Three-dimensional heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels using an untethered mobile microgripper†
Three-dimensional (3D) heterogeneous assembly of coded microgels in enclosed aquatic environments is demonstrated using a remotely actuated and controlled magnetic microgripper by a customized electromagnetic coil system. The microgripper uses different ‘stick–slip’ and ‘rolling’ locomotion in 2D and also levitation in 3D by magnetic gradient-based pulling force. This enables the microrobot to precisely manipulate each microgel by controlling its position and orientation in all x–y–z directions. Our microrobotic assembly method broke the barrier of limitation on the number of assembled microgel layers, because it enabled precise 3D levitation of the microgripper. We used the gripper to assemble microgels that had been coded with different colours and shapes onto prefabricated polymeric microposts. This eliminates the need for extra secondary cross-linking to fix the final construct. We demonstrated assembly of microgels on a single micropost up to ten layers. By increasing the number and changing the distribution of the posts, complex heterogeneous microsystems were possible to construct in 3D.