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2019


Soft-magnetic coatings as possible sensors for magnetic imaging of superconductors
Soft-magnetic coatings as possible sensors for magnetic imaging of superconductors

Ionescu, A., Simmendinger, J., Bihler, M., Miksch, C., Fischer, P., Soltan, S., Schütz, G., Albrecht, J.

Supercond. Sci. and Tech., 33, pages: 015002, IOP, December 2019 (article)

Abstract
Magnetic imaging of superconductors typically requires a soft-magnetic material placed on top of the superconductor to probe local magnetic fields. For reasonable results the influence of the magnet onto the superconductor has to be small. Thin YBCO films with soft-magnetic coatings are investigated using SQUID magnetometry. Detailed measurements of the magnetic moment as a function of temperature, magnetic field and time have been performed for different heterostructures. It is found that the modification of the superconducting transport in these heterostructures strongly depends on the magnetic and structural properties of the soft-magnetic material. This effect is especially pronounced for an inhomogeneous coating consisting of ferromagnetic nanoparticles.

pf mms

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2019


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Acoustic hologram enhanced phased arrays for ultrasonic particle manipulation
Acoustic hologram enhanced phased arrays for ultrasonic particle manipulation

Cox, L., Melde, K., Croxford, A., Fischer, P., Drinkwater, B.

Phys. Rev. Applied, 12, pages: 064055, November 2019 (article)

Abstract
The ability to shape ultrasound fields is important for particle manipulation, medical therapeutics and imaging applications. If the amplitude and/or phase is spatially varied across the wavefront then it is possible to project ‘acoustic images’. When attempting to form an arbitrary desired static sound field, acoustic holograms are superior to phased arrays due to their significantly higher phase fidelity. However, they lack the dynamic flexibility of phased arrays. Here, we demonstrate how to combine the high-fidelity advantages of acoustic holograms with the dynamic control of phased arrays in the ultrasonic frequency range. Holograms are used with a 64-element phased array, driven with continuous excitation. Moving the position of the projected hologram via phase delays which steer the output beam is demonstrated experimentally. This allows the creation of a much more tightly focused point than with the phased array alone, whilst still being reconfigurable. It also allows the complex movement at a water-air interface of a “phase surfer” along a phase track or the manipulation of a more arbitrarily shaped particle via amplitude traps. Furthermore, a particle manipulation device with two emitters and a single split hologram is demonstrated that allows the positioning of a “phase surfer” along a 1D axis. This paper opens the door for new applications with complex manipulation of ultrasound whilst minimising the complexity and cost of the apparatus.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks
Learning to Explore in Motion and Interaction Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Righetti, L.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, November 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Model free reinforcement learning suffers from the high sampling complexity inherent to robotic manipulation or locomotion tasks. Most successful approaches typically use random sampling strategies which leads to slow policy convergence. In this paper we present a novel approach for efficient exploration that leverages previously learned tasks. We exploit the fact that the same system is used across many tasks and build a generative model for exploration based on data from previously solved tasks to improve learning new tasks. The approach also enables continuous learning of improved exploration strategies as novel tasks are learned. Extensive simulations on a robot manipulator performing a variety of motion and contact interaction tasks demonstrate the capabilities of the approach. In particular, our experiments suggest that the exploration strategy can more than double learning speed, especially when rewards are sparse. Moreover, the algorithm is robust to task variations and parameter tuning, making it beneficial for complex robotic problems.

mg

arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


A Helical Microrobot with an Optimized Propeller-Shape for Propulsion in Viscoelastic Biological Media
A Helical Microrobot with an Optimized Propeller-Shape for Propulsion in Viscoelastic Biological Media

Li., D., Jeong, M., Oren, E., Yu, T., Qiu, T.

Robotics, 8, pages: 87, MDPI, October 2019 (article)

Abstract
One major challenge for microrobots is to penetrate and effectively move through viscoelastic biological tissues. Most existing microrobots can only propel in viscous liquids. Recent advances demonstrate that sub-micron robots can actively penetrate nanoporous biological tissue, such as the vitreous of the eye. However, it is still difficult to propel a micron-sized device through dense biological tissue. Here, we report that a special twisted helical shape together with a high aspect ratio in cross-section permit a microrobot with a diameter of hundreds-of-micrometers to move through mouse liver tissue. The helical microrobot is driven by a rotating magnetic field and localized by ultrasound imaging inside the tissue. The twisted ribbon is made of molybdenum and a sharp tip is chemically etched to generate a higher pressure at the edge of the propeller to break the biopolymeric network of the dense tissue.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Acoustic Holographic Cell Patterning in a Biocompatible Hydrogel
Acoustic Holographic Cell Patterning in a Biocompatible Hydrogel

Ma, Z., Holle, A., Melde, K., Qiu, T., Poeppel, K., Kadiri, V., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., October 2019 (article)

