Conference on Robot Learning, November 2017 (conference)

Abstract
We propose a novel long-term optimization criterion to improve the robustness of model-based reinforcement learning in real-world scenarios. Learning a dynamics model to derive a solution promises much greater data-efficiency and reusability compared to model-free alternatives. In practice, however, modelbased RL suffers from various imperfections such as noisy input and output data, delays and unmeasured (latent) states. To achieve higher resilience against such effects, we propose to optimize a generative long-term prediction model directly with respect to the likelihood of observed trajectories as opposed to the common approach of optimizing a dynamics model for one-step-ahead predictions. We evaluate the proposed method on several artificial and real-world benchmark problems and compare it to PILCO, a model-based RL framework, in experiments on a manipulation robot. The results show that the proposed method is competitive compared to state-of-the-art model learning methods. In contrast to these more involved models, our model can directly be employed for policy search and outperforms a baseline method in the robot experiment.

am ics

PDF Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Active Acoustic Surfaces Enable the Propulsion of a Wireless Robot

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

Advanced Materials Interfaces, 4(21):1700933, September 2017 (article)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Corrosion-Protected Hybrid Nanoparticles

Jeong, H. H., Alarcon-Correa, M., Mark, A. G., Son, K., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

Advanced Science, 4(12):1700234, September 2017 (article)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Locomotion of light-driven soft microrobots through a hydrogel via local melting

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

In 2017 International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), pages: 1-5, July 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Event-based State Estimation: An Emulation-based Approach

Trimpe, S.

IET Control Theory & Applications, 11(11):1684-1693, July 2017 (article)

Abstract
An event-based state estimation approach for reducing communication in a networked control system is proposed. Multiple distributed sensor agents observe a dynamic process and sporadically transmit their measurements to estimator agents over a shared bus network. Local event-triggering protocols ensure that data is transmitted only when necessary to meet a desired estimation accuracy. The event-based design is shown to emulate the performance of a centralised state observer design up to guaranteed bounds, but with reduced communication. The stability results for state estimation are extended to the distributed control system that results when the local estimates are used for feedback control. Results from numerical simulations and hardware experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in reducing network communication.

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arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Non-Equilibrium Assembly of Light-Activated Colloidal Mixtures

Singh, D. P., Choudhury, U., Fischer, P., Mark, A. G.

Advanced Materials, 29, pages: 1701328, June 2017, 32 (article)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nanodiamonds That Swim

Kim, J. T., Choudhury, U., Hyeon-Ho, J., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 29(30):1701024, June 2017, Back Cover (article)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Model-Based Policy Search for Automatic Tuning of Multivariate PID Controllers

Doerr, A., Nguyen-Tuong, D., Marco, A., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5295-5301, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

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PDF arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Virtual vs. Real: Trading Off Simulations and Physical Experiments in Reinforcement Learning with Bayesian Optimization

Marco, A., Berkenkamp, F., Hennig, P., Schoellig, A. P., Krause, A., Schaal, S., Trimpe, S.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1557-1563, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

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PDF arXiv ICRA 2017 Spotlight presentation Virtual vs. Real - Video explanation DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF arXiv ICRA 2017 Spotlight presentation Virtual vs. Real - Video explanation DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Soft 3D-Printed Phantom of the Human Kidney with Collecting System

Adams, F., Qiu, T., Mark, A., Fritz, B., Kramer, L., Schlager, D., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P.

Ann. of Biomed. Eng., 45(4):963-972, April 2017 (article)

Abstract
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.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Chapter 8 - Micro- and nanorobots in Newtonian and biological viscoelastic fluids

Palagi, S., (Walker) Schamel, D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

In Microbiorobotics, 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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Wireless micro-robots for endoscopic applications in urology

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

In Eur Urol Suppl, 16(3):e1914, March 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Endoscopy is an essential and common method for both diagnostics and therapy in Urology. Current flexible endoscope is normally cable-driven, thus it is hard to be miniaturized and its reachability is restricted as only one bending section near the tip with one degree of freedom (DoF) is allowed. Recent progresses in micro-robotics offer a unique opportunity for medical inspections in minimally invasive surgery. Micro-robots are active devices that has a feature size smaller than one millimeter and can normally be actuated and controlled wirelessly. Magnetically actuated micro-robots have been demonstrated to propel through biological fluids.Here, we report a novel micro robotic arm, which is actuated wirelessly by ultrasound. It works as a miniaturized endoscope with a side length of ~1 mm, which fits through the 3 Fr. tool channel of a cystoscope, and successfully performs an active cystoscopy in a rabbit bladder.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Pattern formation and collective effects in populations of magnetic microswimmers

Vach, P. J., (Walker) Schamel, D., Fischer, P., Fratzl, P., Faivre, D.

