Home Technology Modular Soft Robotic Micro-Devices for Dexterous Bio-Manipulation
Modular Soft Robotic Micro-Devices for Dexterous Bio-Manipulation

Modular Soft Robotic Micro-Devices for Dexterous Bio-Manipulation

Researchers from EPFL developed a method to build biologically inspired, soft micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) devices

Microscopic soft devices capable of actively interrogating and accurately inflicting biological microenvironment with the help of physical and chemical interactions can enhance therapy and biomedical research. Hydrogels offer spatial and temporal control over the release of various therapeutic agents and can respond to various biochemical and physical stimuli with the help of appropriately designed composition and structure. Now a team of researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) developed micro-devices that can mechanically stimulate cells and micro-tissue. The devices are powered by cell-sized artificial muscles and can perform complicated manipulation tasks under physiological conditions on a microscopic scale.

The tools that include micro-actuators and soft robotic devices are wirelessly activated by laser beams. The team can also incorporate microfluidic chips for use in combinatorial tests that involve high-throughput chemical and mechanical stimulation of a variety of biological samples. The team was inspired from the locomotor system in action and was focused on developing a modular system powered by the contraction of distributed actuators and the deformation of compliant mechanisms. The system includes assembling of various hydrogel components to form a compliant skeleton. The team later created tendon-like polymer connections between the skeleton and the micro-actuators. The team combined the bricks and actuators in different ways to create an array of complicated micro-machines.

The soft actuators can contract rapidly and efficiently when activated by near-infrared light. The entire nano-scale actuator network contracts to hold holds together the surrounding device components and powers the machinery.  The team used the approach to remotely activate multiple micro-actuators at specified locations. The micro-actuators complete each contraction-relaxation cycle in milliseconds with large strain, according to the researchers. Moreover, the approach can offer practical applications as it can be used by healthcare professionals to mechanically stimulate tissue or to actuate mechanisms for the on-demand delivery of biological agents. The research was published in the journal Lab on a Chip on February 04, 2019.


Sumit Patil
Sumit Patil,

Sumit Patil
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