Prof. Dr. Metin Sitti is the director of the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany since 2014. As his current ancillary academic positions, he is a professor at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, professor in Koç University, Turkey, and honorary professor in University of Stuttgart, Germany. He was a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA (2002-2014) and a research scientist at University of California at Berkeley, USA (1999-2002). He received the BSc (1992) and MSc (1994) degrees in electrical and electronics engineering and physics from Boğaziçi University, Turkey, and the PhD degree (1999) in electrical engineering from the University of Tokyo, Japan.
He has pioneered many research areas, including wireless miniature medical soft robots, gecko-inspired microfiber adhesives, bio-inspired miniature robots, and physical intelligence. He is an IEEE Fellow. As selected awards, he received the ERC Advanced Grant (2019), Rahmi Koç Medal of Science (2018), Best Paper Award in the Robotics Science and Systems Conference (2019), IEEE/ASME Best Mechatronics Paper Award (2014), SPIE Nanoengineering Pioneer Award (2011), Best Paper Award in the IEEE/RSJ Intelligent Robots and Systems Conference (1998, 2009), and NSF CAREER Award (2005). He is the editor-in-chief of both Progress in Biomedical Engineering and Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics journals, and an associate editor for both Science Advances and Extreme Mechanics Letters journals.
Prof. Sitti has published two books and over 460 peer-reviewed papers, over 300 of which have appeared in archival journals. His group’s research breakthroughs have been featured in the popular press, such as New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Economist, Der Spiegel, Forbes, Science, New Scientist, Science News, Nature News, MIT Technology Review, and IEEE Spectrum Magazine. He has given over 200 invited keynote, plenary or distinguished seminars in universities, conferences and industry. He has over 12 issued patents and over 15 pending patents. He founded a start-up (nanoGriptech Inc.) in Pittsburgh, USA in 2012 to commercialize his lab’s gecko-inspired microfiber adhesive technology as a new disruptive adhesive material (branded as Setex®) for a wide range of industrial applications.
He has supervised and mentored 55 (17 current) PhD students and 62 (20 current) postdoctoral researchers since 2002. Over 40 of his lab alumni became a faculty or group leader at Cornell, UMich, UIUC, Tufts, Oregon State, Virginia Tech, WPI, ASU, LSU, Richard Morris, Texas Tech (USA); Toronto, Waterloo, McMaster (Canada); ETH Zurich (Switzerland); MPI for Intelligent Systems, KIT (Germany); NTU (Singapore); Tampere (Finland); Bilkent, Hacettepe, Bogazici (Turkey); Sheffield, Heriot-Watt (UK); Delft, Wageningen (Netherlands); KIST, Hanyang (S. Korea); UMich-Shanghai Jiaotong Joint Institute (China); Banaras Hindu (India); etc. Moreover, over 25 of his lab alumni are working in industry as senior researchers at Intuitive Surgical, Apple, Intel, Google, Novartis, BostonDynamics, Schlumberger, 3M, Proprio Vision, Arete Associates, Aselsan, Analog Systems, etc.
In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, 2020 (inproceedings)
Untethered small-scale soft robots have promising applications in minimally invasive surgery, targeted drug delivery, and bioengineering applications as they can access confined spaces in the human body. However, due to highly nonlinear soft continuum deformation kinematics, inherent stochastic variability during fabrication at the small scale, and lack of accurate models, the conventional control methods cannot be easily applied. Adaptivity of robot control is additionally crucial for medical operations, as operation environments show large variability, and robot materials may degrade or change over time,which would have deteriorating effects on the robot motion and task performance. Therefore, we propose using a probabilistic learning approach for millimeter-scale magnetic walking soft robots using Bayesian optimization (BO) and Gaussian processes (GPs). Our approach provides a data-efficient learning scheme to find controller parameters while optimizing the stride length performance of the walking soft millirobot robot within a small number of physical experiments. We demonstrate adaptation to fabrication variabilities in three different robots and to walking surfaces with different roughness. We also show an improvement in the learning performance by transferring the learning results of one robot to the others as prior information.
The invention relates to a method of simultaneously calibrating magnetic actuation and sensing systems for a workspace, wherein the actuation system comprises a plurality of magnetic actuators and the sensing system comprises a plurality of magnetic sensors, wherein all the measured data is fed into a calibration model, wherein the calibration model is based on a sensor measurement model and a magnetic actuation model, and wherein a solution of the model parameters is found via a numerical solver order to calibrate both the actuation and sensing systems at the same time.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(21):11306-11313, 2020 (article)
Self-assembly is a ubiquitous process that can generate complex and functional structures via local interactions among a large set of simpler components. The ability to program the self-assembly pathway of component sets elucidates fundamental physics and enables alternative competitive fabrication technologies. Reprogrammability offers further opportunities for tuning structural and material properties but requires reversible selection from multistable self-assembling patterns, which remains a challenge. Here, we show statistical reprogramming of two-dimensional (2D), noncompact self-assembled structures by the dynamic confinement of orbitally shaken and magnetically repulsive millimeter-scale particles. Under a constant shaking regime, we control the rate of radius change of an assembly arena via moving hard boundaries and select among a finite set of self-assembled patterns repeatably and reversibly. By temporarily trapping particles in topologically identified stable states, we also demonstrate 2D reprogrammable stiffness and three-dimensional (3D) magnetic clutching of the self-assembled structures. Our reprogrammable system has prospective implications for the design of granular materials in a multitude of physical scales where out-of-equilibrium self-assembly can be realized with different numbers or types of particles. Our dynamic boundary regulation may also enable robust bottom-up control strategies for novel robotic assembly applications by designing more complex spatiotemporal interactions using mobile robots.