J. of Phys. D: Appl. Phys., 50(11):11LT03, Febuary 2017 (article)

Abstract
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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On-chip enzymatic microbiofuel cell-powered integrated circuits

Mark, A. G., Suraniti, E., Roche, J., Richter, H., Kuhn, A., Mano, N., Fischer, P.

Lab on a Chip, 17(10):1761-1768, Febuary 2017, Recent HOT Article (article)

Abstract
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.

Recent HOT Article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Strong Rotational Anisotropies Affect Nonlinear Chiral Metamaterials

Hooper, D. C., Mark, A. G., Kuppe, C., Collins, J. T., Fischer, P., Valev, V. K.

Advanced Materials, 29(13):1605110, January 2017 (article)

Abstract
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.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Momentum-Centered Control of Contact Interactions

Righetti, L., Herzog, A.

In Geometric and Numerical Foundations of Movements, 117, pages: 339-359, Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics, Springer, Cham, 2017 (incollection)

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Pattern Generation for Walking on Slippery Terrains

Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

In 2017 5th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), Iran, August 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we extend state of the art Model Predictive Control (MPC) approaches to generate safe bipedal walking on slippery surfaces. In this setting, we formulate walking as a trade off between realizing a desired walking velocity and preserving robust foot-ground contact. Exploiting this for- mulation inside MPC, we show that safe walking on various flat terrains can be achieved by compromising three main attributes, i. e. walking velocity tracking, the Zero Moment Point (ZMP) modulation, and the Required Coefficient of Friction (RCoF) regulation. Simulation results show that increasing the walking velocity increases the possibility of slippage, while reducing the slippage possibility conflicts with reducing the tip-over possibility of the contact and vice versa.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2011


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Quantum-Cascade Laser-Based Vibrational Circular Dichroism

Luedeke, S., Pfeifer, M., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 133(15):5704-5707, 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectra were recorded with a tunable external-cavity quantum-cascade laser (QCL). In comparison with standard thermal light sources in the IR, QCLs provide orders of magnitude more power and are therefore promising for VCD studies in strongly absorbing solvents. The brightness of this novel light source is demonstrated with VCD and IR absorption measurements of a number of compounds, including proline in water.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2011


DOI [BibTex]


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Actively coupled cavity ringdown spectroscopy with low-power broadband sources

Petermann, C., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 19(11):10164-10173, 2011 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a coupling scheme for cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy that makes use of an intracavity acousto-optical modulator to actively switch light into (and out of) a resonator. This allows cavity ringdown spectroscopy (CRDS) to be implemented with broadband nonlaser light sources with spectral power densities of less than 30 mu W/nm. Although the acousto-optical element reduces the ultimate detection limit by introducing additional losses, it permits absorptivities to be measured with a high dynamic range, especially in lossy environments. Absorption measurements for the forbidden transition of gaseous oxygen in air at similar to 760nm are presented using a low-coherence cw-superluminescent diode. The same setup was electronically configured to cover absorption losses from 1.8 x 10(-8)cm(-1) to 7.5\% per roundtrip. This could be of interest in process analytical applications. (C) 2011 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Magnetically actuated propulsion at low Reynolds numbers: towards nanoscale control

Fischer, P., Ghosh, A.

NANOSCALE, 3(2):557-563, 2011 (article)

Abstract
Significant progress has been made in the fabrication of micron and sub-micron structures whose motion can be controlled in liquids under ambient conditions. The aim of many of these engineering endeavors is to be able to build and propel an artificial micro-structure that rivals the versatility of biological swimmers of similar size, e. g. motile bacterial cells. Applications for such artificial ``micro-bots'' are envisioned to range from microrheology to targeted drug delivery and microsurgery, and require full motion-control under ambient conditions. In this Mini-Review we discuss the construction, actuation, and operation of several devices that have recently been reported, especially systems that can be controlled by and propelled with homogenous magnetic fields. We describe the fabrication and associated experimental challenges and discuss potential applications.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


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Weak value amplified optical activity measurements

Pfeifer, M., Fischer, P.

