Purdue University Graduate School
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Design of Magnetic Tumbling Microrobots for Complex Environments and Biomedical Applications

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posted on 2019-11-27, 13:48 authored by Chenghao BiChenghao Bi
The mobility and biomedical applications of a microscale magnetic tumbling (μTUM) robot capable of traversing complex terrains in dry and wet environments is explored. Roughly 800 x 400 x 100 μm in size, the robot is fabricated using standard photolithography techniques and consists of a rectangular polymeric body with embedded NdFeB particles. Static force analysis and dynamic modeling of its motion characteristics are performed with experimental verification. Techniques for simulating the intermittent, non-contact behavior of tumbling locomotion are used to find an optimized design for the microrobot, reducing time and resources spent on physical fabrication. When subject to a magnetic field as low as 3 mT, the microrobot is able to translate at speeds of over 30 body lengths/s (24 mm/s) in dry conditions and up to 8 body lengths/s (6.8 mm/s) in wet conditions. It can climb inclined planes up to 60° in wet conditions and up to 45° in dry conditions. Maximum open loop straight-line trajectory errors of less than 4% and 2% of the traversal distance in the vertical and horizontal directions, respectively, were also observed. Full two-dimensional directional control of the microrobot was shown through the traversal of a P-shaped trajectory. The microrobot's real-time position can be accurately tracked through visual occlusions using ultrasound imaging. When applied as a coating, a fluorescein payload was found to diffuse over a two hour time period from the microrobot. Cytotoxicity tests also demonstrated that the microrobot's SU-8 body is biocompatible with murine fibroblasts. The microrobot's capabilities make it promising for targeted drug delivery and other in vivo biomedical applications.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

David J. Cappelleri

Additional Committee Member 2

George T. C. Chiu

Additional Committee Member 3

Song Zhang

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