The objective of this project is to develop and manufacture a biodegradable material suitable to use for building a lightweight aerial robot. The project consists of several tasks provided in the document attached.

The student will perform a literature research on microorganism reinforced materials. Similar concepts for biodegradable electromechanical systems and required techniques for the design, characterization and manufacturing of biological materials will be reviewed. Based on the found information a list of potentially suitable material combinations and manufacturing methods will be generated that fulfill the previously defined requirements. Since the goal is to design a lightweight material that combines high strength as well as a low density, the specific strength and stiffness should be optimized. After a set of different combinations of microorganisms and biological base materials has been defined, a manufacturing process needs to be set up, that generates samples of consistent mechanical properties. On those samples mechanical tests will be performed and the most suitable combination of materials and process parameters is chosen. Further options of functionalizing the found material can be investigated. These options include the waterproofing of the surface using a different kind of microorganism, the addition of fluorescent properties to investigate the transient growing behavior in more detail, the addition of self-healing capabilities etc.

The work will be subdivided in the following tasks:

Literature research and familiarization with required techniques at Empa St. Gallen.
Definition of material combinations that generate a biodegradable material of high specific stiffness.
Definition of a manufacturing process(es) (moulding, post-processing etc.).
Manufacturing of different samples featuring the previously defined parameters.
Mechanical characterisation of the manufactured samples and selection of the best performing parameters.
Performing biodegradation tests on the selected material (limited to setting up the test, since they will run for several weeks).
Investigation of adding further functionalities and demonstrator manufacturing.


More informations can be found here:

About Materials and Technology Center of Robotics

The general guiding theme and vision of the new Empa Materials and Technology Center of Robotics is to develop novel soft robotic systems for infrastructure maintenance and environmental monitoring. The main research method of the Center is Physical Artificial Intelligence (PAI). The work uses a bio-inspired robot development methodology and focuses on integrating advanced materials with machine-learning-based controllers and multi-sensor perception. The center is based on an institutional partnership between Imperial College London and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. Research thrusts include aerial robotics platform development, soft robotics, material science and digital infrastructure systems. The initiative benefits from advanced facilities in robot manufacturing and testing, including the NEST experimental robot testing space at Empa  and a Vicon equipped flight arena at Imperial College London.