Abstract
Acoustophoresis is promising as a rapid, biocompatible, non-contact cell manipulation method, where cells are arranged along the nodes or antinodes of the acoustic field. Typically, the acoustic field is formed in a resonator, which results in highly symmetric regular patterns. However, arbitrary, non-symmetrically shaped cell assemblies are necessary to obtain the irregular cellular arrangements found in biological tissues. We show that arbitrarily shaped cell patterns can be obtained from the complex acoustic field distribution defined by an acoustic hologram. Attenuation of the sound field induces localized acoustic streaming and the resultant convection flow gently delivers the suspended cells to the image plane where they form the designed pattern. We show that the process can be implemented in a biocompatible collagen solution, which can then undergo gelation to immobilize the cell pattern inside the viscoelastic matrix. The patterned cells exhibit F-actin-based protrusions, which indicates that the cells grow and thrive within the matrix. Cell viability assays and brightfield imaging after one week confirm cell survival and that the patterns persist. Acoustophoretic cell manipulation by holographic fields thus holds promise for non-contact, long-range, long-term cellular pattern formation, with a wide variety of potential applications in tissue engineering and mechanobiology.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate
A High-Fidelity Phantom for the Simulation and Quantitative Evaluation of Transurethral Resection of the Prostate

Choi, E., Adams, F., Gengenbacher, A., Schlager, D., Palagi, S., Müller, P., Wetterauer, U., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

Annals of Biomed. Eng., October 2019 (article)

Abstract
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure that requires experience and skill of the surgeon. To permit surgical training under realistic conditions we report a novel phantom of the human prostate that can be resected with TURP. The phantom mirrors the anatomy and haptic properties of the gland and permits quantitative evaluation of important surgical performance indicators. Mixtures of soft materials are engineered to mimic the physical properties of the human tissue, including the mechanical strength, the electrical and thermal conductivity, and the appearance under an endoscope. Electrocautery resection of the phantom closely resembles the procedure on human tissue. Ultrasound contrast agent was applied to the central zone, which was not detectable by the surgeon during the surgery but showed high contrast when imaged after the surgery, to serve as a label for the quantitative evaluation of the surgery. Quantitative criteria for performance assessment are established and evaluated by automated image analysis. We present the workflow of a surgical simulation on a prostate phantom followed by quantitative evaluation of the surgical performance. Surgery on the phantom is useful for medical training, and enables the development and testing of endoscopic and minimally invasive surgical instruments.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems
Interactive Materials – Drivers of Future Robotic Systems

Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., October 2019 (article)

Abstract
A robot senses its environment, processes the sensory information, acts in response to these inputs, and possibly communicates with the outside world. Robots generally achieve these tasks with electronics-based hardware or by receiving inputs from some external hardware. In contrast, simple microorganisms can autonomously perceive, act, and communicate via purely physicochemical processes in soft material systems. A key property of biological systems is that they are built from energy-consuming ‘active’ units. Exciting developments in material science show that even very simple artificial active building blocks can show surprisingly rich emergent behaviors. Active non-equilibrium systems are therefore predicted to play an essential role to realize interactive materials. A major challenge is to find robust ways to couple and integrate the energy-consuming building blocks to the mechanical structure of the material. However, success in this endeavor will lead to a new generation of sophisticated micro- and soft-robotic systems that can operate autonomously.

pf

[BibTex]


Arrays of plasmonic nanoparticle dimers with defined nanogap spacers
Arrays of plasmonic nanoparticle dimers with defined nanogap spacers

Jeong, H., Adams, M. C., Guenther, J., Alarcon-Correa, M., Kim, I., Choi, E., Miksch, C., Mark, A. F. M., Mark, A. G., Fischer, P.

ACS Nano, September 2019 (article)

Abstract
Plasmonic molecules are building blocks of metallic nanostructures that give rise to intriguing optical phenomena with similarities to those seen in molecular systems. The ability to design plasmonic hybrid structures and molecules with nanometric resolution would enable applications in optical metamaterials and sensing that presently cannot be demonstrated, because of a lack of suitable fabrication methods allowing the structural control of the plasmonic atoms on a large scale. Here we demonstrate a wafer-scale “lithography-free” parallel fabrication scheme to realize nanogap plasmonic meta-molecules with precise control over their size, shape, material, and orientation. We demonstrate how we can tune the corresponding coupled resonances through the entire visible spectrum. Our fabrication method, based on glancing angle physical vapor deposition with gradient shadowing, permits critical parameters to be varied across the wafer and thus is ideally suited to screen potential structures. We obtain billions of aligned dimer structures with controlled variation of the spectral properties across the wafer. We spectroscopically map the plasmonic resonances of gold dimer structures and show that they not only are in good agreement with numerically modeled spectra, but also remain functional, at least for a year, in ambient conditions.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Genetically modified M13 bacteriophage nanonets for enzyme catalysis and recovery
Genetically modified M13 bacteriophage nanonets for enzyme catalysis and recovery

Kadiri, V. M., Alarcon-Correa, M., Guenther, J. P., Ruppert, J., Bill, J., Rothenstein, D., Fischer, P.

