Small-scale mobile robots have the unique capability of accessing to small spaces and scales directly. Due to their small size and small-scale physics and dynamics, they could be agile and portable, and could be inexpensive and in large numbers if they are mass-produced. Miniature robots would have high impact applications in health-care, bioengineering, mobile sensor networks, desktop micro-manufacturing, and inspection. In this presentation, miniature mobile robots with tens or hundreds of micrometer overall sizes and various locomotion capabilities are presented. Going down to tens or hundreds of micron scale robots, the grand challenges are on-board actuation and power sources. Two alternative approaches are proposed in this talk to solve this challenge. First, biological cells, e.g. bacteria, attached to the surface of a micro-robot are used as on-board micro-actuators and micro-sensors using the chemical energy. Bacteria-propelled randomly swimming micro-robots are steered using chemical and pH gradients in the environment and remote magnetic fields. As the second approach, external actuation of untethered magnetic micro-robots using remote magnetic fields in enclosed spaces is demonstrated. New magnetic micro-robot locomotion principles based on rotational stick-slip and rolling dynamics are proposed. Novel magnetic composite materials are used to address and control teams of micro-robots. Such untethered micro-robot teams are demonstrated to control microfluidic flow locally, trap live cells and transport them, and manipulate micro-gels with embedded cells with or without contact inside microfluidic channels for tissue engineering applications.
Prof. Sitti’s research interests include small-scale physical intelligence systems, mobile micro-robots, novel micro/nano-materials, bio-inspired milli-robots, soft robots, and micro/nano-manipulation.
Awards and Honors
Prof. Sitti is an IEEE Fellow. He received the IBM Smarter Planet Award in 2012, the SPIE Nanoengineering Pioneer Award in 2011, and NSF CAREER Award in 2005. He was an invited speaker in the World Science Festival in New York City to give a presentation on Cellular Surgeons in 2013. He received the IEEE/ASME Best Mechatronics Paper Award in 2014, the Best Poster Award in the Adhesion Conference in 2014, the Best Paper Award in the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in 2009 and 1998, the first prize in the World RoboCup Micro-Robotics Competition in 2012 and 2013, the Best Biomimetics Paper Award in the IEEE Robotics and Biomimetics Conference in 2004, and the Best Video Award in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Conference in 2002.