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2018


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Role of symmetry in driven propulsion at low Reynolds number

Sachs, J., Morozov, K. I., Kenneth, O., Qiu, T., Segreto, N., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Phys. Rev. E, 98(6):063105, American Physical Society, December 2018 (article)

Abstract
We theoretically and experimentally investigate low-Reynolds-number propulsion of geometrically achiral planar objects that possess a dipole moment and that are driven by a rotating magnetic field. Symmetry considerations (involving parity, $\widehat{P}$, and charge conjugation, $\widehat{C}$) establish correspondence between propulsive states depending on orientation of the dipolar moment. Although basic symmetry arguments do not forbid individual symmetric objects to efficiently propel due to spontaneous symmetry breaking, they suggest that the average ensemble velocity vanishes. Some additional arguments show, however, that highly symmetrical ($\widehat{P}$-even) objects exhibit no net propulsion while individual less symmetrical ($\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) propellers do propel. Particular magnetization orientation, rendering the shape $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-odd, yields unidirectional motion typically associated with chiral structures, such as helices. If instead of a structure with a permanent dipole we consider a polarizable object, some of the arguments have to be modified. For instance, we demonstrate a truly achiral ($\widehat{P}$- and $\widehat{C}\widehat{P}$-even) planar shape with an induced electric dipole that can propel by electro-rotation. We thereby show that chirality is not essential for propulsion due to rotation-translation coupling at low Reynolds number.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2018


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Optical and Thermophoretic Control of Janus Nanopen Injection into Living Cells

Maier, C. M., Huergo, M. A., Milosevic, S., Pernpeintner, C., Li, M., Singh, D. P., Walker, D., Fischer, P., Feldmann, J., Lohmüller, T.

Nano Letters, 18, pages: 7935–7941, November 2018 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Devising strategies for the controlled injection of functional nanoparticles and reagents into living cells paves the way for novel applications in nanosurgery, sensing, and drug delivery. Here, we demonstrate the light-controlled guiding and injection of plasmonic Janus nanopens into living cells. The pens are made of a gold nanoparticle attached to a dielectric alumina shaft. Balancing optical and thermophoretic forces in an optical tweezer allows single Janus nanopens to be trapped and positioned on the surface of living cells. While the optical injection process involves strong heating of the plasmonic side, the temperature of the alumina stays significantly lower, thus allowing the functionalization with fluorescently labeled, single-stranded DNA and, hence, the spatially controlled injection of genetic material with an untethered nanocarrier.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A swarm of slippery micropropellers penetrates the vitreous body of the eye

Wu, Z., Troll, J., Jeong, H. H., Wei, Q., Stang, M., Ziemssen, F., Wang, Z., Dong, M., Schnichels, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 4(11):eaat4388, November 2018 (article)

Abstract
The intravitreal delivery of therapeutic agents promises major benefits in the field of ocular medicine. Traditional delivery methods rely on the random, passive diffusion of molecules, which do not allow for the rapid delivery of a concentrated cargo to a defined region at the posterior pole of the eye. The use of particles promises targeted delivery but faces the challenge that most tissues including the vitreous have a tight macromolecular matrix that acts as a barrier and prevents its penetration. Here, we demonstrate novel intravitreal delivery microvehicles slippery micropropellers that can be actively propelled through the vitreous humor to reach the retina. The propulsion is achieved by helical magnetic micropropellers that have a liquid layer coating to minimize adhesion to the surrounding biopolymeric network. The submicrometer diameter of the propellers enables the penetration of the biopolymeric network and the propulsion through the porcine vitreous body of the eye over centimeter distances. Clinical optical coherence tomography is used to monitor the movement of the propellers and confirm their arrival on the retina near the optic disc. Overcoming the adhesion forces and actively navigating a swarm of micropropellers in the dense vitreous humor promise practical applications in ophthalmology.

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Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Video: Nanorobots propel through the eye link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Gait learning for soft microrobots controlled by light fields

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

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

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

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arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Nanoscale robotic agents in biological fluids and tissues

Palagi, S., Walker, D. Q. T., Fischer, P.

In The Encyclopedia of Medical Robotics, 2, pages: 19-42, 2, (Editors: Desai, J. P. and Ferreira, A.), World Scientific, October 2018 (inbook)

Abstract
Nanorobots are untethered structures of sub-micron size that can be controlled in a non-trivial way. Such nanoscale robotic agents are envisioned to revolutionize medicine by enabling minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. To be useful, nanorobots must be operated in complex biological fluids and tissues, which are often difficult to penetrate. In this chapter, we first discuss potential medical applications of motile nanorobots. We briefly present the challenges related to swimming at such small scales and we survey the rheological properties of some biological fluids and tissues. We then review recent experimental results in the development of nanorobots and in particular their design, fabrication, actuation, and propulsion in complex biological fluids and tissues. Recent work shows that their nanoscale dimension is a clear asset for operation in biological tissues, since many biological tissues consist of networks of macromolecules that prevent the passage of larger micron-scale structures, but contain dynamic pores through which nanorobots can move.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Fast spatial scanning of 3D ultrasound fields via thermography

Melde, K., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Applied Physics Letters, 113(13):133503, September 2018 (article)

Abstract
We propose and demonstrate a thermographic method that allows rapid scanning of ultrasound fields in a volume to yield 3D maps of the sound intensity. A thin sound-absorbing membrane is continuously translated through a volume of interest while a thermal camera records the evolution of its surface temperature. The temperature rise is a function of the absorbed sound intensity, such that the thermal image sequence can be combined to reveal the sound intensity distribution in the traversed volume. We demonstrate the mapping of ultrasound fields, which is several orders of magnitude faster than scanning with a hydrophone. Our results are in very good agreement with theoretical simulations.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

arXiv, September 2018, Submitted to ICRA'19 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

am mg

video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Diffusion Measurements of Swimming Enzymes with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

Günther, J., Börsch, M., Fischer, P.

