Submillimeter-scale multimaterial terrestrial robots

Mengdi Han, Xiaogang Guo, Xuexian Chen, Cunman Liang, Hangbo Zhao, Qihui Zhang, Wubin Bai, Fan Zhang, Heming Wei, Changsheng Wu, Qinghong Cui, Shenglian Yao, Bohan Sun, Yiyuan Yang, Quansan Yang, Yuhang Ma, Zhaoguo Xue, Jean Won Kwak, Tianqi Jin, Qing TuEnming Song, Ziao Tian, Yongfeng Mei, Daining Fang, Haixia Zhang, Yonggang Huang*, Yihui Zhang*, John A. Rogers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Robots with submillimeter dimensions are of interest for applications that range from tools for minimally invasive surgical procedures in clinical medicine to vehicles for manipulating cells/tissues in biology research. The limited classes of structures and materials that can be used in such robots, however, create challenges in achieving desired performance parameters and modes of operation. Here, we introduce approaches in manufacturing and actuation that address these constraints to enable untethered, terrestrial robots with complex, three-dimensional (3D) geometries and heterogeneous material construction. The manufacturing procedure exploits controlled mechanical buckling to create 3D multimaterial structures in layouts that range from arrays of filaments and origami constructs to biomimetic configurations and others. A balance of forces associated with a one-way shape memory alloy and the elastic resilience of an encapsulating shell provides the basis for reversible deformations of these structures. Modes of locomotion and manipulation span from bending, twisting, and expansion upon global heating to linear/curvilinear crawling, walking, turning, and jumping upon laser-induced local thermal actuation. Photonic structures such as retroreflectors and colorimetric sensing materials support simple forms of wireless monitoring and localization. These collective advances in materials, manufacturing, actuation, and sensing add to a growing body of capabilities in this emerging field of technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberabn0602
JournalScience Robotics
Issue number66
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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