Google Patents, Febuary 2020, US Patent App. 16/610,209 (patent)
The present invention relates to a gripping apparatus comprising a membrane; a flexible housing; with said membrane being fixedly connected to a periphery of the housing. The invention further relates to a method of producing a gripping apparatus.
US Patent Application 10675718, January 2020 (patent)
A method for reversibly attaching a phase changing metal to an object, the method comprising the steps of:
providing a substrate having at least one surface at which the phase changing metal is attached,
heating the phase changing metal above a phase changing temperature at which the phase changing metal changes its phase from solid to liquid,
bringing the phase changing metal, when the phase changing metal is in the liquid phase or before the phase changing metal is brought into the liquid phase, into contact with the object,
permitting the phase changing metal to cool below the phase changing temperature, whereby the phase changing metal becomes solid and the object and the phase changing metal become attached to each other,
reheating the phase changing metal above the phase changing temperature to liquefy the phase changing metal, and
removing the substrate from the object, with the phase changing metal separating from the object and remaining with the substrate.
Google Patents, January 2020, US Patent App. 16/477,593 (patent)
The present invention relates to a method of actuating a shape changeable member of actuatable material. The invention further relates to a shape changeable member and to a system comprising such a shape changeable member and a magnetic field apparatus.
The present invention relates to a method of fabricating a shape-changeable magnetic member comprising a plurality of segments with each segment being able to be magnetized with a desired magnitude and orientation of magnetization, to a method of producing a shape changeable magnetic member composed of a plurality of segments and to a shape changeable magnetic member.
Although substrates play an important role upon crystallization of supercooled liquids, the influences of surface temperature and thermal property have remained elusive. Here, the crystallization of supercooled phase‐change gallium (Ga) on substrates with different thermal conductivity is studied. The effect of interfacial temperature on the crystallization kinetics, which dictates thermo‐mechanical stresses between the substrate and the crystallized Ga, is investigated. At an elevated surface temperature, close to the melting point of Ga, an extended single‐crystal growth of Ga on dielectric substrates due to layering effect and annealing is realized without the application of external fields. Adhesive strength at the interfaces depends on the thermal conductivity and initial surface temperature of the substrates. This insight can be applicable to other liquid metals for industrial applications, and sheds more light on phase‐change memory crystallization.
In this paper, we characterize the performance of and develop thermal management solutions for a DC motor-driven resonant actuator developed for flapping wing micro air vehicles. The actuator, a DC micro-gearmotor connected in parallel with a torsional spring, drives reciprocal wing motion. Compared to the gearmotor alone, this design increased torque and power density by 161.1% and 666.8%, respectively, while decreasing the drawn current by 25.8%. Characterization of the actuator, isolated from nonlinear aerodynamic loading, results in standard metrics directly comparable to other actuators. The micro-motor, selected for low weight considerations, operates at high power for limited duration due to thermal effects. To predict system performance, a lumped parameter thermal circuit model was developed. Critical model parameters for this micro-motor, two orders of magnitude smaller than those previously characterized, were identified experimentally. This included the effects of variable winding resistance, bushing friction, speed-dependent forced convection, and the addition of a heatsink. The model was then used to determine a safe operation envelope for the vehicle and to design a weight-optimal heatsink. This actuator design and thermal modeling approach could be applied more generally to improve the performance of any miniature mobile robot or device with motor-driven oscillating limbs or loads.
Mobile microrobotics has emerged as a new robotics field within the last decade to create untethered tiny robots that can access and operate in unprecedented, dangerous, or hard‐to‐reach small spaces noninvasively toward disruptive medical, biotechnology, desktop manufacturing, environmental remediation, and other potential applications. Magnetic and optical actuation methods are the most widely used actuation methods in mobile microrobotics currently, in addition to acoustic and biological (cell‐driven) actuation approaches. The pros and cons of these actuation methods are reported here, depending on the given context. They can both enable long‐range, fast, and precise actuation of single or a large number of microrobots in diverse environments. Magnetic actuation has unique potential for medical applications of microrobots inside nontransparent tissues at high penetration depths, while optical actuation is suitable for more biotechnology, lab‐/organ‐on‐a‐chip, and desktop manufacturing types of applications with much less surface penetration depth requirements or with transparent environments. Combining both methods in new robot designs can have a strong potential of combining the pros of both methods. There is still much progress needed in both actuation methods to realize the potential disruptive applications of mobile microrobots in real‐world conditions.