Opt. Express, 19(17):16508-16517, OSA, 2011 (article)

Abstract
We present a new form of optical activity measurement based on a modified weak value amplification scheme. It has recently been shown experimentally that the left- and right-circular polarization components refract with slightly different angles of refraction at a chiral interface causing a linearly polarized light beam to split into two. By introducing a polarization modulation that does not give rise to a change in the optical rotation it is possible to differentiate between the two circular polarization components even after post-selection with a linear polarizer. We show that such a modified weak value amplification measurement permits the sign of the splitting and thus the handedness of the optically active medium to be determined. Angular beam separations of Δθ ∼ 1 nanoradian, which corresponds to a circular birefringence of Δn ∼ 1 × 10−9, could be measured with a relative error of less than 1%.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Toward simple control for complex, autonomous robotic applications: combining discrete and rhythmic motor primitives

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Gay, S., Ijspeert, A.

Autonomous Robots, 31(2-3):155-181, October 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vertebrates are able to quickly adapt to new environments in a very robust, seemingly effortless way. To explain both this adaptivity and robustness, a very promising perspective in neurosciences is the modular approach to movement generation: Movements results from combinations of a finite set of stable motor primitives organized at the spinal level. In this article we apply this concept of modular generation of movements to the control of robots with a high number of degrees of freedom, an issue that is challenging notably because planning complex, multidimensional trajectories in time-varying environments is a laborious and costly process. We thus propose to decrease the complexity of the planning phase through the use of a combination of discrete and rhythmic motor primitives, leading to the decoupling of the planning phase (i.e. the choice of behavior) and the actual trajectory generation. Such implementation eases the control of, and the switch between, different behaviors by reducing the dimensionality of the high-level commands. Moreover, since the motor primitives are generated by dynamical systems, the trajectories can be smoothly modulated, either by high-level commands to change the current behavior or by sensory feedback information to adapt to environmental constraints. In order to show the generality of our approach, we apply the framework to interactive drumming and infant crawling in a humanoid robot. These experiments illustrate the simplicity of the control architecture in terms of planning, the integration of different types of feedback (vision and contact) and the capacity of autonomously switching between different behaviors (crawling and simple reaching).

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Los Angeles, CA, USA, June 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The operational space formulation (Khatib, 1987), applied to rigid-body manipulators, describes how to decouple task-space and null-space dynamics, and write control equations that correspond only to forces at the end-effector or, alternatively, only to motion within the null-space. We would like to apply this useful theory to modern humanoids and other legged systems, for manipulation or similar tasks, however these systems present additional challenges due to their underactuated floating bases and contact states that can dynamically change. In recent work, Sentis et al. derived controllers for such systems by implementing a task Jacobian projected into a space consistent with the supporting constraints and underactuation (the so called "support consistent reduced Jacobian"). Here, we take a new approach to derive operational space controllers for constrained underactuated systems, by first considering the operational space dynamics within "projected inverse-dynamics" (Aghili, 2005), and subsequently resolving underactuation through the addition of dynamically consistent control torques. Doing so results in a simplified control solution compared with previous results, and importantly yields several new insights into the underlying problem of operational space control in constrained environments: 1) Underactuated systems, such as humanoid robots, cannot in general completely decouple task and null-space dynamics. However, 2) there may exist an infinite number of control solutions to realize desired task-space dynamics, and 3) these solutions involve the addition of dynamically consistent null-space motion or constraint forces (or combinations of both). In light of these findings, we present several possible control solutions, with varying optimization criteria, and highlight some of their practical consequences.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2007


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Frequency-domain displacement sensing with a fiber ring-resonator containing a variable gap

Vollmer, F., Fischer, P.

SENSORS AND ACTUATORS A-PHYSICAL, 134(2):410-413, 2007 (article)

Abstract
Ring-resonators are in general not amenable to strain-free (non-contact) displacement measurements. We show that this limitation may be overcome if the ring-resonator, here a fiber-loop, is designed to contain a gap, such that the light traverses a free-space part between two aligned waveguide ends. Displacements are determined with nanometer sensitivity by measuring the associated changes in the resonance frequencies. Miniaturization should increase the sensitivity of the ring-resonator interferometer. Ring geometries that contain an optical circulator can be used to profile reflective samples. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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DOI [BibTex]

2007


DOI [BibTex]


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Observation of the Faraday effect via beam deflection in a longitudinal magnetic field

Ghosh, A., Hill, W., Fischer, P.

PHYSICAL REVIEW A, 76(5), 2007 (article)

Abstract
We show that magnetic-field-induced circular differential deflection of light can be observed in reflection or refraction at a single interface. The difference in the reflection or refraction angles between the two circular polarization components is a function of the magnetic-field strength and the Verdet constant, and permits the observation of the Faraday effect not via polarization rotation in transmission, but via changes in the propagation direction. Deflection measurements do not suffer from n-pi ambiguities and are shown to be another means to map magnetic fields with high axial resolution, or to determine the sign and magnitude of magnetic-field pulses in a single measurement.

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DOI [BibTex]


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Circular differential double diffraction in chiral media

Ghosh, A., Fazal, F. M., Fischer, P.

OPTICS LETTERS, 32(13):1836-1838, 2007 (article)

Abstract
In an optically active liquid the diffraction angle depends on the circular polarization state of the incident light beam. We report the observation of circular differential diffraction in an isotropic chiral medium, and we demonstrate that double diffraction is an alternate means to determine the handedness (enantiomeric excess) of a solution. (c) 2007 Optical Society of America.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Hand placement during quadruped locomotion in a humanoid robot: A dynamical system approach

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 2047-2052, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Locomotion on an irregular surface is a challenging task in robotics. Among different problems to solve to obtain robust locomotion, visually guided locomotion and accurate foot placement are of crucial importance. Robust controllers able to adapt to sensory-motor feedbacks, in particular to properly place feet on specific locations, are thus needed. Dynamical systems are well suited for this task as any online modification of the parameters leads to a smooth adaptation of the trajectories, allowing a safe integration of sensory-motor feedback. In this contribution, as a first step in the direction of locomotion on irregular surfaces, we present a controller that allows hand placement during crawling in a simulated humanoid robot. The goal of the controller is to superimpose rhythmic movements for crawling with discrete (i.e. short-term) modulations of the hand placements to reach specific marks on the ground.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lower body realization of the baby humanoid - ‘iCub’

Tsagarakis, N., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A., Caldwell, D.

In 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3616-3622, IEEE, San Diego, USA, 2007 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Nowadays, the understanding of the human cognition and it application to robotic systems forms a great challenge of research. The iCub is a robotic platform that was developed within the RobotCub European project to provide the cognition research community with an open baby- humanoid platform for understanding and development of cognitive systems. In this paper we present the design requirements and mechanical realization of the lower body developed for the "iCub". In particular the leg and the waist mechanisms adopted for lower body to match the size and physical abilities of a 2 frac12 year old human baby are introduced.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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iCub - The Design and Realization of an Open Humanoid Platform for Cognitive and Neuroscience Research

Tsagarakis, N., Metta, G., Sandini, G., Vernon, D., Beira, R., Becchi, F., Righetti, L., Santos-Victor, J., Ijspeert, A., Carrozza, M., Caldwell, D.

Advanced Robotics, 21(10):1151-1175, 2007 (article)

Abstract
The development of robotic cognition and the advancement of understanding of human cognition form two of the current greatest challenges in robotics and neuroscience, respectively. The RobotCub project aims to develop an embodied robotic child (iCub) with the physical (height 90 cm and mass less than 23 kg) and ultimately cognitive abilities of a 2.5-year-old human child. The iCub will be a freely available open system which can be used by scientists in all cognate disciplines from developmental psychology to epigenetic robotics to enhance understanding of cognitive systems through the study of cognitive development. The iCub will be open both in software, but more importantly in all aspects of the hardware and mechanical design. In this paper the design of the mechanisms and structures forming the basic 'body' of the iCub are described. The papers considers kinematic structures dynamic design criteria, actuator specification and selection, and detailed mechanical and electronic design. The paper concludes with tests of the performance of sample joints, and comparison of these results with the design requirements and simulation projects.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]