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2018


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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]

2018


arXiv IEEE Xplore DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Kernel Recursive ABC: Point Estimation with Intractable Likelihood

Kajihara, T., Kanagawa, M., Yamazaki, K., Fukumizu, K.

Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 2405-2414, PMLR, July 2018 (conference)

Abstract
We propose a novel approach to parameter estimation for simulator-based statistical models with intractable likelihood. Our proposed method involves recursive application of kernel ABC and kernel herding to the same observed data. We provide a theoretical explanation regarding why the approach works, showing (for the population setting) that, under a certain assumption, point estimates obtained with this method converge to the true parameter, as recursion proceeds. We have conducted a variety of numerical experiments, including parameter estimation for a real-world pedestrian flow simulator, and show that in most cases our method outperforms existing approaches.

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Paper [BibTex]

Paper [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 04 18 at 11.01.27 am
Learning from Outside the Viability Kernel: Why we Should Build Robots that can Fail with Grace

Heim, S., Sproewitz, A.

Proceedings of SIMPAR 2018, pages: 55-61, IEEE, 2018 IEEE International Conference on Simulation, Modeling, and Programming for Autonomous Robots (SIMPAR), May 2018 (conference)

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 03 at 9.09.06 am
Shaping in Practice: Training Wheels to Learn Fast Hopping Directly in Hardware

Heim, S., Ruppert, F., Sarvestani, A., Sproewitz, A.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2018, pages: 5076-5081, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2018 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning instead of designing robot controllers can greatly reduce engineering effort required, while also emphasizing robustness. Despite considerable progress in simulation, applying learning directly in hardware is still challenging, in part due to the necessity to explore potentially unstable parameters. We explore the of concept shaping the reward landscape with training wheels; temporary modifications of the physical hardware that facilitate learning. We demonstrate the concept with a robot leg mounted on a boom learning to hop fast. This proof of concept embodies typical challenges such as instability and contact, while being simple enough to empirically map out and visualize the reward landscape. Based on our results we propose three criteria for designing effective training wheels for learning in robotics.

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Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Video Youtube link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Dissecting Adam: The Sign, Magnitude and Variance of Stochastic Gradients

Balles, L., Hennig, P.

In Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 2018 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
The ADAM optimizer is exceedingly popular in the deep learning community. Often it works very well, sometimes it doesn't. Why? We interpret ADAM as a combination of two aspects: for each weight, the update direction is determined by the sign of stochastic gradients, whereas the update magnitude is determined by an estimate of their relative variance. We disentangle these two aspects and analyze them in isolation, gaining insight into the mechanisms underlying ADAM. This analysis also extends recent results on adverse effects of ADAM on generalization, isolating the sign aspect as the problematic one. Transferring the variance adaptation to SGD gives rise to a novel method, completing the practitioner's toolbox for problems where ADAM fails.

pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2017


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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]

2017


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


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Coupling Adaptive Batch Sizes with Learning Rates

Balles, L., Romero, J., Hennig, P.

In Proceedings Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI) 2017, pages: 410-419, (Editors: Gal Elidan and Kristian Kersting), Association for Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (AUAI), Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI), August 2017 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Mini-batch stochastic gradient descent and variants thereof have become standard for large-scale empirical risk minimization like the training of neural networks. These methods are usually used with a constant batch size chosen by simple empirical inspection. The batch size significantly influences the behavior of the stochastic optimization algorithm, though, since it determines the variance of the gradient estimates. This variance also changes over the optimization process; when using a constant batch size, stability and convergence is thus often enforced by means of a (manually tuned) decreasing learning rate schedule. We propose a practical method for dynamic batch size adaptation. It estimates the variance of the stochastic gradients and adapts the batch size to decrease the variance proportionally to the value of the objective function, removing the need for the aforementioned learning rate decrease. In contrast to recent related work, our algorithm couples the batch size to the learning rate, directly reflecting the known relationship between the two. On three image classification benchmarks, our batch size adaptation yields faster optimization convergence, while simultaneously simplifying learning rate tuning. A TensorFlow implementation is available.

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Code link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

Code link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Dynamic Time-of-Flight

Schober, M., Adam, A., Yair, O., Mazor, S., Nowozin, S.

Proceedings IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2017, pages: 170-179, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), July 2017 (conference)

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DOI [BibTex]

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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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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2017 06 14 at 2.38.22 pm
Scalable Pneumatic and Tendon Driven Robotic Joint Inspired by Jumping Spiders

Sproewitz, A., Göttler, C., Sinha, A., Caer, C., Öztekin, M. U., Petersen, K., Sitti, M.

