Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation

Robotic Instruments

Micro- and nanorobotics

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

Aalto University / Robotic Instruments Group, Acoustic manipulation / photo/art: Quan Zhou


Acoustic manipulation

We have clarified the myth of motion randomness of particles on vibrating plate before they settles to nodal lines since the original experiments of Ernst Chladni in 1780s, and invented a multi-particle single actuator acoustic manipulation method. Additionally, we have discovered new motion mechanism of heaving particles moving on vibrating plate. In 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.

Selected publications:

Video:  Single transducer acoustic manipulation in ambient air and under water


Wetting and microfluidics

Aalto University / Robotics Instrument Group: Scanning Droplet Adhesion Microscopy / photo: Matti Hokkanen

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, 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.

Aalto University / Robotic Instruments Group has designed methods to control liquid spreading using simple silicon undercut structures / photo: Ville Liimatinen

We have designed methods to control liquid spreading using simple silicon undercut structures, which can confine the wetting of liquids even with very low surface tension.

We have also discovered that the electron beam of environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) can create precise patterns that have extreme wetting contrast of 150º and features as small as 1 µm.

We also applied the hydrophilic-superhydrophobic patterns for gravity induced rapid deposition of nano-liter droplets.

Selected publications:


Surface-tension assisted hybrid microassembly

Aalto University / Robotic Instruments Group, Microscopic rain assembly / photo: Bo Chang

We have conducted extensive research on surface-tension assisted hybrid microassembly, including the first extensive studyof how self-alignment and robotic pick-and-place can work together, how different process parameters, including surface chemical properties, topographical features, fabrication precision, and material softness, affect the surface-tension driven (or capillary) self-alignment.

Aalto University / Robotic Instruments Group, Microscopic rain assembly / photo: Bo Chang

The work has also been applied to integration of semiconductor chips, laser diodes, and 3D integration of microchips, especially in the EU FP7 project FAB2ASM where Prof. Zhou was the coordinator.

Selected publications:


Micromanipulation using robotic electromagnetic needle

Aalto University / Robotic Instruments Group, Micromanipulation using robotic electromagnetic needle / picture: Zoran Cenev

We have developed robotic eletromagnetic needle for selective picking and precise manipulation of magnetic microparticles in liquid medium. We control precisely the magnetic field at the micro sharp needle tip to allow picking of single magnetic microparticles in a population, and can place multiple magnetic microparticles at precise locations or one against another.

Selected publications:

Group members

Quan Zhou Professor, leader of the group
Jean-Antoine Seon Postdoctoral researcher
Jin Tao Postdoctoral researcher
Povilas Valiauga Commercialization specialist
Zoran Cenev Ph.D. student
Kourosh Latifi Ph.D. student
Harri Wijaya Ph.D. student
Anastasiia Kravtcova Ph.D. student
Diluka Harischandra Ph.D. student
Arthur Vieira Ph.D. student
Ogulcan Isitman Ph.D. student
Jaakko Mattila M.Sc. thesis worker
Shahriar Najafi Haeri M.Sc. thesis worker
Artur Kopitca M.Sc. thesis worker
Olli Riikonen M.Sc. thesis worker
Orgilbold Zardikan Teaching assistant
Minka Suomela Research assistant


Selected publications

  1. Motion of Heavy Particles on a Submerged Chladni Plate, K. Latifi, H. Wijaya, Q. Zhou, Phys. Rev. Lett. 122, 184301, 2019.
  2. Mapping microscale wetting variations on biological and synthetic water-repellent surfaces, V. Liimatainen, M. Vuckovac, V. Jokinen, V. Sariola, M.J. Hokkanen, Q. Zhou & R.H.A. Ras, Nature Communications 8, 1798, 2017.
  3. Manipulating Superparamagnetic Microparticles with an Electromagnetic Needle, Z. Cenev, H. Zhang, V. Sariola, A. Rahikkala, D. Liu, H.A. Santos, Q Zhou, Advanced Materials Technologies, 2017.
  4. Controlling the motion of multiple objects on a Chladni plate, Q. Zhou, V. Sariola, K. Latifi, V. Liimatainen, Nature Communications 7, 12764, 2016.
  5. Maskless, High‐Precision, Persistent, and Extreme Wetting‐Contrast Patterning in an Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope, V. Liimatainen, A. Shah, L.S. Johansson, N. Houbenov, Q. Zhou, Small 12 (14), 1847-1853, 2016.
  6. Sliding droplets on hydrophilic/superhydrophobic patterned surfaces for liquid deposition, B. Chang, Q. Zhou, R.H.A. Ras, A. Shah, Z. Wu, K. Hjort, Applied Physics Letters 108 (15), 154102, 2016.
  7. Self-transport and self-alignment of microchips using microscopic rain, B. Chang, A. Shah, Q. Zhou, R.H.A. Ras, K. Hjort, Scientific reports 5, 2015.
  8. Controlling liquid spreading using microfabricated undercut edges, V. Liimatainen, V. Sariola, Q. Zhou, Advanced Materials 25 (16), 2275-2278, 2013.
  9. Surface-tension driven self-assembly of microchips on hydrophobic receptor sites with water using forced wetting, B. Chang, A. Shah, I. Routa, H. Lipsanen, Q. Zhou, Applied Physics Letters 101 (11), 114105, 2012.
  10. Hybrid microassembly combining robotics and water droplet self-alignment, V. Sariola, M. Jääskeläinen, Q. Zhou, IEEE Transactions on Robotics 26 (6), 965-977, 2010.


More publications can be found at Aalto research database.

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