Real-Time Magnetic Navigation of a Rotating Colloidal Microswarm under Ultrasound Guidance

Qianqian Wang, Lidong Yang, Jiangfan Yu, Philip Wai Yan Chiu, Yong Ping Zheng, Li Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Untethered microrobots hold great promise for applications in biomedical field including targeted delivery, biosensing, and microsurgery. A major challenge of using microrobots to perform in vivo tasks is the real-time localization and motion control using medical imaging technologies. Here we report real-time magnetic navigation of a paramagnetic nanoparticle-based microswarm under ultrasound guidance. Methods: A three-axis Helmholtz electromagnetic coil system integrated with an ultrasound imaging system is developed for generation, actuation, and closed-loop control of the microswarm. The magnetite nanoparticle-based microswarm is generated and navigated using rotating magnetic fields. In order to localize the microswarm in real time, the dynamic imaging contrast has been analyzed and exploited in image process to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. Moreover, imaging of the microswarm at different depths are experimentally studied and analyzed, and the minimal dose of nanoparticles for localizing a microswarm at different depths is ex vivo investigated. For real-time navigating the microswarm in a confined environment, a PI control scheme is designed. Results: Image differencing-based processing increases the signal-to-noise ratio, and the microswarm can be ex vivo localized at depth of 2.2-7.8 cm. Experimental results show that the microswarm is able to be real-time navigated along a planned path in a channel, and the average steady-state error is 0.27 mm (∼33.7% of the body length). Significance: The colloidal microswarm is real-time localized and navigated using ultrasound feedback, which shows great potential for biomedical applications that require real-time noninvasive tracking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9069192
Pages (from-to)3403-3412
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • closed-loop control
  • co-llective behavior
  • magnetic actuation
  • Micro/nanorobots
  • ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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