Micromechatronic Systems Laboratory (MSL)

We are developing microscale mechatronic systems with applications in microrobotics, microfluidics (see the AMFG page), distributed wireless sensing, energy systems sensing, and energy harvesting. We research end-to-end mezoscale solutions, using a mixture of technologies include microfabrication, and MEMS (micro electro mechanical systems), and VLSI CMOS fabrication, as well as additive manufacturing (3-D printing). The wide variety of fabrication techniques and methods allows us complete multi-disciplinary projects across all size-scales.


Development and control of mobile microrobotic systems is a central focus of our research at MSL. Microscale robotic systems have tremendous applications in areas such as biomedicine, surveillance, self-healing and self-organising structures, or microassembly. We define microrobotics as untethered mobile robotic devices that will fit within a 1 mm x 1 mm x 1mm volume (i.e. each dimension is most conveniently measured in micrometers). The microrobots we use in our lab are all are all less than 500 µm on each side. Our areas of research focus include development of novel microrobotic platforms and system, multi-microrobot control, microscale self-assembly, and flying (aerial) microrobots.

Selected Recent Publications:

I. Paprotny and S. Bergbreiter Eds. "Small-Scale Robotics. From Nano-to-Millimeter-Sized Robotic Systems and Applications." in Lecture Notes in Computer Science: State-of-the-Art Survey, Springer Verlag, 2014

I Paprotny and S. Bergrbreiter, "Small-Scale Robotics : An Introduction." in Small-Scale Robotics. From Nano-to-Millimeter-Sized Robotic Systems and Applications. Springer Verlag, pp. 1 - 15, 2014

Stress-engineered MEMS Microrobots (MicroStressBots)

Our MicroStressBots are approximately 240 µm x 60 µm x 10 µm in size (i.e. they would comfortably rest on a slice of a human hair), and represent one of the smallest mobile robotic systems in the world. MicroStressBots are also currently the only microrobotic system that contain on-board memory and can be commanded to turn (as opposed top using a global field to position the robot). We use this unique microbotic platform to improve our understanding regarding design and control multi-microrobotic systems. We are currently developing novel algorithms enabling simultaneous control of large numbers of mobile microrobots.

Researchers: Vahid Foroutan, Ratul Majumdar

Selected Recent Publications:

R. Majumdar, V. Foroutan, I. Paprotny. "Tactile sensing and compliance in MicroStressBot assemblies," Proc. SPIE 9116, Next-Generation Robots and Systems, 911604, 2014.

C. G. Levey, I. Paprotny, B. R. Donald "MicroStressBots: Species Differentiation in Surface Micromachined Microrobots." in Small-Scale Robotics. From Nano-to-Millimeter-Sized Robotic Systems and Applications. Springer Verlag, pp. 66 – 80, 2014.

Paprotny, I., C.G. Levey, P.K. Wright, and B.R. Donald, "Turning-rate Selective Control: A New Method for Independent Control of Stress-engineered MEMS Microrobots." in Robotics: Science and Systems VIII, P. Newman, N. Roy, S. Shrinivasa (Eds.), 2013.

Donald, B. R., C. Levey, I. Paprotny, and D. Rus. Planning and Control for Microassembly using Stress-engineered MEMS Microrobots. International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR), 2013, 32(2): 218-246.

Microscale Aerial Robots (MicroFliers)

We are researching untethered aerial (flying) microrobots robots. We envision these devices to soar akin to controllable (steerable) specs of dust floating through the air. The applications include, among other, surveillance, distributed remote imaging, microassembly, and chemical analysis. We have demonstrated untethered microscale flight of 300 µm x 300 µm sized stress-engineered microfliers. We are currently exploring stability and control as well as biomimetic propulsion for microscale flying robots.

Researchers: Ameen Hussain, Spencer Ward, Ratul Majumdar

Selected Recent Publications:

S. Ward, V. Foroutan, R. Majumdar, O. Mahdavipour, S. A. Hussain, and I. Paprotny, "Towards Microscale Flight: Fabrication, Stability Analysis, and Initial Flight Experiments for 300 µm x 300 µm Sized Untethered Microfliers," IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience, in press.

V. Foroutan, R. Majumdar, O. Mahdavipour, S. P. Ward, and I. Paprotny, "Levitation of Untethered Stress-Engineered Microflyers using Thermophoretic (Knudsen) Force.", in the Technical Digest of the Hilton Head Workshop 2014: A Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop, (2014), pp: 105-106. (podium presentation)

Novel MEMS Fabrication Techniques

We investigate novel microfabrication techniques that allow us to create increasingly complex microstructures. These techniques complement standard MEMS fabrication methods, and include stress-engineering MEMS, two-photon stereolithography, multi-wafer bonding, and printed microscale epoxy bonding. In addition, our we research ways of manipulating, aligning, and docking of microscale structures.

Researchers: Ratul Majumdar

Selected Recent Publications:

R. Majumdar, V. Foroutan, and I. Paprotny, "Post-Release Stress-Engineering of Surface-Micromachined MEMS Structures Using Evaporated Chromium and In-Situ Fabricated Reconfigurable Shadow Masks." in Proc. 28th IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS 2015), Estoril, Portugal.

Distributed Low-Power Wireless Sensing Networks

We are researching low-power wireless sensor networks, specifically focusing on energy systems sensing and biomedical applications. We are fabricating systems where each node of the network consumes so little power that it can potentially harvest enough energy for its operation from the surrounding environment. We are interested in solving challenges associated with reliable operation and co-location of such a low-power wireless network.

Researchers: Nick Iliev

Selected Recent Publications:

V. Sudula and I. Paprotny. "WI-PATCH: Stick-On Wireless Sensor Platform for Continuous Monitoring of Human Physiology," In Proc. 7th Int. Conference on Pervasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments, 2014, Rhodes, Greece, May 27 - 30, 2014.

D S Nguyen, I Paprotny, P Wright, R White, “MEMS capacitive flow sensor for natural gas pipelines,” Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, Oct 2014.

Send, R., Q. Xu, W. Ku, I. Paprotny, R.M. White, P.K. Wright. "Granular Radio EnErgy-sensing Node (GREEN): A 0.53 cm3 wireless stick-one node for non-intrusive energy monitoring," the 12th Annual IEEE Conference on Sensors (IEEE SENSORS 2013), Baltimore, MD. (podium presentation)

Additional projects are described under the Air-Microfluidics Group.