Research ArticleAPPLIED SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

Magnetic soft micromachines made of linked microactuator networks

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  04 Jun 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 23, eabe8436
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe8436
  • Fig. 1 Soft micromachine fabrication strategy.

    (A) Fabrication process schematics of soft micromachines using a two-photon polymerization (3D microprinting) system with an integrated electromagnetic coil setup. Microactuators (soft magnetic, monodisperse, and spherical Janus microparticles) are manipulated magnetically to reach a desired position and orientation and fixed there temporarily using 3D microprinting. Soft and rigid materials can be 3D-printed on a fixed microactuator to link it with other fixed microactuators. (B) Schematic details of the fabrication process for an example two-particle chain: (i) The first microactuator is positioned to a specific location by surface rolling. (ii) The microactuator’s orientation is controlled by a rotating magnetic field H. (iii) The oriented microactuator is anchored temporarily on the glass substrate. (iv) A ring-shaped holding structure is 3D-printed to be able to bond other 3D-printed microstructures at the microactuator’s metallic site. The above four steps are repeated for the second microactuator. (v) A soft (i.e., gelatin hydrogel) or rigid link between the microactuators is 3D-printed. (vi) The final soft micromachine is released (with laser assistance) from the glass substrate by soaking it in deionized (DI) water. Then, the released device is actuated by external magnetic fields generated by the electromagnetic coils in the given operation space.

  • Fig. 2 Characterization of the fabricated hydrogel cantilever beams.

    (A) The particle orientation and cantilever geometry determine bending directions under an applied field. (i) Rectangular and ladder hydrogel beams are printed on microactuators with approximate 45° and 90° angles to the easy axis, respectively. (ii) Under the applied field in the x axis (9 mT), the rectangular beam presents an in-plane bending to the right, but the ladder beam does not have bending owing to the particle already in the mc state. (iii) Under the applied field in the y axis, the rectangular beam presents an in-plane bending to the left, and the ladder beam presents an out-of-plane bending to lift the particle. (B) Main magnetic states of microactuators, ma (90°), mb (+45° or − 45°), and mc (0°). Magnetic energy density on microactuators (10-μm diameter) are performed under an applied field (10 mT). The multiplication factor for the color bar is 110 J/m3. (C) Magnetic hysteresis loops of microactuators (10-μm diameter) with different easy-axis orientations, 90°, 45°, and 0°, respectively, to the applied field. (D) Maximum bending angles of the particle cantilever under in-plane rotating fields in clockwise direction at 0.5-Hz frequency. (E) Oscillation of different-sized particle cantilevers [schematic (i)] under an oscillating field (from +9 to −9 mT at 1.2-Hz frequency). The particle diameters are 10 μm (ii) and 3 μm (iii).

  • Fig. 3 Soft robotic particle chains.

    (A and B) Magnetic energy density over the oriented particles (i), schematic of the oriented particles (ii), and the optical microscopy image of hydrogel-linked particles (iii) from the left to the right side, respectively. The red arrow represents the magnetic field direction. The multiplication factor for the color bar is 41 J/m3. After applying an in-plane magnetic field in the y axis, the chain with two microactuators at the mc and ma states (A) rotates 90° in the yz plane to the state of both at the mc state (B). (C) Hydrogel-linked particles with the specific orientations (i) show a surface locomotion (ii and iii) under an oscillation field between Hx and Hy (9 mT at 3-Hz frequency). (D) Hydrogel-linked particles with the specific orientations (i) show locomotion (ii and iii) under an oscillating field along one direction (amplitude 9 mT at 2-Hz frequency). (E) Gripping performance of the hydrogel-linked particles under an applied static field (9 mT). (F) A triangle structure with three encoded particles at the apexes can stand up (i and ii) under an applied in-plane field. The standing structure exhibits walking locomotion (iii and iv) with two particles as one pair of legs and the third particle (at the mc state) controlling the balance, under an oscillating field between Hx and Hy (9 mT at 0.5-Hz frequency).

  • Fig. 4 Soft robotic 2D particle networks having 2D and 3D shape deformations.

    (A) An auxetic microstructure with negative Poisson’s ratio can be observed in a 3 by 3 array microactuator network. The easy axis of each microactuator is encoded with alternating 45° along the beams indicated by the double-sided arrows (i and ii). The cross-sectional dimensions of the rectangular hydrogel beam are 1-μm width and 4-μm height. By applying a magnetic field (10 mT) on and off, the network presents programmable shape transformations (iii and iv). (B) A microstructure of a 3 by 3 array network with ladder-like hydrogel beams presents a wobbling motion under a rotating field. The easy axis of each microactuator is encoded orderly perpendicular and parallel to the beams indicated by the double-sided arrows (i and ii). The cross-sectional dimensions of the ladder-like hydrogel beam are 1-μm ladder beam width, 4-μm overall width, and 0.5-μm height. By applying a rotating 3D field H in clockwise direction (8.1-mT field strength, tilting angle in the +z axis from the xy plane is 8.5°, and 0.6-Hz frequency), the encoded network presents periodic 3D shape deformations (iii and iv).

  • Fig. 5 Two-legged soft microrobot demonstrations and fabrication of a tetrahedron array toward future 3D soft micromachine configurations.

    (A to D) A lizard-like walking robot with four rigid legs presents a surface locomotion under an oscillating field (from +9 to −9 mT at 1-Hz frequency). (E to H) Soft-legged robot presents programmable robotic gaits under an alternating field (9 mT). (I) Tetrahedron array of four oriented particles with 7-μm diameter. Particle levitation is controlled by the applied magnetic gradient fields in the vertical (z) direction. Schematic (i), printed 3D hydrogel structures on three encoded particles (ii), the optical microscopy image of focusing on the three particles (iii), and the optical microscopy image of focusing on the lifted/levitated particle (iv). (J) 3D configuration of a particle with 10-μm diameter by rolling motion along the hydrogel beam. Schematic (i), the optical microscopy image of focusing on the particle (ii), the optical microscopy image of focusing on the hydrogel beams (iii), and actuation (iv) under a rotating in-plane field (12.5 mT). (K) Two oriented particles show 3D shape changes of hydrogel beams under an applied field. Schematics (i and ii), the optical microscopy image of focusing on the hydrogel beams without applied fields (iii), and with actuation (iv) under an applied field (12.5 mT).

Supplementary Materials

Stay Connected to Science Advances

Navigate This Article