A Survey on Swarm Microrobotics

Lidong Yang, Jiangfan Yu, Shihao Yang, Ben Wang, Bradley J. Nelson, Li Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The small size and wireless actuation of microrobots make them potential candidates for minimally invasive medicine. To advance microrobots to future clinical application, microrobotics researchers have investigated a number of key issues, in which swarm control is a primary challenge and is attracting increasing attention. As a single microrobot has limited volume and surface area, clinically relevant tasks, including in-vivo tracking, usually require simultaneous control of a large swarm of microrobots. Unlike macroscale robots, implementing on-board actuators and sensors for microrobots is challenging, which differentiates swarm microrobotics from other swarm robotics approaches. This article systematically summarizes the state of the art for this emerging field, including actuation systems with different power sources, swarm behaviors modeling and simulation, swarm control strategies, and targeted biomedical applications. Actuation principles of microrobot swarms are categorized in detail, and critical comparisons are made to provide guidance and insight for future swarm microrobotics researchers. Considering the unique features of swarm microrobotics compared to traditional swarm robotics, this article also emphasizes the modeling, simulation, and control of microrobot swarms. Furthermore, recent biomedical applications of microrobot swarms are summarized to illustrate specific application scenarios. Finally, we provide an assessment of the future directions of swarm microrobotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1531-1551
Number of pages21
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Assembly
  • automation at micro-/nanoscale
  • biomedical applications
  • micro-/nanorobots
  • swarm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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