Journal article

Electrokinetic and Optical Control of Bacterial Microrobots

One of the great challenges in microscale science and engineering is the independent manipulation of cells and man-made objects on the micron scale. For such work, motile microorganisms are integrated with engineered systems to construct microbiorobots (MBRs). MBRs are negative photosensitive epoxy (SU-8) microfabricated structures with typical feature sizes ranging from 1 to 100 µm coated with a monolayer of swarmer cells of the bacterium Serratia marcescens. The adherent cells naturally coordinate to propel the microstructures in fluidic environments. In this study, ultraviolet light is used to control rotational motion and direct current electric fields are used to control the two-dimensional movement of MBRs. They are steered in a fully automated fashion using computer-controlled visual servoing, used to transport and manipulate micron-sized objects, and employed as cell-based biosensors. This work is a step toward in vitro mechanical or chemical manipulation of cells as well as controlled assembly of microcomponents.


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