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2020


Chiroptical spectroscopy of a freely diffusing single nanoparticle
Chiroptical spectroscopy of a freely diffusing single nanoparticle

Sachs, J., Günther, J., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(4513), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Chiral plasmonic nanoparticles can exhibit strong chiroptical signals compared to the corresponding molecular response. Observations are, however, generally restricted to measurements on stationary single particles with a fixed orientation, which complicates the spectral analysis. Here, we report the spectroscopic observation of a freely diffusing single chiral nanoparticle in solution. By acquiring time-resolved circular differential scattering signals we show that the spectral interpretation is significantly simplified. We experimentally demonstrate the equivalence between time-averaged chiral spectra observed for an individual nanostructure and the corresponding ensemble spectra, and thereby demonstrate the ergodic principle for chiroptical spectroscopy. We also show how it is possible for an achiral particle to yield an instantaneous chiroptical response, whereas the time-averaged signals are an unequivocal measure of chirality. Time-resolved chiroptical spectroscopy on a freely moving chiral nanoparticle advances the field of single-particle spectroscopy, and is a means to obtain the true signature of the nanoparticle’s chirality.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Microchannels with Self-Pumping Walls
Microchannels with Self-Pumping Walls

Yu, T., Athanassiadis, A., Popescu, M., Chikkadi, V., Güth, A., Singh, D., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

ACS Nano, September 2020 (article)

Abstract
When asymmetric Janus micromotors are immobilized on a surface, they act as chemically powered micropumps, turning chemical energy from the fluid into a bulk flow. However, such pumps have previously produced only localized recirculating flows, which cannot be used to pump fluid in one direction. Here, we demonstrate that an array of three-dimensional, photochemically active Au/TiO2 Janus pillars can pump water. Upon UV illumination, a water-splitting reaction rapidly creates a directional bulk flow above the active surface. By lining a 2D microchannel with such active surfaces, various flow profiles are created within the channels. Analytical and numerical models of a channel with active surfaces predict flow profiles that agree very well with the experimental results. The light-driven active surfaces provide a way to wirelessly pump fluids at small scales and could be used for real-time, localized flow control in complex microfluidic networks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly
Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly

Huang, Y., Yu, K., Li, H., Liang, Z., Walker, D., Ferreira, P., Fischer, P., Fan, D.

Adv. Mat., (2003439), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is a multifunctional material that can be used for various applications. In the single‐crystalline form, MoS2 shows superior electronic properties. It is also an exceptionally useful nanomaterial in its polycrystalline form with applications in catalysis, energy storage, water treatment, and gas sensing. Here, the scalable fabrication of longitudinal MoS2 nanostructures, i.e., nanoribbons, and their oxide hybrids with tunable dimensions in a rational and well‐reproducible fashion, is reported. The nanoribbons, obtained at different reaction stages, that is, MoO3, MoS2/MoO2 hybrid, and MoS2, are fully characterized. The growth method presented herein has a high yield and is particularly robust. The MoS2 nanoribbons can readily be removed from its substrate and dispersed in solution. It is shown that functionalized MoS2 nanoribbons can be manipulated in solution and assembled in controlled patterns and directly on microelectrodes with UV‐click‐chemistry. Owing to the high chemical purity and polycrystalline nature, the MoS2 nanostructures demonstrate rapid optoelectronic response to wavelengths from 450 to 750 nm, and successfully remove mercury contaminants from water. The scalable fabrication and manipulation followed by light‐directed assembly of MoS2 nanoribbons, and their unique properties, will be inspiring for device fabrication and applications of the transition metal dichalcogenides.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Spatial ultrasound modulation by digitally controlling microbubble arrays
Spatial ultrasound modulation by digitally controlling microbubble arrays

Ma, Z., Melde, K., Athanassiadis, A. G., Schau, M., Richter, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(4537), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
Acoustic waves, capable of transmitting through optically opaque objects, have been widely used in biomedical imaging, industrial sensing and particle manipulation. High-fidelity wavefront shaping is essential to further improve performance in these applications. An acoustic analog to the successful spatial light modulator (SLM) in optics would be highly desirable. To date there have been no techniques shown that provide effective and dynamic modulation of a sound wave and which also support scale-up to a high number of individually addressable pixels. In the present study, we introduce a dynamic spatial ultrasound modulator (SUM),which dynamically reshapes incident plane waves into complex acoustic images. Its trans-mission function is set with a digitally generated pattern of microbubbles controlled by a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) chip, which results in a binary amplitude acoustic hologram. We employ this device to project sequentially changing acoustic images and demonstrate the first dynamic parallel assembly of microparticles using a SUM.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Characterization of active matter in dense suspensions with heterodyne laser Doppler velocimetry
Characterization of active matter in dense suspensions with heterodyne laser Doppler velocimetry

Sachs, J., Kottapalli, S. N., Fischer, P., Botin, D., Palberg, T.

Colloid and Polymer Science, August 2020 (article)

Abstract
We present a novel approach for characterizing the properties and performance of active matter in dilute suspension as well as in crowded environments. We use Super-Heterodyne Laser-Doppler-Velocimetry (SH-LDV) to study large ensembles of catalytically active Janus particles moving under UV illumination. SH-LDV facilitates a model-free determination of the swimming speed and direction, with excellent ensemble averaging. In addition, we obtain information on the distribution of the catalytic activity. Moreover, SH-LDV operates away from walls and permits a facile correction for multiple scattering contributions. It thus allows for studies of concentrated suspensions of swimmers or of systems where swimmers propel actively in an environment crowded by passive particles. We demonstrate the versatility and the scope of the method with a few selected examples. We anticipate that SH-LDV complements established methods and paves the way for systematic measurements at previously inaccessible boundary conditions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters ( Early Access ), IEEE, July 2020 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation
Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation

Khadiv, M., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 36, pages: 629 - 643, IEEE, June 2020 (article)

Abstract
Step adjustment can improve the gait robustness of biped robots; however, the adaptation of step timing is often neglected as it gives rise to nonconvex problems when optimized over several footsteps. In this article, we argue that it is not necessary to optimize walking over several steps to ensure gait viability and show that it is sufficient to merely select the next step timing and location. Using this insight, we propose a novel walking pattern generator that optimally selects step location and timing at every control cycle. Our approach is computationally simple compared to standard approaches in the literature, yet guarantees that any viable state will remain viable in the future. We propose a swing foot adaptation strategy and integrate the pattern generator with an inverse dynamics controller that does not explicitly control the center of mass nor the foot center of pressure. This is particularly useful for biped robots with limited control authority over their foot center of pressure, such as robots with point feet or passive ankles. Extensive simulations on a humanoid robot with passive ankles demonstrate the capabilities of the approach in various walking situations, including external pushes and foot slippage, and emphasize the importance of step timing adaptation to stabilize walking.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Biocompatible magnetic micro‐ and nanodevices: Fabrication of FePt nanopropellers and cell transfection
Biocompatible magnetic micro‐ and nanodevices: Fabrication of FePt nanopropellers and cell transfection

Kadiri, V. M., Bussi, C., Holle, A. W., Son, K., Kwon, H., Schütz, G., Gutierrez, M. G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., 32(2001114), May 2020 (article)

Abstract
The application of nanoparticles for drug or gene delivery promises benefits in the form of single‐cell‐specific therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities. Many methods of cell transfection rely on unspecific means to increase the transport of genetic material into cells. Targeted transport is in principle possible with magnetically propelled micromotors, which allow responsive nanoscale actuation and delivery. However, many commonly used magnetic materials (e.g., Ni and Co) are not biocompatible, possess weak magnetic remanence (Fe3O4), or cannot be implemented in nanofabrication schemes (NdFeB). Here, it is demonstrated that co‐depositing iron (Fe) and platinum (Pt) followed by one single annealing step, without the need for solution processing, yields ferromagnetic FePt nanomotors that are noncytotoxic, biocompatible, and possess a remanence and magnetization that rival those of permanent NdFeB micromagnets. Active cell targeting and magnetic transfection of lung carcinoma cells are demonstrated using gradient‐free rotating millitesla fields to drive the FePt nanopropellers. The carcinoma cells express enhanced green fluorescent protein after internalization and cell viability is unaffected by the presence of the FePt nanopropellers. The results establish FePt, prepared in the L10 phase, as a promising magnetic material for biomedical applications with superior magnetic performance, especially for micro‐ and nanodevices.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interface-mediated spontaneous symmetry breaking and mutual communication between drops containing chemically active particles
Interface-mediated spontaneous symmetry breaking and mutual communication between drops containing chemically active particles

Singh, D., Domínguez, A., Choudhury, U., Kottapalli, S., Popescu, M., Dietrich, S., Fischer, P.

Nature Communications, 11(2210), May 2020 (article)

Abstract
Symmetry breaking and the emergence of self-organized patterns is the hallmark of com- plexity. Here, we demonstrate that a sessile drop, containing titania powder particles with negligible self-propulsion, exhibits a transition to collective motion leading to self-organized flow patterns. This phenomenology emerges through a novel mechanism involving the interplay between the chemical activity of the photocatalytic particles, which induces Mar- angoni stresses at the liquid–liquid interface, and the geometrical confinement provided by the drop. The response of the interface to the chemical activity of the particles is the source of a significantly amplified hydrodynamic flow within the drop, which moves the particles. Furthermore, in ensembles of such active drops long-ranged ordering of the flow patterns within the drops is observed. We show that the ordering is dictated by a chemical com- munication between drops, i.e., an alignment of the flow patterns is induced by the gradients of the chemicals emanating from the active particles, rather than by hydrodynamic interactions.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Spectrally selective and highly-sensitive UV photodetection with UV-A, C band specific polarity switching in silver plasmonic nanoparticle enhanced gallium oxide thin-film
Spectrally selective and highly-sensitive UV photodetection with UV-A, C band specific polarity switching in silver plasmonic nanoparticle enhanced gallium oxide thin-film

Arora, K., Singh, D., Fischer, P., Kumar, M.

Adv. Opt. Mat., March 2020 (article)

Abstract
Traditional photodetectors generally show a unipolar photocurrent response when illuminated with light of wavelength equal or shorter than the optical bandgap. Here, we report that a thin film of gallium oxide (GO) decorated with plasmonic nanoparticles, surprisingly, exhibits a change in the polarity of the photocurrent for different UV bands. Silver (Ag) nanoparticles are vacuum-deposited onto β-Ga2O3 and the AgNP@GO thin films show a record responsivity of 250 A/W, which significantly outperforms bare GO planar photodetectors. The photoresponsivity reverses sign from +157 µA/W in the UV-C band under unbiased operation to -353 µA/W in the UV-A band. The current reversal is rationalized by considering the charge dynamics stemming from hot electrons generated when the incident light excites a local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) in the Ag nanoparticles. The Ag nanoparticles improve the external quantum efficiency and detectivity by nearly one order of magnitude with high values of 1.2×105 and 3.4×1014 Jones, respectively. This plasmon-enhanced solar blind GO detector allows UV regions to be spectrally distinguished, which is useful for the development of sensitive dynamic imaging photodetectors.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Acoustofluidic Tweezers for the 3D Manipulation of Microparticles
Acoustofluidic Tweezers for the 3D Manipulation of Microparticles

Guo, X., Ma, Z., Goyal, R., Jeong, M., Pang, W., Fischer, P., Dian, X., Qiu, T.

In 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA),, Febuary 2020 (conference)

Abstract
Non-contact manipulation is of great importance in the actuation of micro-robotics. It is challenging to contactless manipulate micro-scale objects over large spatial distance in fluid. Here, we describe a novel approach for the dynamic position control of microparticles in three-dimensional (3D) space, based on high-speed acoustic streaming generated by a micro-fabricated gigahertz transducer. Due to the vertical lifting force and the horizontal centripetal force generated by the streaming, microparticles are able to be stably trapped at a position far away from the transducer surface, and to be manipulated over centimeter distance in all three directions. Only the hydrodynamic force is utilized in the system for particle manipulation, making it a versatile tool regardless the material properties of the trapped particle. The system shows high reliability and manipulation velocity, revealing its potentials for the applications in robotics and automation at small scales.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Investigating photoresponsivity of graphene-silver hybrid nanomaterials in the ultraviolet
Investigating photoresponsivity of graphene-silver hybrid nanomaterials in the ultraviolet

Deshpande, P., Suri, P., Jeong, H., Fischer, P., Ghosh, A., Ghosh, G.

J. Chem. Phys., 152, pages: 044709, January 2020 (article)

Abstract
There have been several reports of plasmonically enhanced graphene photodetectors in the visible and the near infrared regime but rarely in the ultraviolet. In a previous work, we have reported that a graphene-silver hybrid structure shows a high photoresponsivity of 13 A/W at 270 nm. Here, we consider the likely mechanisms that underlie this strong photoresponse. We investigate the role of the plasmonic layer and examine the response using silver and gold nanoparticles of similar dimensions and spatial arrangement. The effect on local doping, strain, and absorption properties of the hybrid is also probed by photocurrent measurements and Raman and UV-visible spectroscopy. We find that the local doping from the silver nanoparticles is stronger than that from gold and correlates with a measured photosensitivity that is larger in devices with a higher contact area between the plasmonic nanomaterials and the graphene layer.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate
A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate

Choi, E., Adams, F., Gengenbacher, A., Schlager, D., Palagi, S., Müller, P., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

Annals of Biomed. Eng., 48, pages: 437-446, January 2020 (article)

Abstract
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure that requires experience and skill of the surgeon. To permit surgical training under realistic conditions we report a novel phantom of the human prostate that can be resected with TURP. The phantom mirrors the anatomy and haptic properties of the gland and permits quantitative evaluation of important surgical performance indicators. Mixtures of soft materials are engineered to mimic the physical properties of the human tissue, including the mechanical strength, the electrical and thermal conductivity, and the appearance under an endoscope. Electrocautery resection of the phantom closely resembles the procedure on human tissue. Ultrasound contrast agent was applied to the central zone, which was not detectable by the surgeon during the surgery but showed high contrast when imaged after the surgery, to serve as a label for the quantitative evaluation of the surgery. Quantitative criteria for performance assessment are established and evaluated by automated image analysis. We present the workflow of a surgical simulation on a prostate phantom followed by quantitative evaluation of the surgical performance. Surgery on the phantom is useful for medical training, and enables the development and testing of endoscopic and minimally invasive surgical instruments.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems
Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems

Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., January 2020 (article)

Abstract
A robot senses its environment, processes the sensory information, acts in response to these inputs, and possibly communicates with the outside world. Robots generally achieve these tasks with electronics-based hardware or by receiving inputs from some external hardware. In contrast, simple microorganisms can autonomously perceive, act, and communicate via purely physicochemical processes in soft material systems. A key property of biological systems is that they are built from energy-consuming ‘active’ units. Exciting developments in material science show that even very simple artificial active building blocks can show surprisingly rich emergent behaviors. Active non-equilibrium systems are therefore predicted to play an essential role to realize interactive materials. A major challenge is to find robust ways to couple and integrate the energy-consuming building blocks to the mechanical structure of the material. However, success in this endeavor will lead to a new generation of sophisticated micro- and soft-robotic systems that can operate autonomously.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A Real-Robot Dataset for Assessing Transferability of Learned Dynamics Models

Agudelo-España, D., Zadaianchuk, A., Wenk, P., Garg, A., Akpo, J., Grimminger, F., Viereck, J., Naveau, M., Righetti, L., Martius, G., Krause, A., Schölkopf, B., Bauer, S., Wüthrich, M.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2020 (conference) Accepted

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Project Page PDF [BibTex]

Project Page PDF [BibTex]

2011


Quantum-Cascade Laser-Based Vibrational Circular Dichroism
Quantum-Cascade Laser-Based Vibrational Circular Dichroism

Luedeke, S., Pfeifer, M., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 133(15):5704-5707, 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectra were recorded with a tunable external-cavity quantum-cascade laser (QCL). In comparison with standard thermal light sources in the IR, QCLs provide orders of magnitude more power and are therefore promising for VCD studies in strongly absorbing solvents. The brightness of this novel light source is demonstrated with VCD and IR absorption measurements of a number of compounds, including proline in water.

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DOI [BibTex]

2011


DOI [BibTex]


Actively coupled cavity ringdown spectroscopy with low-power broadband sources
Actively coupled cavity ringdown spectroscopy with low-power broadband sources

Petermann, C., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 19(11):10164-10173, 2011 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a coupling scheme for cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy that makes use of an intracavity acousto-optical modulator to actively switch light into (and out of) a resonator. This allows cavity ringdown spectroscopy (CRDS) to be implemented with broadband nonlaser light sources with spectral power densities of less than 30 mu W/nm. Although the acousto-optical element reduces the ultimate detection limit by introducing additional losses, it permits absorptivities to be measured with a high dynamic range, especially in lossy environments. Absorption measurements for the forbidden transition of gaseous oxygen in air at similar to 760nm are presented using a low-coherence cw-superluminescent diode. The same setup was electronically configured to cover absorption losses from 1.8 x 10(-8)cm(-1) to 7.5\% per roundtrip. This could be of interest in process analytical applications. (C) 2011 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Magnetically actuated propulsion at low Reynolds numbers: towards nanoscale control
Magnetically actuated propulsion at low Reynolds numbers: towards nanoscale control

Fischer, P., Ghosh, A.

