The optoelectronic microrobot: A versatile toolbox for micromanipulation

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jul 23;116(30):14823-14828. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1903406116. Epub 2019 Jul 9.


Microrobotics extends the reach of human-controlled machines to submillimeter dimensions. We introduce a microrobot that relies on optoelectronic tweezers (OET) that is straightforward to manufacture, can take nearly any desirable shape or form, and can be programmed to carry out sophisticated, multiaxis operations. One particularly useful program is a serial combination of "load," "transport," and "deliver," which can be applied to manipulate a wide range of micrometer-dimension payloads. Importantly, microrobots programmed in this manner are much gentler on fragile mammalian cells than conventional OET techniques. The microrobotic system described here was demonstrated to be useful for single-cell isolation, clonal expansion, RNA sequencing, manipulation within enclosed systems, controlling cell-cell interactions, and isolating precious microtissues from heterogeneous mixtures. We propose that the optoelectronic microrobotic system, which can be implemented using a microscope and consumer-grade optical projector, will be useful for a wide range of applications in the life sciences and beyond.

Keywords: dielectrophoresis; microrobotics; optoelectronic tweezers; single-cell RNA sequencing; single-cell manipulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electronics / instrumentation
  • Electronics / methods
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Microfluidics / instrumentation
  • Microfluidics / methods
  • Micromanipulation / instrumentation*
  • Micromanipulation / methods
  • Optical Imaging / instrumentation
  • Optical Imaging / methods
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Robotics / methods
  • Single-Cell Analysis / instrumentation*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods