Toward Swimming Medical Microrobots: Design and Characterization of a MEMS Motor for Electrostatic Actuation in Fluid
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are sub-millimeter structures that combine electrical and mechanical principles to produce novel sensors, actuators, and transducers for complicated tasks at the microscale. While most MEMS research focuses on devices operating in air, biomedical applications and the parallel growth of microfluidics have stimulated efforts towards MEMS operation in fluid, especially biological media. One goal of such operation is to develop a microrobot capable of entering the human body and performing medical procedures such as diagnostics, drug delivery, local tissue repair, and surgery. Whether this microrobot is autonomous or externally controlled, its basic objectives are to sustain self-powered untethered operation, exhibit smooth propulsion, and perform the necessary tasks of a medical procedure. While power sources are unlikely to utilize moving parts, propulsion and medical procedures require mechanical movement which must in turn be supplied by an on-board motor. This motor must be low-power, fully functional when immersed in biological media, and constructed of biocompatible materials. I hope to design and characterize a MEMS motor for medical microrobots exhibiting these characteristics and demonstrate its successful operation in biological media.
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- Major: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
- Mentor: Kristofer Pister, Michel Maharbiz