Accounts of Chemical Research, 51(9):1911-1920, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelled chemical motors are chemically powered micro- or nanosized swimmers. The energy required for these motors’ active motion derives from catalytic chemical reactions and the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution. While self-propulsion is now well established for larger particles, it is still unclear if enzymes, nature’s nanometer-sized catalysts, are potentially also self-powered nanomotors. Because of its small size, any increase in an enzyme’s diffusion due to active self-propulsion must be observed on top of the enzyme’s passive Brownian motion, which dominates at this scale. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) is a sensitive method to quantify the diffusion properties of single fluorescently labeled molecules in solution. FCS experiments have shown a general increase in the diffusion constant of a number of enzymes when the enzyme is catalytically active. Diffusion enhancements after addition of the enzyme’s substrate (and sometimes its inhibitor) of up to 80\% have been reported, which is at least 1 order of magnitude higher than what theory would predict. However, many factors contribute to the FCS signal and in particular the shape of the autocorrelation function, which underlies diffusion measurements by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. These effects need to be considered to establish if and by how much the catalytic activity changes an enzyme’s diffusion.We carefully review phenomena that can play a role in FCS experiments and the determination of enzyme diffusion, including the dissociation of enzyme oligomers upon interaction with the substrate, surface binding of the enzyme to glass during the experiment, conformational changes upon binding, and quenching of the fluorophore. We show that these effects can cause changes in the FCS signal that behave similar to an increase in diffusion. However, in the case of the enzymes F1-ATPase and alkaline phosphatase, we demonstrate that there is no measurable increase in enzyme diffusion. Rather, dissociation and conformational changes account for the changes in the FCS signal in the former and fluorophore quenching in the latter. Within the experimental accuracy of our FCS measurements, we do not observe any change in diffusion due to activity for the enzymes we have investigated.We suggest useful control experiments and additional tests for future FCS experiments that should help establish if the observed diffusion enhancement is real or if it is due to an experimental or data analysis artifact. We show that fluorescence lifetime and mean intensity measurements are essential in order to identify the nature of the observed changes in the autocorrelation function. While it is clear from theory that chemically active enzymes should also act as self-propelled nanomotors, our FCS measurements show that the associated increase in diffusion is much smaller than previously reported. Further experiments are needed to quantify the contribution of the enzymes’ catalytic activity to their self-propulsion. We hope that our findings help to establish a useful protocol for future FCS studies in this field and help establish by how much the diffusion of an enzyme is enhanced through catalytic activity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Uphill production of dihydrogen by enzymatic oxidation of glucose without an external energy source

Suraniti, E., Merzeau, P., Roche, J., Gounel, S., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P., Mano, N., Kuhn, A.

Nature Communications, 9(1):3229, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Chemical systems do not allow the coupling of energy from several simple reactions to drive a subsequent reaction, which takes place in the same medium and leads to a product with a higher energy than the one released during the first reaction. Gibbs energy considerations thus are not favorable to drive e.g., water splitting by the direct oxidation of glucose as a model reaction. Here, we show that it is nevertheless possible to carry out such an energetically uphill reaction, if the electrons released in the oxidation reaction are temporarily stored in an electromagnetic system, which is then used to raise the electrons' potential energy so that they can power the electrolysis of water in a second step. We thereby demonstrate the general concept that lower energy delivering chemical reactions can be used to enable the formation of higher energy consuming reaction products in a closed system.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Chemical micromotors self-assemble and self-propel by spontaneous symmetry breaking

Yu, T., Chuphal, P., Thakur, S., Reigh, S. Y., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 54, pages: 11933-11936, August 2018 (article)

Abstract
Self-propelling chemical motors have thus far required the fabrication of Janus particles with an asymmetric catalyst distribution. Here, we demonstrate that simple, isotropic colloids can spontaneously assemble to yield dimer motors that self-propel. In a mixture of isotropic titanium dioxide colloids with photo-chemical catalytic activity and passive silica colloids, light illumination causes diffusiophoretic attractions between the active and passive particles and leads to the formation of dimers. The dimers constitute a symmetry-broken motor, whose dynamics can be fully controlled by the illumination conditions. Computer simulations reproduce the dynamics of the colloids and are in good agreement with experiments. The current work presents a simple route to obtain large numbers of self-propelling chemical motors from a dispersion of spherically symmetric colloids through spontaneous symmetry breaking.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A machine from machines

Fischer, P.

