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Self-folding “Rollbot” paves the way for fully untethered soft robots

08-21-19

Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed soft robotic systems, inspired by origami, that can move and change shape in response to external stimuli, paving the way for fully untethered soft robots. "This work demonstrates how the combination of responsive polymers in an architected composite can lead to materials with self-actuation in response to different stimuli. In the future, such materials can be programmed to perform ever more complex tasks, blurring the boundaries between materials and robots," said Professor Daraio. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh

A Promising Step in Returning Bipedal Mobility

08-19-19

Professors Aaron Ames and Joel Burdick have launched a new research initiative, RoAM (Robotic Assisted Mobility), aimed at restoring natural and stable locomotion to individuals with walking deficiencies that result from spinal cord injuries and strokes. RoAm unites robotic assistive devices—including exoskeletons and prostheses—with artificial intelligence (AI)-infused neurocontrol. "Bipedal walking is difficult to achieve in a stable fashion," says Professor Ames. "While crutches help users of the exoskeletons to stay upright, they undercut many of the health benefits that upright locomotion might otherwise provide. In addition, they do not allow users to do anything else with their hands while walking." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE Yu-Chong Tai MCE CMS Joel Burdick Yisong Yue Aaron Ames

Finding the Magic in the Magic Angle

08-09-19

Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have built upon, the discovery of the "magic angle" for stacked sheets of graphene, by generating an image of the atomic structure and electronic properties of magic angle-twisted graphene, yielding new insight into the phenomenon by offering a more direct way of studying it. They have developed a new method of creating samples of magic angle-twisted graphene that can be used to align the two sheets of graphene very precisely while leaving it exposed for direct observation. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Stevan Nadj-Perge

Solar Flares, Bubble Rings, and Ink Chandeliers

07-26-19

Peter Schroeder, Shaler Arthur Hanisch Professor of Computer Science and Applied and Computational Mathematics, and colleagues have generated a computer simulation of underwater bubble rings that is so realistic it is virtually indistinguishable from a video of the real thing. "What drives me is finding these beautiful descriptions of something that looks terribly complicated but can be reduced to a few mathematical key concepts. Then the rest just follows from there. There's beauty in seeing that a very simple principle all of a sudden gives rise to the complex appearance we perceive," Professor Schröder says. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS Peter Schroeder

Microrobots Activated by Laser Pulses Show Promise For Treating Tumors

07-24-19

MedE Professors Wei Gao and Lihong Wang are working on microrobots that can deliver drugs to specific spots inside the body while being monitored and controlled from outside the body. "These micromotors can penetrate the mucus of the digestive tract and stay there for a long time. This improves medicine delivery," Professor Gao says. "But because they're made of magnesium, they're biocompatible and biodegradable." [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang Wei Gao

Biological Circuits: A Beginner’s Guide

07-10-19

A team of researchers including Noah Olsman (PhD ’19), John Doyle, Jean-Lou Chameau Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Bioengineering, and Richard Murray, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, has developed a set of guidelines for designing biological circuits using tools from mechanical and electrical engineering. Like electric circuits—but made out of cells and living matter—biological circuits show promise in producing pharmaceuticals and biofuels. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS John Doyle Richard Murray CDS

Seeing Farther and Deeper

07-02-19

Katie Bouman, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, creates images from nonideal sensor data and mines for information from images using techniques that can be applied to everything from medical imaging to studying the universe. She likes to search for information hidden in images, imperceptible to humans, that she can use to learn about the environment around us. [Profile of new EAS faculty member Professor Bouman]

Tags: research highlights CMS Katie Bouman

Professor Daraio Gives Elsevier Distinguished Lecture in Mechanics

05-27-19

Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, was invited to give the Spring 2019 Elsevier Distinguished Lecture in Mechanics at Princeton. Her lecture was entitled “Mechanics of Robotic Matters.” She discussed recent progress in the design of micro- and macro-scale, nonuniform materials that can bend into freeform objects, in response to environmental stimuli or with simple application of point loads. She also showed how the use of responsive materials, like shape memory polymers and liquid crystal elastomers, allows creating new, passive soft robots. [Elsevier Lecture]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE

"Neural Lander" Uses AI to Land Drones Smoothly

05-23-19

Professors Chung, Anandkumar, and Yue have teamed up to develop a system that uses a deep neural network to help autonomous drones "learn" how to land more safely and quickly, while gobbling up less power. The system they have created, dubbed the "Neural Lander," is a learning-based controller that tracks the position and speed of the drone, and modifies its landing trajectory and rotor speed accordingly to achieve the smoothest possible landing. The new system could prove crucial to projects currently under development at CAST, including an autonomous medical transport that could land in difficult-to-reach locations (such as a gridlocked traffic). "The importance of being able to land swiftly and smoothly when transporting an injured individual cannot be overstated," says Professor Gharib who is the director of CAST; and one of the lead researchers of the air ambulance project. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Morteza Gharib Yisong Yue Soon-Jo Chung Animashree Anandkumar

Lasers Aim to Replace Scalpels in Cutting-Edge Biopsy Technique

05-16-19

Professor Lihong Wang and Postdoctoral Scholar Dr. Junhui Shi have developed a new imaging technique that uses pulses from two kinds of lasers to take pictures of microscopic biological structures. This new approach, called ultraviolet-localized mid-infrared photoacoustic microscopy, or ULM-PAM, develops images of the microscopic structures found in a piece of tissue by bombarding the sample with both infrared and ultraviolet laser light. "Because ultraviolet light and infrared have different properties, we had to find special mirrors and glass that could focus both," Dr. Shi says. "And because no camera exists that can see both, we had to develop ways to see if they were correctly focused." [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang postdocs Junhui Shi