Catalysts, 9, pages: 723, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Enzyme-based biocatalysis exhibits multiple advantages over inorganic catalysts, including the biocompatibility and the unchallenged specificity of enzymes towards their substrate. The recovery and repeated use of enzymes is essential for any realistic application in biotechnology, but is not easily achieved with current strategies. For this purpose, enzymes are often immobilized on inorganic scaffolds, which could entail a reduction of the enzymes’ activity. Here, we show that immobilization to a nano-scaled biological scaffold, a nanonetwork of end-to-end cross-linked M13 bacteriophages, ensures high enzymatic activity and at the same time allows for the simple recovery of the enzymes. The bacteriophages have been genetically engineered to express AviTags at their ends, which permit biotinylation and their specific end-to-end self-assembly while allowing space on the major coat protein for enzyme coupling. We demonstrate that the phages form nanonetwork structures and that these so-called nanonets remain highly active even after re-using the nanonets multiple times in a flow-through reactor.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Light-controlled micromotors and soft microrobots
Light-controlled micromotors and soft microrobots

Palagi, S., Singh, D. P., Fischer, P.

Adv. Opt. Mat., 7, pages: 1900370, August 2019 (article)

Abstract
Mobile microscale devices and microrobots can be powered by catalytic reactions (chemical micromotors) or by external fields. This report is focused on the role of light as a versatile means for wirelessly powering and controlling such microdevices. Recent advances in the development of autonomous micromotors are discussed, where light permits their actuation with unprecedented control and thereby enables advances in the field of active matter. In addition, structuring the light field is a new means to drive soft microrobots that are based on (photo‐) responsive polymers. The behavior of the two main classes of thermo‐ and photoresponsive polymers adopted in microrobotics (poly(N‐isopropylacrylamide) and liquid‐crystal elastomers) is analyzed, and recent applications are reported. The advantages and limitations of controlling micromotors and microrobots by light are reviewed, and some of the remaining challenges in the development of novel photo‐active materials for micromotors and microrobots are discussed.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels
Soft Continuous Surface for Micromanipulation driven by Light-controlled Hydrogels

Choi, E., Jeong, H., Qiu, T., Fischer, P., Palagi, S.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Remotely controlled, automated actuation and manipulation at the microscale is essential for a number of micro-manufacturing, biology, and lab-on-a-chip applications. To transport and manipulate micro-objects, arrays of remotely controlled micro-actuators are required, which, in turn, typically require complex and expensive solid-state chips. Here, we show that a continuous surface can function as a highly parallel, many-degree of freedom, wirelessly-controlled microactuator with seamless deformation. The soft continuous surface is based on a hydrogel that undergoes a volume change in response to applied light. The fabrication of the hydrogels and the characterization of their optical and thermomechanical behaviors are reported. The temperature-dependent localized deformation of the hydrogel is also investigated by numerical simulations. Static and dynamic deformations are obtained in the soft material by projecting light fields at high spatial resolution onto the surface. By controlling such deformations in open loop and especially closed loop, automated photoactuation is achieved. The surface deformations are then exploited to examine how inert microbeads can be manipulated autonomously on the surface. We believe that the proposed approach suggests ways to implement universal 2D micromanipulation schemes that can be useful for automation in microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip applications.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and  Lithotripsy
Soft Phantom for the Training of Renal Calculi Diagnostics and Lithotripsy

Li., D., Suarez-Ibarrola, R., Choi, E., Jeong, M., Gratzke, C., Miernik, A., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Organ models are important for medical training and surgical planning. With the fast development of additive fabrication technologies, including 3D printing, the fabrication of 3D organ phantoms with precise anatomical features becomes possible. Here, we develop the first high-resolution kidney phantom based on soft material assembly, by combining 3D printing and polymer molding techniques. The phantom exhibits both the detailed anatomy of a human kidney and the elasticity of soft tissues. The phantom assembly can be separated into two parts on the coronal plane, thus large renal calculi are readily placed at any desired location of the calyx. With our sealing method, the assembled phantom withstands a hydraulic pressure that is four times the normal intrarenal pressure, thus it allows the simulation of medical procedures under realistic pressure conditions. The medical diagnostics of the renal calculi is performed by multiple imaging modalities, including X-ray, ultrasound imaging and endoscopy. The endoscopic lithotripsy is also successfully performed on the phantom. The use of a multifunctional soft phantom assembly thus shows great promise for the simulation of minimally invasive medical procedures under realistic conditions.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


A Magnetic Actuation System for the  Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials
A Magnetic Actuation System for the Active Microrheology in Soft Biomaterials

Jeong, M., Choi, E., Li., D., Palagi, S., Fischer, P., Qiu, T.

