Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation

Robotic Instruments

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Micro- and nanorobotics
Photo: Aalto University / Robotic Instruments

Robotic Instruments group develops miniature robotic instruments and related technologies. Those instruments and technologies can be applied to many biomedical, material and industrial applications, e.g.  novel scientific instruments measuring wetting properties of surfaces or viscosity of complex protein structures, new methods for targeted drug delivery for cancer research or diagnosis of diseases, and new tools for integration of semiconductor and optoelectronic devices.

The strength of the research group is on the deep understanding and rich experience of the highly interdisciplinary robotic instruments, which covers fields from micro- and nanoscale physics, biology, surface sciences, materials, mechatronics, to robotics and automation methods. Currently, we are working on acoustic manipulation, magnetic micromanipulation, nanoforce characterization, autonomous micromanipulation, robotic microassembly and self-assembly. The research group also has extensive collaboration with both academic and industrial partners through EU, Academy of Finland, TEKES/BF, and industrial projects.

Leader of the research group: Prof. Quan Zhou



Acoustic manipulation of particles on a vibrating plate.

Acoustic manipulation

We have clarified the myth of motion randomness of particles on a vibrating plate, before they settle on nodal lines, present since the original experiments of Ernst Chladni in 1780s. We invented a multi-particle single actuator acoustic manipulation method and also discovered a new motion mechanism, of heaving particles moving on the vibrating plate. Contrary to many potential-trapping based acoustic manipulation methods, our technology is based on the out-of-nodal-line motion. Our method allows independent trajectory following, pattern transformation, swarm manipulation, and sorting of multiple miniature objects in a wide range of materials, including electronic components, water droplets loaded on solid carriers, plant seeds, candy balls, and metal parts.

On image center, a spherical water droplet hangs from the tip of a disk, at the end of a sensor probe. Underneath lies a colourful yellow butterfly wing with black stripes, slightly out of focus toware the top and bottom of the image. Small individual scales that compose wing are visible.

Scanning Droplet Adhesion Microscopy

We have invented Scanning Droplet Adhesion Microscopy (SDAM) to measure the fine wetting details of water repellent surfaces. SDAM does not require a direct line of sight of the contact area, allowing measurement of uneven surfaces such as fabrics or biological surfaces. It is extremely sensitive and 1000 times more precise than the previous wetting characterization methods. In addition, it can detect wetting properties of microscopic functional features that were previously very difficult to measure.

Illustration of the EMN system. A copper coil wraps a dark metalic needle. A red sphere represents a particle. It is depicted as atracted to the needle's tip by magnetic field lines emanating from the needle's tip. A light blue background indicates the particle and needle's tip are under-water. Annotations indicate a voltage applied to the coil, the distance between the tip and particle and a force vector is shown pointing from the particle to the needle, annoted with Fm.

Micromanipulation using robotic electromagnetic needle

We have developed robotic eletromagnetic needle for selective picking and precise manipulation of magnetic microparticles with the presence of other similar particles in liquid medium. We control precisely the magnetic field at the micro sharp needle tip to allow localized manipulation, with or without contact. We can pick microparticles just several micrometers away from its neighbour and place them next to each other, or contactlessly extract selected single particles from a population, separate particles with about ten micrometers gap, independent manipulation particles and deliver them onto separate cells.

Robotic Instruments - Research

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Robotic Instruments - Publications
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