Biology-based robotics may one day soon save millions of lives with artificial organs and tissues generated from stem cells. The first step, however, is to gain a better understanding of cells and their dynamic and adaptive responses to external forces. The EU-funded PHOTOMECH project will explore force-controlled cell functions using a challenging and novel photomechanical cell stimulation approach. The project will collect previously unobtainable physical information within cells on multiple size scales.
Stimuli-responsive hydrogels are highly interesting materials for generating microactuator systems, as they offer interesting properties for manipulating cells and micfluidic devices. Current hydrogel based microactuators, however, are very simple and the issue of bistability in their function is largely unexploited. We propose a novel strategy to achieve light switchable, bistable microactuator systems using stimuli-responsive polymers that can be modulated by molecular switches.