Fabrication of Small-Scale Untethered Soft Magnetic Robots

To design and fabricate magnetically-actuated miniature soft robots.
Description of the Project: 

Small-scale soft robots have great potentials in bioengineering (e.g., biosensing and cell manipulation) and healthcare (e.g., targeted drug delivery and minimally invasive surgery). Given their soft and untethered nature, such robots can negotiate obstacles, generate complicated manoeuvres, and pass through unstructured environment. Among different types of the actuation mechanism, the magnetic actuation is highly desirable because the magnetic field can be wirelessly controlled in confined spaces, and it can harmlessly penetrate biological and synthetic materials, making it ideal for biomedical applications. Despite recent progress in the design of soft magnetic robots, it is still highly challenging to fabricated small-scale soft robots capable of programmed and multimodal locomotion.

In this project, the PhD candidate will work on the design and development of miniature soft robots using digital manufacturing process, including 3D/4D printing, electrospinning, etc. The soft-bodied robots comprise of magnetic micro/nano-particles incorporated into stretchable elastomers in the form of the magnetic composite elastomer. The fabricated soft active composite material can be magnetically actuated to generate a variety of motion outputs. The digital manufacturing process will enable soft robots with small size, complex geometries, and programmable locomotion. Finally, the candidate will demonstrate the potential application of the developed soft robots in grasping and manipulation of small-scale objects. 

Project number: 
120021
First Supervisor: 
University: 
Heriot-Watt University
First supervisor university: 
Heriot-Watt University
Essential skills and knowledge: 
The candidates should have a background in Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, and Electrical Engineering, or a relevant discipline.
Desirable skills and knowledge: 
Knowledge of mechanics and magnetic behaviour of soft materials. Experience in 3D printing, materials characterization, CAD, and electronic control.
References: 

- Small-scale soft-bodied robot with multimodal locomotion, Nature, 2018, 554, 81-85.

- Multi-functional soft-bodied jellyfish-like swimming, Nature Communications, 2019, 10, 2703.

- Millimeter-scale flexible robots with programmable three-dimensional magnetization and motions, Science Robotics, 2019, 4, eaav4494.