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Chemotaxis of Active Janus Nanoparticles

Popescu, M. N., Uspal, W. E., Bechinger, C., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, 18(9):5345–5349, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
While colloids and molecules in solution exhibit passive Brownian motion, particles that are partially covered with a catalyst, which promotes the transformation of a fuel dissolved in the solution, can actively move. These active Janus particles are known as “chemical nanomotors” or self-propelling “swimmers” and have been realized with a range of catalysts, sizes, and particle geometries. Because their active translation depends on the fuel concentration, one expects that active colloidal particles should also be able to swim toward a fuel source. Synthesizing and engineering nanoparticles with distinct chemotactic properties may enable important developments, such as particles that can autonomously swim along a pH gradient toward a tumor. Chemotaxis requires that the particles possess an active coupling of their orientation to a chemical gradient. In this Perspective we provide a simple, intuitive description of the underlying mechanisms for chemotaxis, as well as the means to analyze and classify active particles that can show positive or negative chemotaxis. The classification provides guidance for engineering a specific response and is a useful organizing framework for the quantitative analysis and modeling of chemotactic behaviors. Chemotaxis is emerging as an important focus area in the field of active colloids and promises a number of fascinating applications for nanoparticles and particle-based delivery.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors

Alarcon-Correa, M.

Colloidal Chemical Nanomotors, pages: 150, Cuvillier Verlag, MPI-IS , June 2018 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Synthetic sophisticated nanostructures represent a fundamental building block for the development of nanotechnology. The fabrication of nanoparticles complex in structure and material composition is key to build nanomachines that can operate as man-made nanoscale motors, which autonomously convert external energy into motion. To achieve this, asymmetric nanoparticles were fabricated combining a physical vapor deposition technique known as NanoGLAD and wet chemical synthesis. This thesis primarily concerns three complex colloidal systems that have been developed: i)Hollow nanocup inclusion complexes that have a single Au nanoparticle in their pocket. The Au particle can be released with an external trigger. ii)The smallest self-propelling nanocolloids that have been made to date, which give rise to a local concentration gradient that causes enhanced diffusion of the particles. iii)Enzyme-powered pumps that have been assembled using bacteriophages as biological nanoscaffolds. This construct also can be used for enzyme recovery after heterogeneous catalysis.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Bioinspired microrobots

Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Reviews Materials, 3, pages: 113–124, May 2018 (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms can move in complex media, respond to the environment and self-organize. The field of microrobotics strives to achieve these functions in mobile robotic systems of sub-millimetre size. However, miniaturization of traditional robots and their control systems to the microscale is not a viable approach. A promising alternative strategy in developing microrobots is to implement sensing, actuation and control directly in the materials, thereby mimicking biological matter. In this Review, we discuss design principles and materials for the implementation of robotic functionalities in microrobots. We examine different biological locomotion strategies, and we discuss how they can be artificially recreated in magnetic microrobots and how soft materials improve control and performance. We show that smart, stimuli-responsive materials can act as on-board sensors and actuators and that ‘active matter’ enables autonomous motion, navigation and collective behaviours. Finally, we provide a critical outlook for the field of microrobotics and highlight the challenges that need to be overcome to realize sophisticated microrobots, which one day might rival biological machines.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Soft Miniaturized Linear Actuators Wirelessly Powered by Rotating Permanent Magnets

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

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

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

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Graphene-silver hybrid devices for sensitive photodetection in the ultraviolet

Paria, D., Jeong, H. H., Vadakkumbatt, V., Deshpande, P., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, A.

Nanoscale, 10, pages: 7685-7693, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
The weak light-matter interaction in graphene can be enhanced with a number of strategies, among which sensitization with plasmonic nanostructures is particularly attractive. This has resulted in the development of graphene-plasmonic hybrid systems with strongly enhanced photodetection efficiencies in the visible and the IR, but none in the UV. Here, we describe a silver nanoparticle-graphene stacked optoelectronic device that shows strong enhancement of its photoresponse across the entire UV spectrum. The device fabrication strategy is scalable and modular. Self-assembly techniques are combined with physical shadow growth techniques to fabricate a regular large-area array of 50 nm silver nanoparticles onto which CVD graphene is transferred. The presence of the silver nanoparticles resulted in a plasmonically enhanced photoresponse as high as 3.2 A W-1 in the wavelength range from 330 nm to 450 nm. At lower wavelengths, close to the Van Hove singularity of the density of states in graphene, we measured an even higher responsivity of 14.5 A W-1 at 280 nm, which corresponds to a more than 10 000-fold enhancement over the photoresponse of native graphene.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Nanoparticles on the move for medicine

Fischer, P.

Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology, pages: 26028, (Editors: Margaret Harris), IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors, April 2018 (article)

Abstract
Peer Fischer outlines the prospects for creating “nanoswimmers” that can be steered through the body to deliver drugs directly to their targets Molecules don’t move very fast on their own. If they had to rely solely on diffusion – a slow and inefficient process linked to the Brownian motion of small particles and molecules in solution – then a protein mole­cule, for instance, would take around three weeks to travel a single centimetre down a nerve fibre. This is why active transport mechanisms exist in cells and in the human body: without them, all the processes of life would happen at a pace that would make snails look speedy.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Photogravitactic Microswimmers

Singh, D. P., Uspal, W. E., Popescu, M. N., Wilson, L. G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Func. Mat., 28, pages: 1706660, Febuary 2018 (article)

Abstract
Abstract Phototactic microorganisms are commonly observed to respond to natural sunlight by swimming upward against gravity. This study demonstrates that synthetic photochemically active microswimmers can also swim against gravity. The particles initially sediment and, when illuminated at low light intensities exhibit wall‐bound states of motion near the bottom surface. Upon increasing the intensity of light, the artificial swimmers lift off from the wall and swim against gravity and away from the light source. This motion in the bulk has been further confirmed using holographic microscopy. A theoretical model is presented within the framework of self‐diffusiophoresis, which allows to unequivocally identify the photochemical activity and the phototactic response as key mechanisms in the observed phenomenology. Since the lift‐off threshold intensity depends on the particle size, it can be exploited to selectively address particles with the same density from a polydisperse mixture of active particles and move them in or out of the boundary region. This study provides a simple design strategy to fabricate artificial microswimmers whose two‐ or three‐dimensional swimming behavior can be controlled with light.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Chiral Plasmonic Hydrogen Sensors

Matuschek, M., Singh, D. P., Hyeon-Ho, J., Nesterov, M., Weiss, T., Fischer, P., Neubrech, F., Na Liu, L.

Small, 14(7):1702990, Febuary 2018 (article)

Abstract
In this article, a chiral plasmonic hydrogen‐sensing platform using palladium‐based nanohelices is demonstrated. Such 3D chiral nanostructures fabricated by nanoglancing angle deposition exhibit strong circular dichroism both experimentally and theoretically. The chiroptical properties of the palladium nanohelices are altered upon hydrogen uptake and sensitively depend on the hydrogen concentration. Such properties are well suited for remote and spark‐free hydrogen sensing in the flammable range. Hysteresis is reduced, when an increasing amount of gold is utilized in the palladium‐gold hybrid helices. As a result, the linearity of the circular dichroism in response to hydrogen is significantly improved. The chiral plasmonic sensor scheme is of potential interest for hydrogen‐sensing applications, where good linearity and high sensitivity are required.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Acoustic Fabrication via the Assembly and Fusion of Particles

Melde, K., Choi, E., Wu, Z., Palagi, S., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 30(3):1704507, January 2018 (article)

Abstract
Acoustic assembly promises a route toward rapid parallel fabrication of whole objects directly from solution. This study reports the contact-free and maskless assembly, and fixing of silicone particles into arbitrary 2D shapes using ultrasound fields. Ultrasound passes through an acoustic hologram to form a target image. The particles assemble from a suspension along lines of high pressure in the image due to acoustic radiation forces and are then fixed (crosslinked) in a UV-triggered reaction. For this, the particles are loaded with a photoinitiator by solvent-induced swelling. This localizes the reaction and allows the bulk suspension to be reused. The final fabricated parts are mechanically stable and self-supporting.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

Viereck, J., Kozolinsky, J., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):4092-4099, October 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On Time Optimization of Centroidal Momentum Dynamics

Ponton, B., Herzog, A., Del Prete, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5776-5782, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, the centroidal momentum dynamics has received substantial attention to plan dynamically consistent motions for robots with arms and legs in multi-contact scenarios. However, it is also non convex which renders any optimization approach difficult and timing is usually kept fixed in most trajectory optimization techniques to not introduce additional non convexities to the problem. But this can limit the versatility of the algorithms. In our previous work, we proposed a convex relaxation of the problem that allowed to efficiently compute momentum trajectories and contact forces. However, our approach could not minimize a desired angular momentum objective which seriously limited its applicability. Noticing that the non-convexity introduced by the time variables is of similar nature as the centroidal dynamics one, we propose two convex relaxations to the problem based on trust regions and soft constraints. The resulting approaches can compute time-optimized dynamically consistent trajectories sufficiently fast to make the approach realtime capable. The performance of the algorithm is demonstrated in several multi-contact scenarios for a humanoid robot. In particular, we show that the proposed convex relaxation of the original problem finds solutions that are consistent with the original non-convex problem and illustrate how timing optimization allows to find motion plans that would be difficult to plan with fixed timing † †Implementation details and demos can be found in the source code available at https://git-amd.tuebingen.mpg.de/bponton/timeoptimization.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The Impact of Robotics and Automation on Working Conditions and Employment [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Righetti, L., Smart, W., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 25(2):126-128, June 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Unsupervised Contact Learning for Humanoid Estimation and Control

Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 411-417, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents a method for contact state estimation using fuzzy clustering to learn contact probability for full, six-dimensional humanoid contacts. The data required for training is solely from proprioceptive sensors - endeffector contact wrench sensors and inertial measurement units (IMUs) - and the method is completely unsupervised. The resulting cluster means are used to efficiently compute the probability of contact in each of the six endeffector degrees of freedom (DoFs) independently. This clustering-based contact probability estimator is validated in a kinematics-based base state estimator in a simulation environment with realistic added sensor noise for locomotion over rough, low-friction terrain on which the robot is subject to foot slip and rotation. The proposed base state estimator which utilizes these six DoF contact probability estimates is shown to perform considerably better than that which determines kinematic contact constraints purely based on measured normal force.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Task-Specific Dynamics to Improve Whole-Body Control