In Proceedings 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 64-70, IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2017 (inproceedings)

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Video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2017 07 20 at 12.31.00 pm
Fast Bayesian Optimization of Machine Learning Hyperparameters on Large Datasets

Klein, A., Falkner, S., Bartels, S., Hennig, P., Hutter, F.

Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2017), 54, pages: 528-536, Proceedings of Machine Learning Research, (Editors: Sign, Aarti and Zhu, Jerry), PMLR, April 2017 (conference)

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pdf link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

pdf link (url) Project Page [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]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 08 at 12.58.55 pm
Linking Mechanics and Learning

Heim, S., Grimminger, F., Özge, D., Spröwitz, A.

In Proceedings of Dynamic Walking 2017, 2017 (inproceedings)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 02 08 at 12.58.55 pm
Is Growing Good for Learning?

Heim, S., Spröwitz, A.

Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines AMAM2017, 2017 (conference)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2016


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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]

2016


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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2018 10 09 at 11.42.49
Active Uncertainty Calibration in Bayesian ODE Solvers

Kersting, H., Hennig, P.

Proceedings of the 32nd Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI), pages: 309-318, (Editors: Ihler, A. and Janzing, D.), AUAI Press, June 2016 (conference)

Abstract
There is resurging interest, in statistics and machine learning, in solvers for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that return probability measures instead of point estimates. Recently, Conrad et al.~introduced a sampling-based class of methods that are `well-calibrated' in a specific sense. But the computational cost of these methods is significantly above that of classic methods. On the other hand, Schober et al.~pointed out a precise connection between classic Runge-Kutta ODE solvers and Gaussian filters, which gives only a rough probabilistic calibration, but at negligible cost overhead. By formulating the solution of ODEs as approximate inference in linear Gaussian SDEs, we investigate a range of probabilistic ODE solvers, that bridge the trade-off between computational cost and probabilistic calibration, and identify the inaccurate gradient measurement as the crucial source of uncertainty. We propose the novel filtering-based method Bayesian Quadrature filtering (BQF) which uses Bayesian quadrature to actively learn the imprecision in the gradient measurement by collecting multiple gradient evaluations.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2016 01 19 at 14.48.37
Automatic LQR Tuning Based on Gaussian Process Global Optimization

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

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 270-277, IEEE, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2016 (inproceedings)

Abstract
This paper proposes an automatic controller tuning framework based on linear optimal control combined with Bayesian optimization. With this framework, an initial set of controller gains is automatically improved according to a pre-defined performance objective evaluated from experimental data. The underlying Bayesian optimization algorithm is Entropy Search, which represents the latent objective as a Gaussian process and constructs an explicit belief over the location of the objective minimum. This is used to maximize the information gain from each experimental evaluation. Thus, this framework shall yield improved controllers with fewer evaluations compared to alternative approaches. A seven-degree- of-freedom robot arm balancing an inverted pole is used as the experimental demonstrator. Results of a two- and four- dimensional tuning problems highlight the method’s potential for automatic controller tuning on robotic platforms.

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Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

Video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Batch Bayesian Optimization via Local Penalization

González, J., Dai, Z., Hennig, P., Lawrence, N.

Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 51, pages: 648-657, JMLR Workshop and Conference Proceedings, (Editors: Gretton, A. and Robert, C. C.), May 2016 (conference)

ei pn

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Approximate Least-Squares

Bartels, S., Hennig, P.

Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS), 51, pages: 676-684, JMLR Workshop and Conference Proceedings, (Editors: Gretton, A. and Robert, C. C. ), May 2016 (conference)

Abstract
Least-squares and kernel-ridge / Gaussian process regression are among the foundational algorithms of statistics and machine learning. Famously, the worst-case cost of exact nonparametric regression grows cubically with the data-set size; but a growing number of approximations have been developed that estimate good solutions at lower cost. These algorithms typically return point estimators, without measures of uncertainty. Leveraging recent results casting elementary linear algebra operations as probabilistic inference, we propose a new approximate method for nonparametric least-squares that affords a probabilistic uncertainty estimate over the error between the approximate and exact least-squares solution (this is not the same as the posterior variance of the associated Gaussian process regressor). This allows estimating the error of the least-squares solution on a subset of the data relative to the full-data solution. The uncertainty can be used to control the computational effort invested in the approximation. Our algorithm has linear cost in the data-set size, and a simple formal form, so that it can be implemented with a few lines of code in programming languages with linear algebra functionality.

ei pn

link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


Thumb xl spie2016
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]