4th IEEE International Conference on Manipulation, Automation and Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS), July 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Microrheology is a key technique to characterize soft materials at small scales. The microprobe is wirelessly actuated and therefore typically only low forces or torques can be applied, which limits the range of the applied strain. Here, we report a new magnetic actuation system for microrheology consisting of an array of rotating permanent magnets, which achieves a rotating magnetic field with a spatially homogeneous high field strength of ~100 mT in a working volume of ~20×20×20 mm3. Compared to a traditional electromagnetic coil system, the permanent magnet assembly is portable and does not require cooling, and it exerts a large magnetic torque on the microprobe that is an order of magnitude higher than previous setups. Experimental results demonstrate that the measurement range of the soft gels’ elasticity covers at least five orders of magnitude. With the large actuation torque, it is also possible to study the fracture mechanics of soft biomaterials at small scales.

pf

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

mg

[BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

am mg

video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


Self-Assembled Phage-Based Colloids for High Localized Enzymatic Activity
Self-Assembled Phage-Based Colloids for High Localized Enzymatic Activity

Alarcon-Correa, M., Guenther, J., Troll, J., Kadiri, V. M., Bill, J., Fischer, P., Rothenstein, D.

ACS Nano, March 2019 (article)

Abstract
Catalytically active colloids are model systems for chemical motors and active matter. It is desirable to replace the inorganic catalysts and the toxic fuels that are often used, with biocompatible enzymatic reactions. However, compared to inorganic catalysts, enzyme-coated colloids tend to exhibit less activity. Here, we show that the self-assembly of genetically engineered M13 bacteriophages that bind enzymes to magnetic beads ensures high and localized enzymatic activity. These phage-decorated colloids provide a proteinaceous environment for directed enzyme immobilization. The magnetic properties of the colloidal carrier particle permit repeated enzyme recovery from a reaction solution, while the enzymatic activity is retained. Moreover, localizing the phage-based construct with a magnetic field in a microcontainer allows the enzyme-phage-colloids to function as an enzymatic micropump, where the enzymatic reaction generates a fluid flow. This system shows the fastest fluid flow reported to date by a biocompatible enzymatic micropump. In addition, it is functional in complex media including blood where the enzyme driven micropump can be powered at the physiological blood-urea concentration.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Absolute diffusion measurements of active enzyme solutions by NMR
Absolute diffusion measurements of active enzyme solutions by NMR

Guenther, J., Majer, G., Fischer, P.

J. Chem. Phys., 150(124201), March 2019 (article)

Abstract
The diffusion of enzymes is of fundamental importance for many biochemical processes. Enhanced or directed enzyme diffusion can alter the accessibility of substrates and the organization of enzymes within cells. Several studies based on fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) report enhanced diffusion of enzymes upon interaction with their substrate or inhibitor. In this context, major importance is given to the enzyme fructose-bisphosphate aldolase, for which enhanced diffusion has been reported even though the catalysed reaction is endothermic. Additionally, enhanced diffusion of tracer particles surrounding the active aldolase enzymes has been reported. These studies suggest that active enzymes can act as chemical motors that self-propel and give rise to enhanced diffusion. However, fluorescence studies of enzymes can, despite several advantages, suffer from artefacts. Here we show that the absolute diffusion coefficients of active enzyme solutions can be determined with Pulsed Field Gradient Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (PFG-NMR). The advantage of PFG-NMR is that the motion of the molecule of interest is directly observed in its native state without the need for any labelling. Further, PFG-NMR is model-free and thus yields absolute diffusion constants. Our PFG-NMR experiments of solutions containing active fructose-bisphosphate aldolase from rabbit muscle do not show any diffusion enhancement for the active enzymes nor the surrounding molecules. Additionally, we do not observe any diffusion enhancement of aldolase in the presence of its inhibitor pyrophosphate.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Chemical Nanomotors at the Gram Scale Form a Dense Active Optorheological Medium
Chemical Nanomotors at the Gram Scale Form a Dense Active Optorheological Medium

Choudhury, U., Singh, D. P., Qiu, T., Fischer, P.

