Nature has inspired numerous microrobotic locomotion designs that are suitable for propulsion generation at low Reynolds numbers. This talk first reviews various swimming methods with a particular focus on helical propulsion inspired by E. coli bacteria. To actuate swimming microrobots, various magnetic actuation methods have been proposed, such as rotating fields, oscillating fields, and field gradients. These methods can be categorized into force-driven or torque-driven actuation. It can be shown that torque-driven approaches scale better to the micro- and nano-scale than force-driven approaches. The implementation of swarm or multi-agent control will also be discussed. The use of multiple microrobots may be beneficial for in vivo as well as in vitro applications, and the frequency-dependent behavior of helical microrobots allows individual agents to be decoupled from within small groups. Finally, an elegant commercial application of microrobots originally inspired by helical swimmers will be presented.
Brad Nelson has been the Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zürich since 2002. He has thirty years of experience in the field of robotics and has received a number of awards for his work in robotics, nanotechnology, and biomedicine. He serves on the advisory boards of a number of academic departments and research institutes across North America, Europe, and Asia and is on the editorial boards of several academic journals.
Prof. Nelson has been the Department Head of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH, Chairman of the ETH Electron Microscopy Center, is a member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Robotics Engineering at DGIST. He is a member of the board of directors of three Swiss companies.
Before moving to Europe, Prof. Nelson worked as an engineer at Honeywell and Motorola and served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, Africa. He has also been a professor at the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Awards and Honors
- United States “Scientific American 50” Award
- United States “McKnight Presidential Fellows Award”
- Fellow of the IEEE and the ASME
- Member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation