Dr. Metin Sitti is the director of the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany. He is also an honorary professor in University of Stuttgart, professor in Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey, and distinguished service professor in Carnegie Mellon University. He was a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, 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 from Boğaziçi University, Turkey, and the PhD degree (1999) in electrical engineering from the University of Tokyo, Japan.
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 has published over 440 peer-reviewed papers, over 240 of which have appeared in archival journals. He is the editor-in-chief of both Progress in Biomedical Engineering and Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics. His research interests include physical intelligence, small-scale mobile robotics, bio-inspiration, advanced functional micro/nanomaterials, and miniature medical devices.
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.
Animals can incorporate large numbers of actuators because of the characteristics of muscles; whereas, robots cannot, as typical motors tend to be large, heavy, and inefficient. However, shape-memory alloys (SMA), materials that contract during heating because of change in their crystal structure, provide another option. SMA, though, is unidirectional and therefore requires an additional force to reset (extend) the actuator, which is typically provided by springs or antagonistic actuation. These strategies, however, tend to limit the actuator's work output and functionality as their force-displacement relationships typically produce increasing resistive force with limited variability. In contrast, magnetic springs-composed of permanent magnets, where the interaction force between magnets mimics a spring force-have much more variable force-displacement relationships and scale well with SMA. However, as of yet, no method for designing magnetic springs for SMA-actuators has been demonstrated. Therefore, in this paper, we present a new methodology to tailor magnetic springs to the characteristics of these actuators, with experimental results both for the device and robot-integrated SMA-actuators. We found magnetic building blocks, based on sets of permanent magnets, which are well-suited to SMAs and have the potential to incorporate features such as holding force, state transitioning, friction minimization, auto-alignment, and self-mounting. We show magnetic springs that vary by more than 3 N in 750 $\mu$m and two SMA-actuated devices that allow the MultiMo-Bat to reach heights of up to 4.5 m without, and 3.6 m with, integrated gliding airfoils. Our results demonstrate the potential of this methodology to add previously impossible functionality to smart material actuators. We anticipate this methodology will inspire broader consideration of the use of magnetic springs in miniature robots and further study of the potential of tailored magnetic springs throughout mechanical systems.
Abstract Peritrichously flagellated Escherichia coli swim back and forth by wrapping their flagella together in a helical bundle. However, other monotrichous bacteria cannot swim back and forth with a single flagellum and planar wave propagation. Quantifying this observation, a magnetically driven soft two‐tailed microrobot capable of reversing its swimming direction without making a U‐turn trajectory or actively modifying the direction of wave propagation is designed and developed. The microrobot contains magnetic microparticles within the polymer matrix of its head and consists of two collinear, unequal, and opposite ultrathin tails. It is driven and steered using a uniform magnetic field along the direction of motion with a sinusoidally varying orthogonal component. Distinct reversal frequencies that enable selective and independent excitation of the first or the second tail of the microrobot based on their tail length ratio are found. While the first tail provides a propulsive force below one of the reversal frequencies, the second is almost passive, and the net propulsive force achieves flagellated motion along one direction. On the other hand, the second tail achieves flagellated propulsion along the opposite direction above the reversal frequency.
IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, 54(1):1-13, October 2018 (article)
A design methodology is presented for creating custom complex magnetic springs through the design of force-displacement curves. This methodology results in a magnet configuration, which will produce a desired force-displacement relationship. Initially, the problem is formulated and solved as a system of linear equations. Then, given the limited likelihood of a single solution being feasibly manufactured, key parameters of the solution are extracted and varied to create a family of solutions. Finally, these solutions are refined using numerical optimization. Given the properties of magnets, this methodology can create any well-defined function of force versus displacement and is model-independent. To demonstrate this flexibility, a number of example magnetic springs are designed; one of which, designed for use in a jumping-gliding robot's shape memory alloy actuated clutch, is manufactured and experimentally characterized. Due to the scaling of magnetic forces, the displacement region which these magnetic springs are most applicable is that of millimeters and below. However, this region is well situated for miniature robots and smart material actuators, where a tailored magnetic spring, designed to compliment a component, can enhance its performance while adding new functionality. The methodology is also expendable to variable interactions and multi-dimensional magnetic field design.
Collective control of mobile microrobotic swarms is indispensable for their potential high-impact applications in targeted drug delivery, medical diagnostics, parallel micromanipulation, and environmental sensing and remediation. Lack of on-board computational and sensing capabilities in current microrobotic systems necessitates use of physical interactions among individual microrobots for local physical communication and cooperation. Here, we show that mobile microrobotic swarms with well-defined collective behavior can be designed by engineering magnetic interactions among individual units. Microrobots, consisting of a linear chain of self-assembled magnetic microparticles, locomote on surfaces in response to a precessing magnetic field. Control over the direction of precessing magnetic field allows engineering attractive and repulsive interactions among microrobots and, thus, collective order with well-defined spatial organization and parallel operation over macroscale distances (~ 1 cm). These microrobotic swarms can be guided through confined spaces, while preserving microrobot morphology and function. These swarms can further achieve directional transport of large cargoes on surfaces and small cargoes in bulk fluids. Described design approach, exploiting physical interactions among individual robots, enables facile and rapid formation of self-organized and reconfigurable microrobotic swarms with programmable collective order.
Miniaturization of interventional medical devices can leverage minimally invasive technologies by enabling operational resolution at cellular length scales with high precision and repeatability. Untethered micron-scale mobile robots can realize this by navigating and performing in hard-to-reach, confined and delicate inner body sites. However, such a complex task requires an integrated design and engineering strategy, where powering, control, environmental sensing, medical functionality and biodegradability need to be considered altogether. The present study reports a hydrogel-based, biodegradable microrobotic swimmer, which is responsive to the changes in its microenvironment for theranostic cargo delivery and release tasks. We design a double-helical magnetic microswimmer of 20 micrometers length, which is 3D-printed with complex geometrical and compositional features. At normal physiological concentrations, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) enzyme can entirely degrade the microswimmer body in 118 h to solubilized non-toxic products. The microswimmer can respond to the pathological concentrations of MMP-2 by swelling and thereby accelerating the release kinetics of the drug payload. Anti-ErbB 2 antibody-tagged magnetic nanoparticles released from the degraded microswimmers serve for targeted labeling of SKBR3 breast cancer cells to realize the potential of medical imaging of local tissue sites following the therapeutic intervention. These results represent a leap forward toward clinical medical microrobots that are capable of sensing, responding to the local pathological information, and performing specific therapeutic and diagnostic tasks as orderly executed operations using their smart composite material architectures.
Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd, June 2018 (article)
Many ants use a combination of cues for orientation but how do ants find their way when all external cues are suppressed? Do they walk in a random way or are their movements spatially oriented? Here we show for the first time that leaf-cutting ants (Acromyrmex lundii) have an innate preference of turning counter-clockwise (left) when external cues are precluded. We demonstrated this by allowing individual ants to run freely on the water surface of a newly-developed treadmill. The surface tension supported medium-sized workers but effectively prevented ants from reaching the wall of the vessel, important to avoid wall-following behaviour (thigmotaxis). Most ants ran for minutes on the spot but also slowly turned counter-clockwise in the absence of visual cues. Reconstructing the effectively walked path revealed a looping pattern which could be interpreted as a search strategy. A similar turning bias was shown for groups of ants in a symmetrical Y-maze where twice as many ants chose the left branch in the absence of optical cues. Wall-following behaviour was tested by inserting a coiled tube before the Y-fork. When ants traversed a left-coiled tube, more ants chose the left box and vice versa. Adding visual cues in form of vertical black strips either outside the treadmill or on one branch of the Y-maze led to oriented walks towards the strips. It is suggested that both, the turning bias and the wall-following are employed as search strategies for an unknown environment which can be overridden by visual cues.
Scientific Reports, 8(1):9801, Nature Publishing Group, June 2018 (article)
Bacteria-driven biohybrid microswimmers (bacteriabots) combine synthetic cargo with motile living bacteria that enable propulsion and steering. Although fabrication and potential use of such bacteriabots have attracted much attention, existing methods of fabrication require an extensive sample preparation that can drastically decrease the viability and motility of bacteria. Moreover, chemotactic behavior of bacteriabots in a liquid medium with chemical gradients has remained largely unclear. To overcome these shortcomings, we designed Escherichia coli to autonomously display biotin on its cell surface via the engineered autotransporter antigen 43 and thus to bind streptavidin-coated cargo. We show that the cargo attachment to these bacteria is greatly enhanced by motility and occurs predominantly at the cell poles, which is greatly beneficial for the fabrication of motile bacteriabots. We further performed a systemic study to understand and optimize the ability of these bacteriabots to follow chemical gradients. We demonstrate that the chemotaxis of bacteriabots is primarily limited by the cargo-dependent reduction of swimming speed and show that the fabrication of bacteriabots using elongated E. coli cells can be used to overcome this limitation.
Wang, W., Timonen, J. V. I., Carlson, A., Drotlef, D., Zhang, C. T., Kolle, S., Grinthal, A., Wong, T., Hatton, B., Kang, S. H., Kennedy, S., Chi, J., Blough, R. T., Sitti, M., Mahadevan, L., Aizenberg, J.
Nature, June 2018 (article)
Developing adaptive materials with geometries that change in response to external stimuli provides fundamental insights into the links between the physical forces involved and the resultant morphologies and creates a foundation for technologically relevant dynamic systems1,2. In particular, reconfigurable surface topography as a means to control interfacial properties 3 has recently been explored using responsive gels 4 , shape-memory polymers 5 , liquid crystals6-8 and hybrid composites9-14, including magnetically active slippery surfaces12-14. However, these designs exhibit a limited range of topographical changes and thus a restricted scope of function. Here we introduce a hierarchical magneto-responsive composite surface, made by infiltrating a ferrofluid into a microstructured matrix (termed ferrofluid-containing liquid-infused porous surfaces, or FLIPS). We demonstrate various topographical reconfigurations at multiple length scales and a broad range of associated emergent behaviours. An applied magnetic-field gradient induces the movement of magnetic nanoparticles suspended in the ferrofluid, which leads to microscale flow of the ferrofluid first above and then within the microstructured surface. This redistribution changes the initially smooth surface of the ferrofluid (which is immobilized by the porous matrix through capillary forces) into various multiscale hierarchical topographies shaped by the size, arrangement and orientation of the confining microstructures in the magnetic field. We analyse the spatial and temporal dynamics of these reconfigurations theoretically and experimentally as a function of the balance between capillary and magnetic pressures15-19 and of the geometric anisotropy of the FLIPS system. Several interesting functions at three different length scales are demonstrated: self-assembly of colloidal particles at the micrometre scale; regulated flow of liquid droplets at the millimetre scale; and switchable adhesion and friction, liquid pumping and removal of biofilms at the centimetre scale. We envision that FLIPS could be used as part of integrated control systems for the manipulation and transport of matter, thermal management, microfluidics and fouling-release materials.
Advanced Science, pages: 1800239, May 2018 (article)
Abstract Soft actuators have demonstrated potential in a range of applications, including soft robotics, artificial muscles, and biomimetic devices. However, the majority of current soft actuators suffer from the lack of real-time sensory feedback, prohibiting their effective sensing and multitask function. Here, a promising strategy is reported to design bilayer electrothermal actuators capable of simultaneous actuation and sensation (i.e., self-sensing actuators), merely through two input electric terminals. Decoupled electrothermal stimulation and strain sensation is achieved by the optimal combination of graphite microparticles and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in the form of hybrid films. By finely tuning the charge transport properties of hybrid films, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of self-sensing actuators is remarkably enhanced to over 66. As a result, self-sensing actuators can actively track their displacement and distinguish the touch of soft and hard objects.
Science Robotics, 3(17):eaar4423, Science Robotics, April 2018 (article)
Bacteria-propelled biohybrid microswimmers have recently shown to be able to actively transport and deliver cargos encapsulated into their synthetic constructs to specific regions locally. However, usage of synthetic materials as cargo carriers can result in inferior performance in load-carrying efficiency, biocompatibility, and biodegradability, impeding clinical translation of biohybrid microswimmers. Here, we report construction and external guidance of bacteria-driven microswimmers using red blood cells (RBCs; erythrocytes) as autologous cargo carriers for active and guided drug delivery. Multifunctional biohybrid microswimmers were fabricated by attachment of RBCs [loaded with anticancer doxorubicin drug molecules and superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs)] to bioengineered motile bacteria, Escherichia coli MG1655, via biotin-avidin-biotin binding complex. Autonomous and on-board propulsion of biohybrid microswimmers was provided by bacteria, and their external magnetic guidance was enabled by SPIONs loaded into the RBCs. Furthermore, bacteria-driven RBC microswimmers displayed preserved deformability and attachment stability even after squeezing in microchannels smaller than their sizes, as in the case of bare RBCs. In addition, an on-demand light-activated hyperthermia termination switch was engineered for RBC microswimmers to control bacteria population after operations. RBCs, as biological and autologous cargo carriers in the biohybrid microswimmers, offer notable advantages in stability, deformability, biocompatibility, and biodegradability over synthetic cargo-carrier materials. The biohybrid microswimmer design presented here transforms RBCs from passive cargo carriers into active and guidable cargo carriers toward targeted drug and other cargo delivery applications in medicine.
Soft small robots offer the opportunity to non-invasively access human tissue to perform medical operations and deliver drugs; however, challenges in materials design, biocompatibility and function control remain to be overcome for soft robots to reach the clinic.
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