Design and Control of Bio-Inspired Micro-Swimming Robots

This project involves the design and control of micro-scale swimmers inspired by living micro-scale organisms. In 3D, swimming can be executed by several types of motion. At the micro-scale low-Re environment, fluid flows are classified as ‘creep’ or Stokes flows, and thus are speed-independent. To create forward motion, symmetry must be broken in the swimming motion. Thus, any back-and-forth oscillations will not create forward motion. Thus, bio-inspired flapping cilia and rotating flagella have been used to create motion. As an alternative, wave-like deformation could be used to create forward propulsion. This type of deformation would be difficult for traditional microrobotics actuation techniques, but could be well suited for ‘soft micro-robotics’ with distributed programmable deformation.

Such micro-swimming robots have potential application in microfluidics, healthcare and in the creation of micro-scale factories. This project focuses on the creation of sub-mm size swimmers which are controlled by rotating and oscillating magnetic fields. Magnetic actuation has been a major driving scheme for untethered microrobotics in recent years. Advantages include long-range remote actuation and the ability to apply controllable forces and torques independently.

The research involves study of fluid flow, magnetic actuation, micro-fabrication and controls. It will focus on creating efficient swimming micro-robots which can operate in a wide range of liquid media with high speed and precision.

Faculty Supervisor:

Eric Diller





Engineering - mechanical



University of Toronto



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