Light Robotics is one of the newest progenies of the robotics family, bringing together advances in microfabrication and optical manipulation with intelligent control ideas from robotics and Fourier optics. The development of lightcontrollable microrobots capable of performing specific tasks at the microscale requires the ability to sculpt the two protagonists of the story: the light and the microrobots. Complex light sculpting for optical trapping has been in focus for over three decades, and its importance for controlling microscopic objects is well understood. Designing intricate microrobots for the task is a more recent development facilitated by state-of-the-art microfabrication techniques, and particularly by two-photon polymerization. The full 3D design freedom offered by two-photon polymerization opens the door for imagination, while at the same time bringing the responsibility of rationally designing microrobots tailored to specific tasks. In addition to shape and topology features, the surface chemistry of the microrobots can also help steer them towards specific applications. This paper will discuss strategies for the design and fabrication of light-controllable microrobots as a toolbox for biomedical applications.
Microfluidic systems have gained much interest in the past decade as they tremendously reduce sample volume requirements for investigating different phenomena and for various medical, pharmaceutical and defense applications. Rapid heat transfer and efficient diffusive material transport are among the benefits of miniaturization. These have been achieved so far by tediously designing and fabricating application-specific microfluidic chambers or by employing microdevices that can be difficult to integrate in microfluidic systems. In this work, we present the fabrication and functionalization via two-photon polymerization and physical vapor deposition of microstructures that serve as heat sources in microfluidic devices upon laser illumination. In contrast to other existing methods that rely on photo-thermal effects, our microtools are amenable to optical manipulation and can be actuated in specific locations where heat generation is desired. Heating effects manifest in the presence of a temperature gradient, induced fluid flow and the formation of microbubbles.
After years of working on light-driven trapping and manipulation, we can see that a confluence of developments is now ripe for the emergence of a new area that can contribute to nanobiophotonics - Light Robotics - which combines advances in microfabrication and optical micromanipulation together with intelligent control ideas from robotics, wavefront engineering and information optics. In the Summer 2017 we are publishing a 482 pages edited Elsevier book volume covering the fundamental aspects needed for Light Robotics including optical trapping systems, microfabrication and microassembly as well as underlying theoretical principles and experimental illustrations for optimizing optical forces and torques for Light Robotics.
The past several years have seen an accelerated development of technologies and methods that enable the non-invasive analysis of single cells. These are vital as single cell studies provide important evidence and deepen our understanding of how networks of cells work and evolve. Exploring the full potential of our dynamic user-interactive optical trapping system (Biophotonics Workstation), we can surround various types of cells with other cells or other microscopic objects, thus studying the relation between confinement and cell growth.