Gams, A., Mason, S., Ude, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In Hua, IEEE, Beijing, China, November 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In task-based inverse dynamics control, reference accelerations used to follow a desired plan can be broken down into feedforward and feedback trajectories. The feedback term accounts for tracking errors that are caused from inaccurate dynamic models or external disturbances. On underactuated, free-floating robots, such as humanoids, high feedback terms can be used to improve tracking accuracy; however, this can lead to very stiff behavior or poor tracking accuracy due to limited control bandwidth. In this paper, we show how to reduce the required contribution of the feedback controller by incorporating learned task-space reference accelerations. Thus, we i) improve the execution of the given specific task, and ii) offer the means to reduce feedback gains, providing for greater compliance of the system. With a systematic approach we also reduce heuristic tuning of the model parameters and feedback gains, often present in real-world experiments. In contrast to learning task-specific joint-torques, which might produce a similar effect but can lead to poor generalization, our approach directly learns the task-space dynamics of the center of mass of a humanoid robot. Simulated and real-world results on the lower part of the Sarcos Hermes humanoid robot demonstrate the applicability of the approach.

am mg

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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An MPC Walking Framework With External Contact Forces

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1785-1790, IEEE, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this work, we present an extension to a linear Model Predictive Control (MPC) scheme that plans external contact forces for the robot when given multiple contact locations and their corresponding friction cone. To this end, we set up a two-step optimization problem. In the first optimization, we compute the Center of Mass (CoM) trajectory, foot step locations, and introduce slack variables to account for violating the imposed constraints on the Zero Moment Point (ZMP). We then use the slack variables to trigger the second optimization, in which we calculate the optimal external force that compensates for the ZMP tracking error. This optimization considers multiple contacts positions within the environment by formulating the problem as a Mixed Integer Quadratic Program (MIQP) that can be solved at a speed between 100-300 Hz. Once contact is created, the MIQP reduces to a single Quadratic Program (QP) that can be solved in real-time ({\textless}; 1kHz). Simulations show that the presented walking control scheme can withstand disturbances 2-3× larger with the additional force provided by a hand contact.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Righetti, L., Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics \& Automation Magazine, 25(1):123-126, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems has recently caught public attention due to extensive news coverage and apocalyptic declarations from famous scientists and technologists. Weapon systems with increasing autonomy are being developed due to fast improvements in machine learning, robotics, and automation in general. These developments raise important and complex security, legal, ethical, societal, and technological issues that are being extensively discussed by scholars, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), militaries, governments, and the international community. Unfortunately, the robotics community has stayed out of the debate, for the most part, despite being the main provider of autonomous technologies. In this column, we review the main issues raised by the increase of autonomy in weapon systems and the state of the international discussion. We argue that the robotics community has a fundamental role to play in these discussions, for its own sake, to provide the often-missing technical expertise necessary to frame the debate and promote technological development in line with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) objective of advancing technology to benefit humanity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2016


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Wireless actuation with functional acoustic surfaces

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

Appl. Phys. Lett., 109(19):191602, November 2016, APL Editor's pick. APL News. (article)

Abstract
Miniaturization calls for micro-actuators that can be powered wirelessly and addressed individually. Here, we develop functional surfaces consisting of arrays of acoustically resonant microcavities, and we demonstrate their application as two-dimensional wireless actuators. When remotely powered by an acoustic field, the surfaces provide highly directional propulsive forces in fluids through acoustic streaming. A maximal force of similar to 0.45mN is measured on a 4 x 4 mm(2) functional surface. The response of the surfaces with bubbles of different sizes is characterized experimentally. This shows a marked peak around the micro-bubbles' resonance frequency, as estimated by both an analytical model and numerical simulations. The strong frequency dependence can be exploited to address different surfaces with different acoustic frequencies, thus achieving wireless actuation with multiple degrees of freedom. The use of the functional surfaces as wireless ready-to-attach actuators is demonstrated by implementing a wireless and bidirectional miniaturized rotary motor, which is 2.6 x 2.6 x 5 mm(3) in size and generates a stall torque of similar to 0.5 mN.mm. The adoption of micro-structured surfaces as wireless actuators opens new possibilities in the development of miniaturized devices and tools for fluidic environments that are accessible by low intensity ultrasound fields.

pf

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2016


link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Nanomotors

Alarcon-Correa, M., Walker (Schamel), D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Eur. Phys. J.-Special Topics, 225(11-12):2241-2254, November 2016 (article)

Abstract
This minireview discusses whether catalytically active macromolecules and abiotic nanocolloids, that are smaller than motile bacteria, can self-propel. Kinematic reversibility at low Reynolds number demands that self-propelling colloids must break symmetry. Methods that permit the synthesis and fabrication of Janus nanocolloids are therefore briefly surveyed, as well as means that permit the analysis of the nanocolloids' motion. Finally, recent work is reviewed which shows that nanoagents are small enough to penetrate the complex inhomogeneous polymeric network of biological fluids and gels, which exhibit diverse rheological behaviors.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Structured light enables biomimetic swimming and versatile locomotion of photoresponsive soft microrobots

Palagi, S., Mark, A. G., Reigh, S. Y., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Zeng, H., Parmeggiani, C., Martella, D., Sanchez-Castillo, A., Kapernaum, N., Giesselmann, F., Wiersma, D. S., Lauga, E., Fischer, P.

