This talk will look at hardware-based means of assembling, controlling and driving systems at the smallest of scales, including those that can become autonomous. I will show that insights from physics, chemistry and material engineering can be used to permit the simplification and miniaturization of otherwise bulky systems and that this can give rise to new technologies. One of the technologies we have invented may also permit the development of new imaging devices.
The talk will cover crawling robots, molecularly-engineered photoactive soft microrobots, and wireless actuators that can be operated at the end of an endoscope. I will present our efforts in realizing intelligent organ phantoms to test these systems. I will discuss nanoscale systems that have been developed at the MPI-IS and that can for the first time be moved through real biological tissues. The fabrication method also allows us to grow billions of chemical nanomotors. The latter are inherently “active” as they are no longer subject to the constraints of thermodynamic equilibrium, and they therefore more closely resemble the machines and motors that underlie biological systems. Active, non-equilibrium building blocks hold the key to understanding how perception, action, and learning can be implemented in the absence of a neuronal system. I will describe how large-scale swarms of millions of such chemical motors can be made to interact and communicate. Finally, I will present an invention that shows how we can use ultrasound for large scale parallel assembly and why it promises new imaging devices.
Biography: Peer Fischer is a Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart. He received a BSc (honours) in physics from Imperial College London and in 1999 a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Cambridge. He then moved to Cornell University with a DAAD-NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2004 he was awarded a Rowland Junior Fellowship from Harvard University, where he directed an independent research lab for five years. In 2009 he won an Attract Award which brought him to the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg. He declined faculty offers from the US and instead moved his labs to the newly founded Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, where he since heads the MPG research group “Micro Nano and Molecular Systems”. He was awarded an ERC Grant (2012), and in 2016 he won a World Technology Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.