NANOSCALE, 3(2):557-563, 2011 (article)

Abstract
Significant progress has been made in the fabrication of micron and sub-micron structures whose motion can be controlled in liquids under ambient conditions. The aim of many of these engineering endeavors is to be able to build and propel an artificial micro-structure that rivals the versatility of biological swimmers of similar size, e. g. motile bacterial cells. Applications for such artificial ``micro-bots'' are envisioned to range from microrheology to targeted drug delivery and microsurgery, and require full motion-control under ambient conditions. In this Mini-Review we discuss the construction, actuation, and operation of several devices that have recently been reported, especially systems that can be controlled by and propelled with homogenous magnetic fields. We describe the fabrication and associated experimental challenges and discuss potential applications.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


Weak value amplified optical activity measurements
Weak value amplified optical activity measurements

Pfeifer, M., Fischer, P.

Opt. Express, 19(17):16508-16517, OSA, 2011 (article)

Abstract
We present a new form of optical activity measurement based on a modified weak value amplification scheme. It has recently been shown experimentally that the left- and right-circular polarization components refract with slightly different angles of refraction at a chiral interface causing a linearly polarized light beam to split into two. By introducing a polarization modulation that does not give rise to a change in the optical rotation it is possible to differentiate between the two circular polarization components even after post-selection with a linear polarizer. We show that such a modified weak value amplification measurement permits the sign of the splitting and thus the handedness of the optically active medium to be determined. Angular beam separations of Δθ ∼ 1 nanoradian, which corresponds to a circular birefringence of Δn ∼ 1 × 10−9, could be measured with a relative error of less than 1%.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Toward simple control for complex, autonomous robotic applications: combining discrete and rhythmic motor primitives

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Gay, S., Ijspeert, A.

Autonomous Robots, 31(2-3):155-181, October 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vertebrates are able to quickly adapt to new environments in a very robust, seemingly effortless way. To explain both this adaptivity and robustness, a very promising perspective in neurosciences is the modular approach to movement generation: Movements results from combinations of a finite set of stable motor primitives organized at the spinal level. In this article we apply this concept of modular generation of movements to the control of robots with a high number of degrees of freedom, an issue that is challenging notably because planning complex, multidimensional trajectories in time-varying environments is a laborious and costly process. We thus propose to decrease the complexity of the planning phase through the use of a combination of discrete and rhythmic motor primitives, leading to the decoupling of the planning phase (i.e. the choice of behavior) and the actual trajectory generation. Such implementation eases the control of, and the switch between, different behaviors by reducing the dimensionality of the high-level commands. Moreover, since the motor primitives are generated by dynamical systems, the trajectories can be smoothly modulated, either by high-level commands to change the current behavior or by sensory feedback information to adapt to environmental constraints. In order to show the generality of our approach, we apply the framework to interactive drumming and infant crawling in a humanoid robot. These experiments illustrate the simplicity of the control architecture in terms of planning, the integration of different types of feedback (vision and contact) and the capacity of autonomously switching between different behaviors (crawling and simple reaching).

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Los Angeles, CA, USA, June 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The operational space formulation (Khatib, 1987), applied to rigid-body manipulators, describes how to decouple task-space and null-space dynamics, and write control equations that correspond only to forces at the end-effector or, alternatively, only to motion within the null-space. We would like to apply this useful theory to modern humanoids and other legged systems, for manipulation or similar tasks, however these systems present additional challenges due to their underactuated floating bases and contact states that can dynamically change. In recent work, Sentis et al. derived controllers for such systems by implementing a task Jacobian projected into a space consistent with the supporting constraints and underactuation (the so called "support consistent reduced Jacobian"). Here, we take a new approach to derive operational space controllers for constrained underactuated systems, by first considering the operational space dynamics within "projected inverse-dynamics" (Aghili, 2005), and subsequently resolving underactuation through the addition of dynamically consistent control torques. Doing so results in a simplified control solution compared with previous results, and importantly yields several new insights into the underlying problem of operational space control in constrained environments: 1) Underactuated systems, such as humanoid robots, cannot in general completely decouple task and null-space dynamics. However, 2) there may exist an infinite number of control solutions to realize desired task-space dynamics, and 3) these solutions involve the addition of dynamically consistent null-space motion or constraint forces (or combinations of both). In light of these findings, we present several possible control solutions, with varying optimization criteria, and highlight some of their practical consequences.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]