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Nano Photonics-Based Micro Robotics

Objective

The general goal is to bring together different fields of research in order to create a new research area of photonic micro robotics. That is to create, study, and implement truly microscopic structures with nano scale accuracy that can perform robotic tasks and that are entirely powered and controlled by light. This idea 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.
To achieve this, we will combine our expertise on complex photonic materials and direct laser writing, to create micro structured patterns in liquid crystal elastomers, which are rubber-like polymers with liquid crystalline properties that can be triggered with light. 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.
This proposal, in the first instance, deals with fundamental, curiosity-driven research and wishes to address the wealth of physics and chemistry that arises when combining nano photonics with micro robotics. Having said that, the range of potential applications is 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 the individual robots).
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.

Call for proposal

ERC-2011-ADG_20110209
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Host institution

LABORATORIO EUROPEO DI SPETTROSCOPIE NON LINEARI
Address
Via Nello Carrara 1
50019 Sesto-fiorentino (Fi)
Italy
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 2 200 000
Principal investigator
Diederik Sybolt Wiersma (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Francesco Saverio Pavone (Prof.)

Beneficiaries (1)

LABORATORIO EUROPEO DI SPETTROSCOPIE NON LINEARI
Italy
EU contribution
€ 2 200 000
Address
Via Nello Carrara 1
50019 Sesto-fiorentino (Fi)
Activity type
Research Organisations
Principal investigator
Diederik Sybolt Wiersma (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Francesco Saverio Pavone (Prof.)