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Page updated at 12:44:42 PM on Monday, May 21st, 2012

PHOTBOTS - Nano Photonics-Based Micro Robotics

Funded with €2,200,000.00 for 60 months (from January, 2012 to December, 2016) by European Commission within FP7 Ideas

Person in charge: Diederik Wiersma
LENS members: Matteo Burresi, Jean-Christophe Gomez Lavocat, Camilla Parmeggiani, Kevin Vynck, Hao Zeng

From physics, chemistry and biology to create, study, and implement truly microscopic structures that can perform complex robotic tasks.

The general goal is to found a totally new research area of photonic microrobotics, that is to create, study, and implement truly microscopic structures with nanoscale accuracy that can perform robotic tasks and that are entirely powered and controlled by light. This idea requires to link together different fields of research and brings immense challenges both from the point of view of the physics involved as well as the chemistry needed to create the appropriate materials, but if successful can also have a huge impact.

Reflection microscopy images of a SmA elastomer film stretched between two clamps. From doi:10.1039/B600839A.

To achieve this, we will combine our expertise on complex photonic materials, direct laser writing and organic chemistry, and apply that to create micro structured patterns in liquid crystal elastomers, which are rubber-like polymers with liquid crystalline properties. Direct laser writing will allow us to realize structures with sub-micron resolution and nanometer scale accuracy. By using elastomers we will be able to create robotic elements that respond mechanically to an optical trigger, which we will combine with static (photonic) structures. In our view, this opens up a new strategy to create robots of various kinds, on a truly micrometer length scale. That is, micro robots that can swim, walk, or crawl, and when at destination perform specific tasks, controlled and driven by light.

The project is truly interdisciplinary, which makes it very challenging but also exciting. The photonic micro robotic structures will be created by bringing together concepts from physics and chemistry, while the inspiration for designs comes partly from biology and potential applications can be foreseen in medicine. The range of potential applications would be also very broad. Our photonic micro robots would be able to penetrate otherwise difficult to access environments and perform tasks such as sensing or sampling. They could be made in large quantities which means they could also be put into action collectively in swarms (using mechanical and/or optical interaction between individual robots).



Only publications with LENS-affiliated authors are listed and for now there is no one.