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2015


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Enzymatically active biomimetic micropropellers for the penetration of mucin gels

Walker (Schamel), D., Käsdorf, B. T., Jeong, H. H., Lieleg, O., Fischer, P.

Science Advances, 1(11):e1500501, December 2015 (article)

Abstract
In the body, mucus provides an important defense mechanism by limiting the penetration of pathogens. It is therefore also a major obstacle for the efficient delivery of particle-based drug carriers. The acidic stomach lining in particular is difficult to overcome because mucin glycoproteins form viscoelastic gels under acidic conditions. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori has developed a strategy to overcome the mucus barrier by producing the enzyme urease, which locally raises the pH and consequently liquefies the mucus. This allows the bacteria to swim through mucus and to reach the epithelial surface. We present an artificial system of reactive magnetic micropropellers that mimic this strategy to move through gastric mucin gels by making use of surface-immobilized urease. The results demonstrate the validity of this biomimetic approach to penetrate biological gels, and show that externally propelled microstructures can actively and reversibly manipulate the physical state of their surroundings, suggesting that such particles could potentially penetrate native mucus.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2015


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The EChemPen: A Guiding Hand To Learn Electrochemical Surface Modifications

Valetaud, M., Loget, G., Roche, J., Hueken, N., Fattah, Z., Badets, V., Fontaine, O., Zigah, D.

J. of Chem. Ed., 92(10):1700-1704, September 2015 (article)

Abstract
The Electrochemical Pen (EChemPen) was developed as an attractive tool for learning electrochemistry. The fabrication, principle, and operation of the EChemPen are simple and can be easily performed by students in practical classes. It is based on a regular fountain pen principle, where the electrolytic solution is dispensed at a tip to locally modify a conductive surface by triggering a localized electrochemical reaction. Three simple model reactions were chosen to demonstrate the versatility of the EChemPen for teaching various electrochemical processes. We describe first the reversible writing/erasing of metal letters, then the electrodeposition of a black conducting polymer "ink", and finally the colorful writings that can be generated by titanium anodization and that can be controlled by the applied potential. These entertaining and didactic experiments are adapted for teaching undergraduate students that start to study electrochemistry by means of surface modification reactions.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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3D-printed Soft Microrobot for Swimming in Biological Fluids

Qiu, T., Palagi, S., Fischer, P.

In Conf. Proc. IEEE Eng. Med. Biol. Soc., pages: 4922-4925, August 2015 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Microscopic artificial swimmers hold the potential to enable novel non-invasive medical procedures. In order to ease their translation towards real biomedical applications, simpler designs as well as cheaper yet more reliable materials and fabrication processes should be adopted, provided that the functionality of the microrobots can be kept. A simple single-hinge design could already enable microswimming in non-Newtonian fluids, which most bodily fluids are. Here, we address the fabrication of such single-hinge microrobots with a 3D-printed soft material. Firstly, a finite element model is developed to investigate the deformability of the 3D-printed microstructure under typical values of the actuating magnetic fields. Then the microstructures are fabricated by direct 3D-printing of a soft material and their swimming performances are evaluated. The speeds achieved with the 3D-printed microrobots are comparable to those obtained in previous work with complex fabrication procedures, thus showing great promise for 3D-printed microrobots to be operated in biological fluids.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Optimal Length of Low Reynolds Number Nanopropellers

Walker (Schamel), D., Kuebler, M., Morozov, K. I., Fischer, P., Leshansky, A. M.

Nano Letters, 15(7):4412-4416, June 2015 (article)

Abstract
Locomotion in fluids at the nanoscale is dominated by viscous drag. One efficient propulsion scheme is to use a weak rotating magnetic field that drives a chiral object. Froth bacterial flagella to artificial drills, the corkscrew is a universally useful chiral shape for propulsion in viscous environments. Externally powered magnetic micro- and nanomotors have been recently developed that allow for precise fuel-free propulsion in complex media. Here, we combine analytical and numerical theory with experiments on nanostructured screw-propellers to show that the optimal length is surprisingly short only about one helical turn, which is shorter than most of the structures in use to date. The results have important implications for the design of artificial actuated nano- and micropropellers and can dramatically reduce fabrication times, while ensuring optimal performance.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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A theoretical study of potentially observable chirality-sensitive NMR effects in molecules

Garbacz, P., Cukras, J., Jaszunski, M.