Adv. Mat., (1807382), Febuary 2019 (article)

Abstract
The rheological properties of a colloidal suspension are a function of the concentration of the colloids and their interactions. While suspensions of passive colloids are well studied and have been shown to form crystals, gels, and glasses, examples of energy‐consuming “active” colloidal suspensions are still largely unexplored. Active suspensions of biological matter, such as motile bacteria or dense mixtures of active actin–motor–protein mixtures have, respectively, reveals superfluid‐like and gel‐like states. Attractive inanimate systems for active matter are chemically self‐propelled particles. It has so far been challenging to use these swimming particles at high enough densities to affect the bulk material properties of the suspension. Here, it is shown that light‐triggered asymmetric titanium dioxide that self‐propel, can be obtained in large quantities, and self‐organize to make a gram‐scale active medium. The suspension shows an activity‐dependent tenfold reversible change in its bulk viscosity.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


First Observation of Optical Activity in Hyper-Rayleigh Scattering
First Observation of Optical Activity in Hyper-Rayleigh Scattering

Collins, J., Rusimova, K., Hooper, D., Jeong, H. H., Ohnoutek, L., Pradaux-Caggiano, F., Verbiest, T., Carbery, D., Fischer, P., Valev, V.

Phys. Rev. X, 9(011024), January 2019 (article)

Abstract
Chiral nano- or metamaterials and surfaces enable striking photonic properties, such as negative refractive index and superchiral light, driving promising applications in novel optical components, nanorobotics, and enhanced chiral molecular interactions with light. In characterizing chirality, although nonlinear chiroptical techniques are typically much more sensitive than their linear optical counterparts, separating true chirality from anisotropy is a major challenge. Here, we report the first observation of optical activity in second-harmonic hyper-Rayleigh scattering (HRS). We demonstrate the effect in a 3D isotropic suspension of Ag nanohelices in water. The effect is 5 orders of magnitude stronger than linear optical activity and is well pronounced above the multiphoton luminescence background. Because of its sensitivity, isotropic environment, and straightforward experimental geometry, HRS optical activity constitutes a fundamental experimental breakthrough in chiral photonics for media including nanomaterials, metamaterials, and chemical molecules.

pf

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Robust Humanoid Locomotion Using Trajectory Optimization and Sample-Efficient Learning

Yeganegi, M. H., Khadiv, M., Moosavian, S. A. A., Zhu, J., Prete, A. D., Righetti, L.

Proceedings International Conference on Humanoid Robots, IEEE, 2019 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, 2019 (conference)

Abstract
Trajectory optimization (TO) is one of the most powerful tools for generating feasible motions for humanoid robots. However, including uncertainties and stochasticity in the TO problem to generate robust motions can easily lead to intractable problems. Furthermore, since the models used in TO have always some level of abstraction, it can be hard to find a realistic set of uncertainties in the model space. In this paper we leverage a sample-efficient learning technique (Bayesian optimization) to robustify TO for humanoid locomotion. The main idea is to use data from full-body simulations to make the TO stage robust by tuning the cost weights. To this end, we split the TO problem into two phases. The first phase solves a convex optimization problem for generating center of mass (CoM) trajectories based on simplified linear dynamics. The second stage employs iterative Linear-Quadratic Gaussian (iLQG) as a whole-body controller to generate full body control inputs. Then we use Bayesian optimization to find the cost weights to use in the first stage that yields robust performance in the simulation/experiment, in the presence of different disturbance/uncertainties. The results show that the proposed approach is able to generate robust motions for different sets of disturbances and uncertainties.

mg

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.04616 [BibTex]

2012


Fourier-transform photocurrent spectroscopy using a supercontinuum light source
Fourier-transform photocurrent spectroscopy using a supercontinuum light source

Petermann, C., Beigang, R., Fischer, P.

APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS, 100(6), 2012 (article)

Abstract
We demonstrate an implementation of frequency-encoded photocurrent spectroscopy using a super-continuum light source. The spectrally broad light is spatially dispersed and modulated with a special mechanical chopper design that permits a continuous wavelength-dependent modulation. After recombination, the light beam contains a frequency encoded spectrum which enables us to map the spectral response of a given sample in 60 ms and with a lateral resolution of 10 mu m. (C) 2012 American Institute of Physics.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2012


DOI [BibTex]


Eine neue Form von Cavity Enhanced Absorption Spectroscopy
Eine neue Form von Cavity Enhanced Absorption Spectroscopy

Petermann, C., Fischer, P.

DE Gruyter, 79(1), 2012, Best paper award OPTO 2011 (article)

Abstract
Wir stellen eine Kopplungsmethode für resonatorgestützte Absorptionsmessungen vor, bei der Licht durch einen im Resonator platzierten akustooptischen Modulator aktiv ein- und ausgekoppelt wird. Dies ermöglicht es Cavity-Ring-Down-Spektroskopie (CRDS) mit breitbandigen und zeitlich inkohärenten Lichtquellen niedriger spektraler Leistungsdichte durchzuführen. Das Verfahren wird zum ersten Mal mit einer breitbandigen Superkontinuum-Quelle demonstriert.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

A new coupling scheme for cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy makes use of an intracavity acousto-optical modulator to actively switch light into (and out of) a resonator. This allows cavity ringdown spectroscopy (CRDS) to be implemented with broadband temporally incoherent light sources with low spectral power densities. The method is demonstrated for the first time using a broadband supercontinuum source. Best paper award OPTO 2011.