Nature Materials, 15(6):647–653, November 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views. (article)

Abstract
Microorganisms move in challenging environments by periodic changes in body shape. In contrast, current artificial microrobots cannot actively deform, exhibiting at best passive bending under external fields. Here, by taking advantage of the wireless, scalable and spatiotemporally selective capabilities that light allows, we show that soft microrobots consisting of photoactive liquid-crystal elastomers can be driven by structured monochromatic light to perform sophisticated biomimetic motions. We realize continuum yet selectively addressable artificial microswimmers that generate travelling-wave motions to self-propel without external forces or torques, as well as microrobots capable of versatile locomotion behaviours on demand. Both theoretical predictions and experimental results confirm that multiple gaits, mimicking either symplectic or antiplectic metachrony of ciliate protozoa, can be achieved with single microswimmers. The principle of using structured light can be extended to other applications that require microscale actuation with sophisticated spatiotemporal coordination for advanced microrobotic technologies.

pf

Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer DOI [BibTex]

Video - Soft photo Micro-Swimmer DOI [BibTex]


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Capture of 2D Microparticle Arrays via a UV-Triggered Thiol-yne “Click” Reaction

Walker (Schamel), D., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Advanced Materials, 28(44):9846-9850, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
Immobilization of colloidal assemblies onto solid supports via a fast UV-triggered click-reaction is achieved. Transient assemblies of microparticles and colloidal materials can be captured and transferred to solid supports. The technique does not require complex reaction conditions, and is compatible with a variety of particle assembly methods.

pf

DOI [BibTex]


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Magnesium plasmonics for UV applications and chiral sensing

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 52(82):12179-12182, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate that chiral magnesium nanoparticles show remarkable plasmonic extinction- and chiroptical-effects in the ultraviolet region. The Mg nanohelices possess an enhanced local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) sensitivity due to the strong dispersion of most substances in the UV region.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Holograms for acoustics

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

Nature, 537, pages: 518-522, September 2016, Max Planck press release, Nature News & Views, Nature Video. (article)

Abstract
Holographic techniques are fundamental to applications such as volumetric displays(1), high-density data storage and optical tweezers that require spatial control of intricate optical(2) or acoustic fields(3,4) within a three-dimensional volume. The basis of holography is spatial storage of the phase and/or amplitude profile of the desired wavefront(5,6) in a manner that allows that wavefront to be reconstructed by interference when the hologram is illuminated with a suitable coherent source. Modern computer-generated holography(7) skips the process of recording a hologram from a physical scene, and instead calculates the required phase profile before rendering it for reconstruction. In ultrasound applications, the phase profile is typically generated by discrete and independently driven ultrasound sources(3,4,8-12); however, these can only be used in small numbers, which limits the complexity or degrees of freedom that can be attained in the wavefront. Here we introduce monolithic acoustic holograms, which can reconstruct diffraction-limited acoustic pressure fields and thus arbitrary ultrasound beams. We use rapid fabrication to craft the holograms and achieve reconstruction degrees of freedom two orders of magnitude higher than commercial phased array sources. The technique is inexpensive, appropriate for both transmission and reflection elements, and scales well to higher information content, larger aperture size and higher power. The complex three-dimensional pressure and phase distributions produced by these acoustic holograms allow us to demonstrate new approaches to controlled ultrasonic manipulation of solids in water, and of liquids and solids in air. We expect that acoustic holograms will enable new capabilities in beam-steering and the contactless transfer of power, improve medical imaging, and drive new applications of ultrasound.

pf

Video - Holograms for Sound DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video - Holograms for Sound DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A loop-gap resonator for chirality-sensitive nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER)

Garbacz, P., Fischer, P., Kraemer, S.

J. Chem. Phys., 145(10):104201, September 2016 (article)

Abstract
Direct detection of molecular chirality is practically impossible by methods of standard nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that is based on interactions involving magnetic-dipole and magnetic-field operators. However, theoretical studies provide a possible direct probe of chirality by exploiting an enantiomer selective additional coupling involving magnetic-dipole, magnetic-field, and electric field operators. This offers a way for direct experimental detection of chirality by nuclear magneto-electric resonance (NMER). This method uses both resonant magnetic and electric radiofrequency (RF) fields. The weakness of the chiral interaction though requires a large electric RF field and a small transverse RF magnetic field over the sample volume, which is a non-trivial constraint. In this study, we present a detailed study of the NMER concept and a possible experimental realization based on a loop-gap resonator. For this original device, the basic principle and numerical studies as well as fabrication and measurements of the frequency dependence of the scattering parameter are reported. By simulating the NMER spin dynamics for our device and taking the F-19 NMER signal of enantiomer-pure 1,1,1-trifluoropropan-2-ol, we predict a chirality induced NMER signal that accounts for 1%-5% of the standard achiral NMR signal. Published by AIP Publishing.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Soft continuous microrobots with multiple intrinsic degrees of freedom

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

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

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

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Active Nanorheology with Plasmonics

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Alarcon-Correa, M., Eslami, S., Qiu, T., Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