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 17(35):22642-22651, May 2015 (article)

Abstract
Two recently predicted nuclear magnetic resonance effects, the chirality-induced rotating electric polarization and the oscillating magnetization, are examined for several experimentally available chiral molecules. We discuss in detail the requirements for experimental detection of chirality-sensitive NMR effects of the studied molecules. These requirements are related to two parameters: the shielding polarizability and the antisymmetric part of the nuclear magnetic shielding tensor. The dominant second contribution has been computed for small molecules at the coupled cluster and density functional theory levels. It was found that DFT calculations using the KT2 functional and the aug-cc-pCVTZ basis set adequately reproduce the CCSD(T) values obtained with the same basis set. The largest values of parameters, thus most promising from the experimental point of view, were obtained for the fluorine nuclei in 1,3-difluorocyclopropene and 1,3-diphenyl-2-fluoro-3-trifluoromethylcyclopropene.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dynamic Inclusion Complexes of Metal Nanoparticles Inside Nanocups

Alarcon-Correa, M., Lee, T. C., Fischer, P.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 54(23):6730-6734, May 2015, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Host-guest inclusion complexes are abundant in molecular systems and of fundamental importance in living organisms. Realizing a colloidal analogue of a molecular dynamic inclusion complex is challenging because inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) with a well-defined cavity and portal are difficult to synthesize in high yield and with good structural fidelity. Herein, a generic strategy towards the fabrication of dynamic 1: 1 inclusion complexes of metal nanoparticles inside oxide nanocups with high yield (> 70%) and regiospecificity (> 90%) by means of a reactive double Janus nanoparticle intermediate is reported. Experimental evidence confirms that the inclusion complexes are formed by a kinetically controlled mechanism involving a delicate interplay between bipolar galvanic corrosion and alloying-dealloying oxidation. Release of the NP guest from the nanocups can be efficiently triggered by an external stimulus. Featured cover article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Surface roughness-induced speed increase for active Janus micromotors

Choudhury, U., Soler, L., Gibbs, J. G., Sanchez, S., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 51(41):8660-8663, April 2015 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a simple physical fabrication method to control surface roughness of Janus micromotors and fabricate self-propelled active Janus microparticles with rough catalytic platinum surfaces that show a four-fold increase in their propulsion speed compared to conventional Janus particles coated with a smooth Pt layer.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Active colloidal microdrills

Gibbs, J. G., Fischer, P.

Chem. Comm., 51(20):4192-4195, Febuary 2015 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate a chemically driven, autonomous catalytic microdrill. An asymmetric distribution of catalyst causes the helical swimmer to twist while it undergoes directed propulsion. A driving torque and hydrodynamic coupling between translation and rotation at low Reynolds number leads to drill-like swimming behaviour.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Selectable Nanopattern Arrays for Nanolithographic Imprint and Etch-Mask Applications

Jeong, H. H., Mark, A. G., Lee, T., Son, K., Chen, W., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Schütz, G., Fischer, P.

Adv. Science, 2(7):1500016, 2015, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
A parallel nanolithographic patterning method is presented that can be used to obtain arrays of multifunctional nanoparticles. These patterns can simply be converted into a variety of secondary nanopatterns that are useful for nanolithographic imprint, plasmonic, and etch-mask applications.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Novel plasticity rule can explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence

Der, R., Martius, G.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45):E6224-E6232, 2015 (article)

Abstract
Grounding autonomous behavior in the nervous system is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. In particular, self-organized behavioral development provides more questions than answers. Are there special functional units for curiosity, motivation, and creativity? This paper argues that these features can be grounded in synaptic plasticity itself, without requiring any higher-level constructs. We propose differential extrinsic plasticity (DEP) as a new synaptic rule for self-learning systems and apply it to a number of complex robotic systems as a test case. Without specifying any purpose or goal, seemingly purposeful and adaptive rhythmic behavior is developed, displaying a certain level of sensorimotor intelligence. These surprising results require no system-specific modifications of the DEP rule. They rather arise from the underlying mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is due to the tight brain body environment coupling. The new synaptic rule is biologically plausible and would be an interesting target for neurobiological investigation. We also argue that this neuronal mechanism may have been a catalyst in natural evolution.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Quantifying Emergent Behavior of Autonomous Robots

Martius, G., Olbrich, E.

Entropy, 17(10):7266, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2013


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Hybrid nanocolloids with programmed three-dimensional shape and material composition

Mark, A. G., Gibbs, J. G., Lee, T., Fischer, P.