pf

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Encoding of Periodic and their Transient Motions by a Single Dynamic Movement Primitive

Ernesti, J., Righetti, L., Do, M., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 57-64, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Robotic Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In ICML’12 Proceedings of the 29th International Coference on International Conference on Machine Learning, pages: 49-50, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (inproceedings)

am mg

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Quadratic programming for inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 538-543, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this contribution we propose an inverse dynamics controller for a humanoid robot that exploits torque redundancy to minimize any combination of linear and quadratic costs in the contact forces and the commands. In addition the controller satisfies linear equality and inequality constraints in the contact forces and the commands such as torque limits, unilateral contacts or friction cones limits. The originality of our approach resides in the formulation of the problem as a quadratic program where we only need to solve for the control commands and where the contact forces are optimized implicitly. Furthermore, we do not need a structured representation of the dynamics of the robot (i.e. an explicit computation of the inertia matrix). It is in contrast with existing methods based on quadratic programs. The controller is then robust to uncertainty in the estimation of the dynamics model and the optimization is fast enough to be implemented in high bandwidth torque control loops that are increasingly available on humanoid platforms. We demonstrate properties of our controller with simulations of a human size humanoid robot.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Towards Associative Skill Memories

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 309-315, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Movement primitives as basis of movement planning and control have become a popular topic in recent years. The key idea of movement primitives is that a rather small set of stereotypical movements should suffice to create a large set of complex manipulation skills. An interesting side effect of stereotypical movement is that it also creates stereotypical sensory events, e.g., in terms of kinesthetic variables, haptic variables, or, if processed appropriately, visual variables. Thus, a movement primitive executed towards a particular object in the environment will associate a large number of sensory variables that are typical for this manipulation skill. These association can be used to increase robustness towards perturbations, and they also allow failure detection and switching towards other behaviors. We call such movement primitives augmented with sensory associations Associative Skill Memories (ASM). This paper addresses how ASMs can be acquired by imitation learning and how they can create robust manipulation skill by determining subsequent ASMs online to achieve a particular manipulation goal. Evaluation for grasping and manipulation with a Barrett WAM/Hand illustrate our approach.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Template-based learning of grasp selection

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2379-2384, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects is an important skill for personal robots, which has been addressed by many present and past research projects, but still remains an open problem. A crucial aspect of grasping is choosing an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e. the 6d pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. Finding feasible grasp configurations for novel objects, however, is challenging because of the huge variety in shape and size of these objects. Moreover, possible configurations also depend on the specific kinematics of the robotic arm and hand in use. In this paper, we introduce a new grasp selection algorithm able to find object grasp poses based on previously demonstrated grasps. Assuming that objects with similar shapes can be grasped in a similar way, we associate to each demonstrated grasp a grasp template. The template is a local shape descriptor for a possible grasp pose and is constructed using 3d information from depth sensors. For each new object to grasp, the algorithm then finds the best grasp candidate in the library of templates. The grasp selection is also able to improve over time using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates. We tested the algorithm on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM arm which have very different hands. Our results show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does indeed improve its performance over time.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


no image
Probabilistic depth image registration incorporating nonvisual information

Wüthrich, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Billard, A., Schaal, S.

In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 3637-3644, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this paper, we derive a probabilistic registration algorithm for object modeling and tracking. In many robotics applications, such as manipulation tasks, nonvisual information about the movement of the object is available, which we will combine with the visual information. Furthermore we do not only consider observations of the object, but we also take space into account which has been observed to not be part of the object. Furthermore we are computing a posterior distribution over the relative alignment and not a point estimate as typically done in for example Iterative Closest Point (ICP). To our knowledge no existing algorithm meets these three conditions and we thus derive a novel registration algorithm in a Bayesian framework. Experimental results suggest that the proposed methods perform favorably in comparison to PCL [1] implementations of feature mapping and ICP, especially if nonvisual information is available.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2010


Magnetic Nanostructured Propellers
Magnetic Nanostructured Propellers

Fischer, P., Ghosh, A.

July 2010 (patent)

pf

[BibTex]

2010


[BibTex]


Molecular QED of coherent and incoherent sum-frequency and second-harmonic generation in chiral liquids in the presence of a static electric field
Molecular QED of coherent and incoherent sum-frequency and second-harmonic generation in chiral liquids in the presence of a static electric field

Fischer, P., Salam, A.

