The optoelectronic microrobot: A versatile toolbox for micromanipulation

Shuailong Zhang, Erica Y. Scott, Jastaranpreet Singh, Yujie Chen, Yanfeng Zhang, Mohamed Elsayed, M. Dean Chamberlain, Nika Shakiba, Kelsey Adams, Siyuan Yu, Cindi M. Morshead, Peter W. Zandstra, Aaron R. Wheeler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
121 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14823-14828
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
Early online date9 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2019


  • Dielectrophoresis
  • Manipulation
  • Microrobotics
  • Optoelectronic tweezers
  • Single-cell
  • Single-cell RNA sequencing


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