Path: EDN Asia >> News Centre >> Medical >> Force-sensing microrobots probe cells
Medical Share print

Force-sensing microrobots probe cells

15 Oct 2014

Share this page with your friends

A side view of the microrobot next to a U.S. penny.

A side view of the microrobot next to a U.S. penny

Researchers from Purdue University have established the design of microforce sensing mobile microrobot geared towards biological research and medical applications.

Microrobots small enough to interact with cells already exist. However, there is no easy, inexpensive way to measure the small forces applied to cells by the robots. Measuring these microforces is essential to precisely control the bots and to use them to study cells.

"What is needed is a useful tool biologists can use every day and at low cost," said David Cappelleri, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

Researchers have designed and built a "vision-based microforce sensor end-effector," which is attached to the microrobots like a tiny proboscis. A camera is used to measure the probe's displacement while it pushes against cells, allowing a simple calculation that reveals the force applied.

A microforce-sensing mobile microrobot juxtaposed against a U.S. penny.

A microrobot juxtaposed against a U.S. penny.

The approach could make it possible to easily measure the "micronewtons" of force applied at the cellular level. Such a tool is needed to better study cells and to understand how they interact with microforces. The forces can be used to transform cells into specific cell lines, including stem cells for research and medical applications. The measurement of microforces also can be used to study how cells respond to certain medications and to diagnose disease.

Microrobots used in research are controlled with magnetic fields to guide them into position.

Current methods for measuring the forces applied by microrobots are impractical and expensive, requiring an atomic force microscope or cumbersome sensors with complex designs that are difficult to manufacture. The latest system combined with the microrobot is about 700µ2, and the researchers are working to create versions about 500µ2. To put this scale into perspective, the mini-machine is about one-half the size of the "E" in "One Cent" on a U.S. penny. "We are currently working on scaling it down," Cappelleri said.

Future research also may focus on automating the microrobots.

Want to more of this to be delivered to you for FREE?

Subscribe to EDN Asia alerts and receive the latest design ideas and product news in your inbox.

Got to make sure you're not a robot. Please enter the code displayed on the right.

Time to activate your subscription - it's easy!

We have sent an activate request to your registerd e-email. Simply click on the link to activate your subscription.

We're doing this to protect your privacy and ensure you successfully receive your e-mail alerts.

Add New Comment
Visitor (To avoid code verification, simply login or register with us. It is fast and free!)
*Verify code:
Tech Impact

Regional Roundup
Control this smart glass with the blink of an eye
K-Glass 2 detects users' eye movements to point the cursor to recognise computer icons or objects in the Internet, and uses winks for commands. The researchers call this interface the "i-Mouse."

GlobalFoundries extends grants to Singapore students
ARM, Tencent Games team up to improve mobile gaming

News | Products | Design Features | Regional Roundup | Tech Impact