Thinking Big, Building Small

Brooke Ritz, ECE undergraduate working with the NGS Microassembly Station

Brooke Ritz, ECE undergraduate working with the NGS Microassembly Station

The students on LARRI’s team are focused on microrobots for future microfactories. Future microfactories will contain  thousands of miniaturized robots capable of creating multiple products from micro or nano scale raw material. The robots are powered by laser beams or light energy that is gathered and stored. Optimizing the design of the microrobots to transform incident optical energy into useful motion commands with differential resonance and thermal expansion of actuators is one of many challenges the team faces. Other challenges includes:

  1. Investigating optimal roughness of dry surfaces,
  2. Adaptive controller development with real-time location tracking to guide a robot from one point to another using laser parameter synchronization and
  3. Swarming with multiple microrobots to cooperatively manipulate objects.

The team has two research aims they are pursuing.

Aim 1:  Model the response of the actuators with respect to the temporal variables of an incident light beam on various materials and ambient environments. Select light variables such as wavelength, pulse width and frequency to obtain the best differentiation between motion responses. Determine optimal geometrics and placement of actuators for efficient power utilization, maneuverability and precision.

Aim 2: Formulate motion-predictive control and adaptive impedance control algorithms based on selective actuator responses and use them to send wireless maneuver and haptic commands to microrobots. Formulate robust path planning algorithms for microrobots through learning. Formulate new haptic tele-operation algorithms for operator immersion and cooperative pushing in the environment.

Undergraduates Brooke Ritz and Patrick Clapacs assemble products from micro and nano scale raw materials for the micro factory in the cleanroom. Zhong Yang, one of our PhD students, dedicates his time to the microfactory with finite elements simulation, controller design, microfabrication, developing and implementing a control algorithm so the mobile type microrobots can follow a desired trajectory. Another PhD student, Danming Wei, is responsible for micro assembly and the microfactory assembly station design. Three Postdoctoral associates, Dr. Sri Sukanta Chowdhury (team leader) and Dr.  Andriy Sherehiy oversee optical setup and experimentation, while Dr. Ruoshi Zhang designs and conducts experiments with microrobots.