The International Journal of Robotics Research, 39(5):617-638, 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.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system–driven medical robotics is an emerging field that aims to use clinical MRI systems not only for medical imaging but also for actuation, localization, and control of medical robots. Submillimeter scale resolution of MR images for soft tissues combined with the electromagnetic gradient coil–based magnetic actuation available inside MR scanners can enable theranostic applications of medical robots for precise image‐guided minimally invasive interventions. MRI‐driven robotics typically does not introduce new MRI instrumentation for actuation but instead focuses on converting already available instrumentation for robotic purposes. To use the advantages of this technology, various medical devices such as untethered mobile magnetic robots and tethered active catheters have been designed to be powered magnetically inside MRI systems. Herein, the state‐of‐the‐art progress, challenges, and future directions of MRI‐driven medical robotic systems are reviewed.
We investigate the effect of wing twist flexibility on lift and efficiency of a flapping-wing micro air vehicle capable of
liftoff. Wings used previously were chosen to be fully rigid due to modeling and fabrication constraints. However,
biological wings are highly flexible and other micro air vehicles have successfully utilized flexible wing structures for
specialized tasks. The goal of our study is to determine if dynamic twisting of flexible wings can increase overall
aerodynamic lift and efficiency. A flexible twisting wing design was found to increase aerodynamic efficiency by
41.3%, translational lift production by 35.3%, and the effective lift coefficient by 63.7% compared to the rigid-wing
design. These results exceed the predictions of quasi-steady blade element models, indicating the need for unsteady
computational fluid dynamics simulations of twisted flapping wings.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(7):3469-3477, 2020 (article)
Untethered synthetic microrobots have significant potential to revolutionize minimally invasive medical interventions in the future. However, their relatively slow speed and low controllability near surfaces typically are some of the barriers standing in the way of their medical applications. Here, we introduce acoustically powered microrobots with a fast, unidirectional surface-slipping locomotion on both flat and curved surfaces. The proposed three-dimensionally printed, bullet-shaped microrobot contains a spherical air bubble trapped inside its internal body cavity, where the bubble is resonated using acoustic waves. The net fluidic flow due to the bubble oscillation orients the microrobot's axisymmetric axis perpendicular to the wall and then propels it laterally at very high speeds (up to 90 body lengths per second with a body length of 25 µm) while inducing an attractive force toward the wall. To achieve unidirectional locomotion, a small fin is added to the microrobot’s cylindrical body surface, which biases the propulsion direction. For motion direction control, the microrobots are coated anisotropically with a soft magnetic nanofilm layer, allowing steering under a uniform magnetic field. Finally, surface locomotion capability of the microrobots is demonstrated inside a three-dimensional circular cross-sectional microchannel under acoustic actuation. Overall, the combination of acoustic powering and magnetic steering can be effectively utilized to actuate and navigate these microrobots in confined and hard-to-reach body location areas in a minimally invasive fashion.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(10): 5125-5133, 2020 (article)
Untethered dynamic shape programming and control of soft materials have significant applications in technologies such as soft robots, medical devices, organ-on-a-chip, and optical devices. Here, we present a solution to remotely actuate and move soft materials underwater in a fast, efficient, and controlled manner using photoresponsive liquid crystal gels (LCGs). LCG constructs with engineered molecular alignment show a low and sharp phase-transition temperature and experience considerable density reduction by light exposure, thereby allowing rapid and reversible shape changes. We demonstrate different modes of underwater locomotion, such as crawling, walking, jumping, and swimming, by localized and time-varying illumination of LCGs. The diverse locomotion modes of smart LCGs can provide a new toolbox for designing efficient light-fueled soft robots in fluid-immersed media.
Functionally graded materials (FGMs) enable applications in fields such as biomedicine and architecture, but their fabrication suffers from shortcomings in gradient continuity, interfacial bonding, and directional freedom. In addition, most commercial design software fail to incorporate property gradient data, hindering explorations of the design space of FGMs. Here, we leveraged a combined approach of materials engineering and digital processing to enable extrusion-based multimaterial additive manufacturing of cellulose-based tunable viscoelastic materials with continuous, high-contrast, and multidirectional stiffness gradients. A method to engineer sets of cellulose-based materials with similar compositions, yet distinct mechanical and rheological properties, was established. In parallel, a digital workflow was developed to embed gradient information into design models with integrated fabrication path planning. The payoff of integrating these physical and digital tools is the ability to achieve the same stiffness gradient in multiple ways, opening design possibilities previously limited by the rigid coupling of material and geometry.
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