MOLECULAR PHYSICS, 108(14):1857-1868, 2010 (article)

Abstract
Coherent second-order nonlinear optical processes are symmetry forbidden in centrosymmetric environments in the electric-dipole approximation. In liquids that contain chiral molecules, however, and which therefore lack mirror image symmetry, coherent sum-frequency generation is possible, whereas second-harmonic generation remains forbidden. Here we apply the theory of molecular quantum electrodynamics to the calculation of the matrix element, transition rate, and integrated signal intensity for sum-frequency and second-harmonic generation taking place in a chiral liquid in the presence and absence of a static electric field, to examine which coherent and incoherent processes exist in the electric-dipole approximation in liquids. Third- and fourth-order time-dependent perturbation theory is employed in combination with single-sided Feynman diagrams to evaluate two contributions arising from static field-free and field-induced processes. It is found that, in addition to the coherent term, an incoherent process exists for sum-frequency generation in liquids. Surprisingly, in the case of dc-field-induced second-harmonic generation, the incoherent contribution is found to always vanish for isotropic chiral liquids even though hyper-Rayleigh second-harmonic generation and electric-field-induced second-harmonic generation are both independently symmetry allowed in any liquid.

pf

DOI [BibTex]


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Constrained Accelerations for Controlled Geometric Reduction: Sagittal-Plane Decoupling for Bipedal Locomotion

Gregg, R., Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 1-7, IEEE, Nashville, USA, 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Energy-shaping control methods have produced strong theoretical results for asymptotically stable 3D bipedal dynamic walking in the literature. In particular, geometric controlled reduction exploits robot symmetries to control momentum conservation laws that decouple the sagittal-plane dynamics, which are easier to stabilize. However, the associated control laws require high-dimensional matrix inverses multiplied with complicated energy-shaping terms, often making these control theories difficult to apply to highly-redundant humanoid robots. This paper presents a first step towards the application of energy-shaping methods on real robots by casting controlled reduction into a framework of constrained accelerations for inverse dynamics control. By representing momentum conservation laws as constraints in acceleration space, we construct a general expression for desired joint accelerations that render the constraint surface invariant. By appropriately choosing an orthogonal projection, we show that the unconstrained (reduced) dynamics are decoupled from the constrained dynamics. Any acceleration-based controller can then be used to stabilize this planar subsystem, including passivity-based methods. The resulting control law is surprisingly simple and represents a practical way to employ control theoretic stability results in robotic platforms. Simulated walking of a 3D compass-gait biped show correspondence between the new and original controllers, and simulated motions of a 16-DOF humanoid demonstrate the applicability of this method.

am mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics with optimal distribution of ground reaction forces for legged robot

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots (CLAWAR), pages: 580-587, Nagoya, Japan, sep 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Contact interaction with the environment is crucial in the design of locomotion controllers for legged robots, to prevent slipping for example. Therefore, it is of great importance to be able to control the effects of the robots movements on the contact reaction forces. In this contribution, we extend a recent inverse dynamics algorithm for floating base robots to optimize the distribution of contact forces while achieving precise trajectory tracking. The resulting controller is algorithmically simple as compared to other approaches. Numerical simulations show that this result significantly increases the range of possible movements of a humanoid robot as compared to the previous inverse dynamics algorithm. We also present a simplification of the result where no inversion of the inertia matrix is needed which is particularly relevant for practical use on a real robot. Such an algorithm becomes interesting for agile locomotion of robots on difficult terrains where the contacts with the environment are critical, such as walking over rough or slippery terrain.

am mg

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2008


Voltage-Controllable Magnetic Composite Based on Multifunctional Polyethylene Microparticles
Voltage-Controllable Magnetic Composite Based on Multifunctional Polyethylene Microparticles

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

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

pf

DOI [BibTex]

2008



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Pattern generators with sensory feedback for the control of quadruped locomotion

Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 819-824, IEEE, Pasadena, USA, 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Central pattern generators (CPGs) are becoming a popular model for the control of locomotion of legged robots. Biological CPGs are neural networks responsible for the generation of rhythmic movements, especially locomotion. In robotics, a systematic way of designing such CPGs as artificial neural networks or systems of coupled oscillators with sensory feedback inclusion is still missing. In this contribution, we present a way of designing CPGs with coupled oscillators in which we can independently control the ascending and descending phases of the oscillations (i.e. the swing and stance phases of the limbs). Using insights from dynamical system theory, we construct generic networks of oscillators able to generate several gaits under simple parameter changes. Then we introduce a systematic way of adding sensory feedback from touch sensors in the CPG such that the controller is strongly coupled with the mechanical system it controls. Finally we control three different simulated robots (iCub, Aibo and Ghostdog) using the same controller to show the effectiveness of the approach. Our simulations prove the importance of independent control of swing and stance duration. The strong mutual coupling between the CPG and the robot allows for more robust locomotion, even under non precise parameters and non-flat environment.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Experimental Study of Limit Cycle and Chaotic Controllers for the Locomotion of Centipede Robots