Nano Letters, 16(8):4887-4894, July 2016 (article)

Abstract
Nanoplasmonic systems are valued for their strong optical response and their small size. Most plasmonic sensors and systems to date have been rigid and passive. However, rendering these structures dynamic opens new possibilities for applications. Here we demonstrate that dynamic plasmonic nanoparticles can be used as mechanical sensors to selectively probe the rheological properties of a fluid in situ at the nanoscale and in microscopic volumes. We fabricate chiral magneto-plasmonic nanocolloids that can be actuated by an external magnetic field, which in turn allows for the direct and fast modulation of their distinct optical response. The method is robust and allows nanorheological measurements with a mechanical sensitivity of similar to 0.1 cP, even in strongly absorbing fluids with an optical density of up to OD similar to 3 (similar to 0.1% light transmittance) and in the presence of scatterers (e.g., 50% v/v red blood cells).

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Wireless actuator based on ultrasonic bubble streaming

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

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

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

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Auxetic Metamaterial Simplifies Soft Robot Design

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

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

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

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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

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

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

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

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Dispersion and shape engineered plasmonic nanosensors

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Oswald, P., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 7, pages: 11331, March 2016 (article)

Abstract
Biosensors based on the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of individual metallic nanoparticles promise to deliver modular, low-cost sensing with high-detection thresholds. However, they continue to suffer from relatively low sensitivity and figures of merit (FOMs). Herein we introduce the idea of sensitivity enhancement of LSPR sensors through engineering of the material dispersion function. Employing dispersion and shape engineering of chiral nanoparticles leads to remarkable refractive index sensitivities (1,091 nmRIU(-1) at lambda = 921 nm) and FOMs (>2,800 RIU-1). A key feature is that the polarization-dependent extinction of the nanoparticles is now characterized by rich spectral features, including bipolar peaks and nulls, suitable for tracking refractive index changes. This sensing modality offers strong optical contrast even in the presence of highly absorbing media, an important consideration for use in complex biological media with limited transmission. The technique is sensitive to surface-specific binding events which we demonstrate through biotin-avidin surface coupling.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Magnetic Propulsion of Microswimmers with DNA-Based Flagellar Bundles

Maier, A. M., Weig, C., Oswald, P., Frey, E., Fischer, P., Liedl, T.

Nano Letters, 16(2):906-910, January 2016 (article)

Abstract
We show that DNA-based self-assembly can serve as a general and flexible tool to construct artificial flagella of several micrometers in length and only tens of nanometers in diameter. By attaching the DNA flagella to biocompatible magnetic microparticles, we provide a proof of concept demonstration of hybrid structures that, when rotated in an external magnetic field, propel by means of a flagellar bundle, similar to self-propelling peritrichous bacteria. Our theoretical analysis predicts that flagellar bundles that possess a length-dependent bending stiffness should exhibit a superior swimming speed compared to swimmers with a single appendage. The DNA self-assembly method permits the realization of these improved flagellar bundles in good agreement with our quantitative model. DNA flagella with well-controlled shape could fundamentally increase the functionality of fully biocompatible nanorobots and extend the scope and complexity of active materials.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Method for encapsulating a nanostructure, coated nanostructure and use of a coated nanostructure

Jeong, H. H., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Google Patents, 2016, WO Patent App. PCT/EP2016/056,377 (patent)

Abstract
The present invention relates to a method for encapsulating a nanostructure, the method comprising the steps of: -providing a substrate; -forming a plug composed of plug material at said substrate; -forming a nanostructure (on or) at said plug; -forming a shell composed of at least one shell material on external surfaces of the nanostructure, with the at least one shell material covering said nanostructure and at least some of the plug material,whereby the shell and the plug encapsulate the nanostructure. The invention further relates to a coated nanostructure and to the use of a coated nanostructure.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]


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Momentum Control with Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics on a Torque-Controlled Humanoid

Herzog, A., Rotella, N., Mason, S., Grimminger, F., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

Autonomous Robots, 40(3):473-491, 2016 (article)

Abstract
Hierarchical inverse dynamics based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for the control of legged robots. They have important benefits but to the best of our knowledge have never been implemented on a torque controlled humanoid where model inaccuracies, sensor noise and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. Using a reformulation of existing algorithms, we propose a simplification of the problem that allows to achieve real-time control. Momentum-based control is integrated in the task hierarchy and a LQR design approach is used to compute the desired associated closed-loop behavior and improve performance. Extensive experiments on various balancing and tracking tasks show very robust performance in the face of unknown disturbances, even when the humanoid is standing on one foot. Our results demonstrate that hierarchical inverse dynamics together with momentum control can be efficiently used for feedback control under real robot conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inertial Sensor-Based Humanoid Joint State Estimation

Rotella, N., Mason, S., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 1825-1831, IEEE, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This work presents methods for the determination of a humanoid robot's joint velocities and accelerations directly from link-mounted Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) each containing a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer. No information about the global pose of the floating base or its links is required and precise knowledge of the link IMU poses is not necessary due to presented calibration routines. Additionally, a filter is introduced to fuse gyroscope angular velocities with joint position measurements and compensate the computed joint velocities for time-varying gyroscope biases. The resulting joint velocities are subject to less noise and delay than filtered velocities computed from numerical differentiation of joint potentiometer signals, leading to superior performance in joint feedback control as demonstrated in experiments performed on a SARCOS hydraulic humanoid.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Stepping Stabilization Using a Combination of DCM Tracking and Step Adjustment

