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Content archived on 2024-05-24

MIniature Co-operative RObots advancing towards the Nano-range


MiCRoN aims at bridging the micro and the nano worlds by developing a prototype of a multi-microrobot manipulating system to handle µm-sized and mesoscopic objects with nanometre precision. The system will be based on a cluster (5 to 10) of small (cm³) mobile robots each equipped with onboard electronics for control and communication. These robots will be able to co-operate autonomously in order to accomplish tasks ranging from the handling of biological cells to the assembly of micro-parts. Advanced novel tools as well as SPM probes will be integrated in the robot platform. Selected wireless robots will be equipped with CMOS cameras to provide live high-magnification scene images that will be fed to an integrated machine vision system for scene interpretation. Several other subsystems will also be developed, such as a global positioning system and a wireless power supply unit.

The objective of the proposed project is the development of a multi-microrobot manipulating system to handle µm-sized objects as well as smaller nano-scale objects. The system will consist of a cluster of small mobile autonomous robots. These wireless agents, each equipped with onboard electronics, co-operate within a desktop environment to execute a range of tasks related to assembly and processing from the nano- to the micro-range. The proposed system comprises several essential subsystems such as a global positioning system to provide accurate position information (resolution ~1 µm) of each microrobot, advanced manipulating tools and wireless power supply.

The project commences with the specification of the experiments, which will serve as a test-bed for the robot system throughout the project. The first experimental scenario involves the 3D assembly of an instrumented catheter for neuroendoscopy and of an instrumented endoscopic microcapsule. In this task, mesoscopic and µm-sized parts will be assembled in 3D. The second scenario focuses on cell handling: Nano-scale precision will be required for an injection experiment in which two or more robots will co-operatively perform holding, injection and observation tasks on living cells. To accomplish these tasks, completely novel tools will need to be developed and integrated into the common robot platform (WP 2). Selected wireless robots will be equipped with CMOS cameras to provide live high-magnification scene images, which will be fed to an integrated machine vision system for scene interpretation (WP 4). To provide accurate position information of each robot, a new global positioning sensor system will also be developed within this WP. Another aspect of the project is the integration of scanning probe microscopy methods to provide access to the nano-world. Of particular importance and interest will be the employment of these techniques in the field of nano-biology together with other advanced cell and tissue handling methods (WP 3). The demands on the robots' locomotion actuators are expected to be very high in terms of precision, stiffness, minimal power consumption and high speeds. These aspects, as well as the development of appropriate actuators for the robot tools, will be addressed in WP
2. As a key component of robot co-operation, the decentralised control system will be developed within WP 5. Particular attention must be paid to "micro-scale effects", such as the unfamiliar ratio of volume and surface forces in the micro-world, as well as to the specific design of the microrobots.

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Participants (7)