NATURE MATERIALS, 12(9):802-807, 2013, Max Planck Press Release. (article)

Abstract
Tuning the optical(1,2), electromagnetic(3,4) and mechanical properties of a material requires simultaneous control over its composition and shape(5). This is particularly challenging for complex structures at the nanoscale because surface-energy minimization generally causes small structures to be highly symmetric(5). Here we combine low-temperature shadow deposition with nanoscale patterning to realize nanocolloids with anisotropic three-dimensional shapes, feature sizes down to 20 nm and a wide choice of materials. We demonstrate the versatility of the fabrication scheme by growing three-dimensional hybrid nanostructures that contain several functional materials with the lowest possible symmetry, and by fabricating hundreds of billions of plasmonic nanohelices, which we use as chiral metafluids with record circular dichroism and tunable chiroptical properties.

Max Planck Press Release.

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Video - Fabrication of Designer Nanostructures DOI [BibTex]


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Chiral Colloidal Molecules And Observation of The Propeller Effect

Schamel, D., Pfeifer, M., Gibbs, J. G., Miksch, B., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 135(33):12353-12359, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Chiral molecules play an important role in biological and chemical processes, but physical effects due to their symmetry-breaking are generally weak. Several physical chiral separation schemes which could potentially be useful, including the propeller effect, have therefore not yet been demonstrated at the molecular scale. However, it has been proposed that complex nonspherical colloidal particles could act as ``colloidal molecules{''} in mesoscopic model systems to permit the visualization of molecular phenomena that are otherwise difficult to observe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to synthesize such colloids because surface minimization generally favors the growth of symmetric particles. Here we demonstrate the production of large numbers of complex colloids with glancing angle physical vapor deposition. We use chiral colloids to demonstrate the Baranova and Zel'dovich (Baranova, N. B.; Zel'dovich, B. Y. Chem. Phys. Lett. 1978, 57, 435) propeller effect: the separation of a racemic mixture by application of a rotating field that couples to the dipole moment of the enantiomers and screw propels them in opposite directions. The handedness of the colloidal suspensions is monitored with circular differential light scattering. An exact solution for the colloid's propulsion is derived, and comparisons between the colloidal system and the corresponding effect at the molecular scale are made.

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Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]

Video - Nanospropellers DOI [BibTex]


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Indirect absorption spectroscopy using quantum cascade lasers: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy

Pfeifer, M., Ruf, A., Fischer, P.

OPTICS EXPRESS, 21(22):25643-25654, 2013 (article)

Abstract
We record vibrational spectra with two indirect schemes that depend on the real part of the index of refraction: mid-infrared refractometry and photothermal spectroscopy. In the former, a quantum cascade laser (QCL) spot is imaged to determine the angles of total internal reflection, which yields the absorption line via a beam profile analysis. In the photothermal measurements, a tunable QCL excites vibrational resonances of a molecular monolayer, which heats the surrounding medium and changes its refractive index. This is observed with a probe laser in the visible. Sub-monolayer sensitivities are demonstrated. (C) 2013 Optical Society of America

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DOI [BibTex]


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Plasmonic nanohelix metamaterials with tailorable giant circular dichroism

Gibbs, J. G., Mark, A. G., Eslami, S., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 103(21), 2013, Featured cover article. (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic nanohelix arrays are shown to interact with electromagnetic fields in ways not typically seen with ordinary matter. Chiral metamaterials (CMMs) with feature sizes small with respect to the wavelength of visible light are a promising route to experimentally achieve such phenomena as negative refraction without the need for simultaneously negative e and mu. Here we not only show that giant circular dichroism in the visible is achievable with hexagonally arranged plasmonic nanohelix arrays, but that we can precisely tune the optical activity via morphology and lattice spacing. The discrete dipole approximation is implemented to support experimental data. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.

Featured cover article.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Behavior as broken symmetry in embodied self-organizing robots

Der, R., Martius, G.

In Advances in Artificial Life, ECAL 2013, pages: 601-608, MIT Press, 2013 (incollection)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Information Driven Self-Organization of Complex Robotic Behaviors

Martius, G., Der, R., Ay, N.

PLoS ONE, 8(5):e63400, Public Library of Science, 2013 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Linear combination of one-step predictive information with an external reward in an episodic policy gradient setting: a critical analysis

Zahedi, K., Martius, G., Ay, N.

Frontiers in Psychology, 4(801), 2013 (article)

Abstract
One of the main challenges in the field of embodied artificial intelligence is the open-ended autonomous learning of complex behaviours. Our approach is to use task-independent, information-driven intrinsic motivation(s) to support task-dependent learning. The work presented here is a preliminary step in which we investigate the predictive information (the mutual information of the past and future of the sensor stream) as an intrinsic drive, ideally supporting any kind of task acquisition. Previous experiments have shown that the predictive information (PI) is a good candidate to support autonomous, open-ended learning of complex behaviours, because a maximisation of the PI corresponds to an exploration of morphology- and environment-dependent behavioural regularities. The idea is that these regularities can then be exploited in order to solve any given task. Three different experiments are presented and their results lead to the conclusion that the linear combination of the one-step PI with an external reward function is not generally recommended in an episodic policy gradient setting. Only for hard tasks a great speed-up can be achieved at the cost of an asymptotic performance lost.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robustness of guided self-organization against sensorimotor disruptions

Martius, G.

Advances in Complex Systems, 16(02n03):1350001, 2013 (article)

Abstract
Self-organizing processes are crucial for the development of living beings. Practical applications in robots may benefit from the self-organization of behavior, e.g.~to increase fault tolerance and enhance flexibility, provided that external goals can also be achieved. We present results on the guidance of self-organizing control by visual target stimuli and show a remarkable robustness to sensorimotor disruptions. In a proof of concept study an autonomous wheeled robot is learning an object finding and ball-pushing task from scratch within a few minutes in continuous domains. The robustness is demonstrated by the rapid recovery of the performance after severe changes of the sensor configuration.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2008


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Voltage-Controllable Magnetic Composite Based on Multifunctional Polyethylene Microparticles

Ghosh, A., Sheridon, N. K., Fischer, P.

SMALL, 4(11):1956-1958, 2008 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

2008



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Emergence of Interaction Among Adaptive Agents

Martius, G., Nolfi, S., Herrmann, J. M.

In Proc. From Animals to Animats 10 (SAB 2008), 5040, pages: 457-466, LNCS, Springer, 2008 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Structure from Behavior in Autonomous Agents

Martius, G., Fiedler, K., Herrmann, J.

In Proc. IEEE Intl. Conf. Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2008), pages: 858 - 862, 2008 (inproceedings)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Nonlinear optical spectroscopy of chiral molecules

Fischer, P., Hache, F.

CHIRALITY, 17(8):421-437, 2005 (article)

Abstract
We review nonlinear optical processes that are specific to chiral molecules in solution and on surfaces. In contrast to conventional natural optical activity phenomena, which depend linearly on the electric field strength of the optical field, we discuss how optical processes that are nonlinear (quadratic, cubic, and quartic) functions of the electromagnetic field strength may probe optically active centers and chiral vibrations. We show that nonlinear techniques open entirely new ways of exploring chirality in chemical and biological systems: The cubic processes give rise to nonlinear circular dichroism and nonlinear optical rotation and make it possible to observe dynamic chiral processes at ultrafast time scales. The quadratic second-harmonic and sum-frequency-generation phenomena and the quartic processes may arise entirely in the electric-dipole approximation and do not require the use of circularly polarized light to detect chirality: They provide surface selectivity and their observables can be relatively much larger than in linear optical activity. These processes also give rise to the generation of light at a new color, and in liquids this frequency conversion only occurs if the solution is optically active. We survey recent chiral nonlinear optical experiments and give examples of their application to problems of biophysical interest. (C) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Negative refraction at optical frequencies in nonmagnetic two-component molecular media

Chen, Y., Fischer, P., Wise, F.

PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 95(6), 2005 (article)

Abstract
There is significant motivation to develop media with negative refractive indices at optical frequencies, but efforts in this direction are hampered by the weakness of the magnetic response at such frequencies. We show theoretically that a nonmagnetic medium with two atomic or molecular constituents can exhibit a negative refractive index. A negative index is possible even when the real parts of both the permittivity and permeability are positive. This surprising result provides a route to isotropic negative-index media at optical frequencies.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Learning to Feel the Physics of a Body

Der, R., Hesse, F., Martius, G.

In Computational Intelligence for Modelling, Control and Automation, CIMCA 2005 , 2, pages: 252-257, Washington, DC, USA, 2005 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Despite the tremendous progress in robotic hardware and in both sensorial and computing efficiencies the performance of contemporary autonomous robots is still far below that of simple animals. This has triggered an intensive search for alternative approaches to the control of robots. The present paper exemplifies a general approach to the self-organization of behavior which has been developed and tested in various examples in recent years. We apply this approach to an underactuated snake like artifact with a complex physical behavior which is not known to the controller. Due to the weak forces available, the controller so to say has to develop a kind of feeling for the body which is seen to emerge from our approach in a natural way with meandering and rotational collective modes being observed in computer simulation experiments.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]