Small-Scale Robotics with Tailored Wettability

Ben Wang, Stephan Handschuh-Wang, Jie Shen, Xuechang Zhou, Zhiguang Guo, Weimin Liu, Martin Pumera, Li Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Small-scale robots (SSRs) have emerged as promising and versatile tools in various biomedical, sensing, decontamination, and manipulation applications, as they are uniquely capable of performing tasks at small length scales. With the miniaturization of robots from the macroscale to millimeter-, micrometer-, and nanometer-scales, the viscous and surface forces, namely adhesive forces and surface tension have become dominant. These forces significantly impact motion efficiency. Surface engineering of robots with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic functionalization presents a brand-new pathway to overcome motion resistance and enhance the ability to target and regulate robots for various tasks. This review focuses on the current progress and future perspectives of SSRs with hydrophilic and hydrophobic modifications (including both tethered and untethered robots). The study emphasizes the distinct advantages of SSRs, such as improved maneuverability and reduced drag forces, and outlines their potential applications. With continued innovation, rational surface engineering is expected to endow SSRs with exceptional mobility and functionality, which can broaden their applications, enhance their penetration depth, reduce surface fouling, and inhibit bacterial adhesion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2205732
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2023 May 4

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Wiley-VCH GmbH.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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