Foundations of biomedical microrobots

Dr Tom Montenegro-Johnson
Research Fellow 2014

Dr Tom Montenegro Johnson
University of Cambridge

Thomas’ Fellowship project, ‘Foundations of biomedical microrobots’, is using insights from the locomotion of microorganisms such as sperm and bacteria, theoretical fluid mechanics, computational techniques and optimisation processes to 1) optimise current designs of artificial microswimmers, and 2) suggest novel mechanisms for propulsion and precision control.

Artificial microswimmers are being developed to perform a variety of microscale tasks, including delivering drugs to specific targets, monitoring unreachable parts of the body and removing harmful material, such as ectopic pregnancy. The minimally invasive nature of this approach can reduce patient recovery time, infection risks, and post-operative pain, as it can be used as an alternative to inherently invasive surgery. Thomas’ project is addressing the limitations of artificial microscale swimmers currently used in biomedical contexts, and he is working to develop a new design based on combining different areas of microscale physics to create an artificial microswimmer with fewer limitations and more functions.


"The propulsion of microorganisms offers insight into the design and optimisation of artificial swimmers."

As part of his Fellowship, Thomas has also developed a new technique for simulating the swimming of microscale autophoretic “Janus” particles, an important and much-studied class of artificial microswimmer.

Dr Thomas Montenegro-Johnson has a BA in Mathematics and an MPhil in Earth Sciences, both from the University of Cambridge, and a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Birmingham.