Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Engineering (ME)

First Advisor

Franck Vernerey

Second Advisor

Mark P. Stoykovich

Third Advisor

Ronald Y. S. Pak


Recent research has shown that certain polymer hydrogels with simple elongated geometries are capable of moving in a crawling fashion, their motion mechanics inspired by small animals such as earthworms and amoeboids. The focus of this master's thesis is to study the motion capacity of soft matter robots based on polymer hydrogels that undergo periodic inflation and deflation, coupled with symmetry-breaking mechanisms in confined conditions representing a porous channel. A mathematical model in the continuum mechanics frame that evaluates the time-history evolution and motion capabilities of these gels has been developed.

The prime application of these robots is targeted drug delivery; their size, ranging from millimeters to micrometers, and mechanical features which allow for large elastic deformations, make them suitable candidates to carry drugs through porous media like the human body to specific locations, such as tumor cells or damaged tissue, and upon gel degradation release the drug. Targeted drug delivery has two significant advantages compared to current drug application: it allows for customization based on individual patient cellular activity and diminishes side effects. An example of the second advantage is traditional chemotherapy which kills cells that divide rapidly regardless of if they are cancer cells or other cell types that exhibit this behavior in normal circumstances such as bone marrow cells.

One of the main challenges of targeted drug delivery is ensuring that the robot moves successfully from the insertion point to the destination point through human body porous system, hence the motivation for this thesis.