Matthey, L., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 1860-1865, IEEE, Nice, France, sep 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In this contribution we present a CPG (central pattern generator) controller based on coupled Rossler systems. It is able to generate both limit cycle and chaotic behaviors through bifurcation. We develop an experimental test bench to measure quantitatively the performance of different controllers on unknown terrains of increasing difficulty. First, we show that for flat terrains, open loop limit cycle systems are the most efficient (in terms of speed of locomotion) but that they are quite sensitive to environmental changes. Second, we show that sensory feedback is a crucial addition for unknown terrains. Third, we show that the chaotic controller with sensory feedback outperforms the other controllers in very difficult terrains and actually promotes the emergence of short synchronized movement patterns. All that is done using an unified framework for the generation of limit cycle and chaotic behaviors, where a simple parameter change can switch from one behavior to the other through bifurcation. Such flexibility would allow the automatic adaptation of the robot locomotion strategy to the terrain uncertainty.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


no image
A Dynamical System for Online Learning of Periodic Movements of Unknown Waveform and Frequency

Gams, A., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A., Lenarčič, J.

In 2008 2nd IEEE RAS & EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 85-90, IEEE, Scottsdale, USA, October 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The paper presents a two-layered system for learning and encoding a periodic signal onto a limit cycle without any knowledge on the waveform and the frequency of the signal, and without any signal processing. The first dynamical system is responsible for extracting the main frequency of the input signal. It is based on adaptive frequency phase oscillators in a feedback structure, enabling us to extract separate frequency components without any signal processing, as all of the processing is embedded in the dynamics of the system itself. The second dynamical system is responsible for learning of the waveform. It has a built-in learning algorithm based on locally weighted regression, which adjusts the weights according to the amplitude of the input signal. By combining the output of the first system with the input of the second system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots. The systems works online for any periodic signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Furthermore, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, and is computationally inexpensive. Results using simulated and hand-generated input signals, along with applying the algorithm to a HOAP-2 humanoid robot are presented.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Passive compliant quadruped robot using central pattern generators for locomotion control

Rutishauser, S., Sproewitz, A., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 IEEE International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 710-715, IEEE, Scottsdale, USA, October 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a new quadruped robot, ldquoCheetahrdquo, featuring three-segment pantographic legs with passive compliant knee joints. Each leg has two degrees of freedom - knee and hip joint can be actuated using proximal mounted RC servo motors, force transmission to the knee is achieved by means of a bowden cable mechanism. Simple electronics to command the actuators from a desktop computer have been designed in order to test the robot. A Central Pattern Generator (CPG) network has been implemented to generate different gaits. A parameter space search was performed and tested on the robot to optimize forward velocity.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Frequency analysis with coupled nonlinear oscillators

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 237(13):1705-1718, August 2008 (article)

Abstract
We present a method to obtain the frequency spectrum of a signal with a nonlinear dynamical system. The dynamical system is composed of a pool of adaptive frequency oscillators with negative mean-field coupling. For the frequency analysis, the synchronization and adaptation properties of the component oscillators are exploited. The frequency spectrum of the signal is reflected in the statistics of the intrinsic frequencies of the oscillators. The frequency analysis is completely embedded in the dynamics of the system. Thus, no pre-processing or additional parameters, such as time windows, are needed. Representative results of the numerical integration of the system are presented. It is shown, that the oscillators tune to the correct frequencies for both discrete and continuous spectra. Due to its dynamic nature the system is also capable to track non-stationary spectra. Further, we show that the system can be modeled in a probabilistic manner by means of a nonlinear Fokker–Planck equation. The probabilistic treatment is in good agreement with the numerical results, and provides a useful tool to understand the underlying mechanisms leading to convergence.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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A modular bio-inspired architecture for movement generation for the infant-like robot iCub

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Natale, L., Nori, F., Metta, G., Ijspeert, A.

In 2008 2nd IEEE RAS & EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pages: 795-800, IEEE, Scottsdale, USA, October 2008 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Movement generation in humans appears to be processed through a three-layered architecture, where each layer corresponds to a different level of abstraction in the representation of the movement. In this article, we will present an architecture reflecting this organization and based on a modular approach to human movement generation. We will show that our architecture is well suited for the online generation and modulation of motor behaviors, but also for switching between motor behaviors. This will be illustrated respectively through an interactive drumming task and through switching between reaching and crawling.

mg

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Nonlinear optical spectroscopy of chiral molecules
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.

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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

pf

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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A dynamical systems approach to learning: a frequency-adaptive hopper robot

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of the VIIIth European Conference on Artificial Life ECAL 2005, pages: 210-220, Springer Verlag, 2005 (inproceedings)

mg

[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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From Dynamic Hebbian Learning for Oscillators to Adaptive Central Pattern Generators

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

In Proceedings of 3rd International Symposium on Adaptive Motion in Animals and Machines – AMAM 2005, Verlag ISLE, Ilmenau, 2005 (inproceedings)

mg

[BibTex]

[BibTex]