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

In 2016 4th International Conference on Robotics and Mechatronics (ICROM), pages: 130-135, IEEE, Teheran, Iran, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, a method for stabilizing biped robots stepping by a combination of Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) tracking and step adjustment is proposed. In this method, the DCM trajectory is generated, consistent with the predefined footprints. Furthermore, a swing foot trajectory modification strategy is proposed to adapt the landing point, using DCM measurement. In order to apply the generated trajectories to the full robot, a Hierarchical Inverse Dynamics (HID) is employed. The HID enables us to use different combinations of the DCM tracking and step adjustment for stabilizing different biped robots. Simulation experiments on two scenarios for two different simulated robots, one with active ankles and the other with passive ankles, are carried out. Simulation results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method for robots with both active and passive ankles.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Structured contact force optimization for kino-dynamic motion generation

Herzog, A., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), pages: 2703-2710, IEEE, Daejeon, South Korea, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Optimal control approaches in combination with trajectory optimization have recently proven to be a promising control strategy for legged robots. Computationally efficient and robust algorithms were derived using simplified models of the contact interaction between robot and environment such as the linear inverted pendulum model (LIPM). However, as humanoid robots enter more complex environments, less restrictive models become increasingly important. As we leave the regime of linear models, we need to build dedicated solvers that can compute interaction forces together with consistent kinematic plans for the whole-body. In this paper, we address the problem of planning robot motion and interaction forces for legged robots given predefined contact surfaces. The motion generation process is decomposed into two alternating parts computing force and motion plans in coherence. We focus on the properties of the momentum computation leading to sparse optimal control formulations to be exploited by a dedicated solver. In our experiments, we demonstrate that our motion generation algorithm computes consistent contact forces and joint trajectories for our humanoid robot. We also demonstrate the favorable time complexity due to our formulation and composition of the momentum equations.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Balancing and Walking Using Full Dynamics LQR Control With Contact Constraints

Mason, S., Rotella, N., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 63-68, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Torque control algorithms which consider robot dynamics and contact constraints are important for creating dynamic behaviors for humanoids. As computational power increases, algorithms tend to also increase in complexity. However, it is not clear how much complexity is really required to create controllers which exhibit good performance. In this paper, we study the capabilities of a simple approach based on contact consistent LQR controllers designed around key poses to control various tasks on a humanoid robot. We present extensive experimental results on a hydraulic, torque controlled humanoid performing balancing and stepping tasks. This feedback control approach captures the necessary synergies between the DoFs of the robot to guarantee good control performance. We show that for the considered tasks, it is only necessary to re-linearize the dynamics of the robot at different contact configurations and that increasing the number of LQR controllers along desired trajectories does not improve performance. Our result suggest that very simple controllers can yield good performance competitive with current state of the art, but more complex, optimization-based whole-body controllers. A video of the experiments can be found at https://youtu.be/5T08CNKV1hw.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Step Timing Adjustement: a Step toward Generating Robust Gaits

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

In 2016 IEEE-RAS 16th International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), pages: 35-42, IEEE, Cancun, Mexico, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Step adjustment for humanoid robots has been shown to improve robustness in gaits. However, step duration adaptation is often neglected in control strategies. In this paper, we propose an approach that combines both step location and timing adjustment for generating robust gaits. In this approach, step location and step timing are decided, based on feedback from the current state of the robot. The proposed approach is comprised of two stages. In the first stage, the nominal step location and step duration for the next step or a previewed number of steps are specified. In this stage which is done at the start of each step, the main goal is to specify the best step length and step duration for a desired walking speed. The second stage deals with finding the best landing point and landing time of the swing foot at each control cycle. In this stage, stability of the gaits is preserved by specifying a desired offset between the swing foot landing point and the Divergent Component of Motion (DCM) at the end of current step. After specifying the landing point of the swing foot at a desired time, the swing foot trajectory is regenerated at each control cycle to realize desired landing properties. Simulation on different scenarios shows the robustness of the generated gaits from our proposed approach compared to the case where no timing adjustment is employed.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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On the Effects of Measurement Uncertainty in Optimal Control of Contact Interactions

Ponton, B., Schaal, S., Righetti, L.

In The 12th International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics WAFR, Berkeley, USA, 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Stochastic Optimal Control (SOC) typically considers noise only in the process model, i.e. unknown disturbances. However, in many robotic applications involving interaction with the environment, such as locomotion and manipulation, uncertainty also comes from lack of precise knowledge of the world, which is not an actual disturbance. We analyze the effects of also considering noise in the measurement model, by devel- oping a SOC algorithm based on risk-sensitive control, that includes the dynamics of an observer in such a way that the control law explicitly de- pends on the current measurement uncertainty. In simulation results on a simple 2D manipulator, we have observed that measurement uncertainty leads to low impedance behaviors, a result in contrast with the effects of process noise that creates stiff behaviors. This suggests that taking into account measurement uncertainty could be a potentially very interesting way to approach problems involving uncertain contact interactions.

am mg

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]