The International Journal of Robotics Research, 2020 (article)
Magnetically actuated mobile microrobots can access distant, enclosed, and small spaces, such as inside microfluidic channels and the human body, making them appealing for minimally invasive tasks. Despite their simplicity when scaling down, creating collective microrobots that can work closely and cooperatively, as well as reconfigure their formations for different tasks, would significantly enhance their capabilities such as manipulation of objects. However, a challenge of realizing such cooperative magnetic microrobots is to program and reconfigure their formations and collective motions with under-actuated control signals. This article presents a method of controlling 2D static and time-varying formations among collective self-repelling ferromagnetic microrobots (100 μm to 350 μm in diameter, up to 260 in number) by spatially and temporally programming an external magnetic potential energy distribution at the air–water interface or on solid surfaces. A general design method is introduced to program external magnetic potential energy using ferromagnets. A predictive model of the collective system is also presented to predict the formation and guide the design procedure. With the proposed method, versatile complex static formations are experimentally demonstrated and the programmability and scaling effects of formations are analyzed. We also demonstrate the collective mobility of these magnetic microrobots by controlling them to exhibit bio-inspired collective behaviors such as aggregation, directional motion with arbitrary swarm headings, and rotational swarming motion. Finally, the functions of the produced microrobotic swarm are demonstrated by controlling them to navigate through cluttered environments and complete reconfigurable cooperative manipulation tasks.
In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 6612-6618, 2017 (inproceedings)
Most demonstrated mobile microrobot tasks so far have been achieved via pick-and-placing and dynamic trapping with teleoperation or simple path following algorithms. In our previous work, an untethered magnetic microgripper has been developed which has advanced functions, such as gripping objects. Both teleoperated manipulation in 2D and 3D have been demonstrated. However, it is challenging to control the magnetic microgripper to carry out manipulation tasks, because the grasping of objects so far in the literature relies heavily on teleoperation, which takes several minutes with even a skilled human expert. Here, we propose a new spin-walking locomotion and an automated 2D grasping motion planner for the microgripper, which enables time-efficient automatic grasping of microobjects that has not been achieved yet for untethered microrobots. In its locomotion, the microgripper repeatedly rotates about two principal axes to regulate its pose and move precisely on a surface. The motion planner could plan different motion primitives for grasping and compensate the uncertainties in the motion by learning the uncertainties and planning accordingly. We experimentally demonstrated that, using the proposed method, the microgripper could align to the target pose with error less than 0.1 body length and grip the objects within 40 seconds. Our method could significantly improve the time efficiency of micro-scale manipulation and have potential applications in microassembly and biomedical engineering.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(41):E6007–E6015, National Acad Sciences, May 2016 (article)
Shape-programmable matter is a class of active materials whose geometry can be controlled to potentially achieve mechanical functionalities beyond those of traditional machines. Among these materials, magnetically actuated matter is particularly promising for achieving complex time-varying shapes at small scale (overall dimensions smaller than 1 cm). However, previous work can only program these materials for limited applications, as they rely solely on human intuition to approximate the required magnetization profile and actuating magnetic fields for their materials. Here, we propose a universal programming methodology that can automatically generate the required magnetization profile and actuating fields for soft matter to achieve new time-varying shapes. The universality of the proposed method can therefore inspire a vast number of miniature soft devices that are critical in robotics, smart engineering surfaces and materials, and biomedical devices. Our proposed method includes theoretical formulations, computational strategies, and fabrication procedures for programming magnetic soft matter. The presented theory and computational method are universal for programming 2D or 3D time-varying shapes, whereas the fabrication technique is generic only for creating planar beams. Based on the proposed programming method, we created a jellyfish-like robot, a spermatozoid-like undulating swimmer, and an artificial cilium that could mimic the complex beating patterns of its biological counterpart.
Lab on a Chip, 15(7):1667-1676, Royal Society of Chemistry, January 2015 (article)
Three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels in enclosed aquatic environments is demonstrated using a remotely actuated and controlled magnetic microgripper by a customized electromagnetic coil system. The microgripper uses different ‘stick–slip’ and ‘rolling’ locomotion in 2D and also levitation in 3D by magnetic gradient-based pulling force. This enables the microrobot to precisely manipulate each microgel by controlling its position and orientation in all x–y–z directions. Our microrobotic assembly method broke the barrier of limitation on the number of assembled microgel layers, because it enabled precise 3D levitation of the microgripper. We used the gripper to assemble microgels that had been coded with different colours and shapes onto prefabricated polymeric microposts. This eliminates the need for extra secondary cross-linking to fix the final construct. We demonstrated assembly of microgels on a single micropost up to ten layers. By increasing the number and changing the distribution of the posts, complex heterogeneous microsystems were possible to construct in 3D.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems