Professors from EPFL School of Engineering awarded ERC PoC Grant

© 2020 EPFL

© 2020 EPFL

Professor Selman Sakar and professor Andras Kis from the EPFL School of Engineering, have been awarded prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Proof of Concept (PoC) Grants.

Selman Sakar from the MicroBioRobotics System Laboratory (MICROBS), Institute of Mechanical Engineering (IGM), received the grant for his project called “MagFlow - Introducing the first fully flow-conveyed and magnetically-steered microcatheter system” while Andras Kis, from the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES), Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEL), was awarded the grant for his project “EXCITE - Scalable excitonic devices”.

The grants provide €150,000 over 18 months for these researchers to further investigate the commercial or societal potential of their projects.


Selman Sakar: MagFlow - Introducing the first fully flow-conveyed and magnetically-steered microcatheter system

Minimally invasive medical procedures, such as endovascular catheterization, have drastically reduced procedure-associated risks for patients and costs for hospitals. However, practitioners still cannot quickly and safely reach deep body tissues due to the miniaturization issues associated with the existing manufacturing paradigm and the tedious process of navigating commercially available catheters. MagFlow introduces an innovative approach towards minimally invasive surgery that realizes the delivery of ultra-lightweight and ultra-flexible microscopic probes by taking full advantage of the existing viscous flow inside blood vessels. With this technique, the microengineered devices are transported through vascular networks with arbitrary complexity almost effortlessly. We developed an endovascular microrobotic toolkit with cross-sectional area that is approximately three orders of magnitude smaller than the smallest microcatheter currently available for chemical, mechanical, and electrical interrogation. Our technology will improve the state-of-the-art practices as it enhances the reachability, reduces the risk of iatrogenic damage, drastically increases the speed of robot-assisted interventions, and enables the deployment of multiple leads simultaneously through a standard needle injection. As a result, several invasive surgeries can shift to endovascular interventions, knowledge on neuronal electrophysiology can grow significantly, and a novel type of brain-machine interface can be established. The goal of the MagFlow project is to both explore the commercial viability of our unique technology and take the first steps towards the clinical trial phase by adapting the platform for in vivo experimentation.

Andras Kis: EXCITE - Scalable excitonic devices

The project aims to deliver a scalable manufacturing process that will enable the production of excitonic devices for a wide range of applications. These devices rely on the transport and manipulation of excitons and could enable seamless integration of optical transmission and electronic computation. This path led us to demonstrate the first excitonic transistor with optical input and output operating at room temperature (Unuchek, Ciarrocchi et al, Nature (2018)) thanks to the combination of long lifetime, long diffusion length and high exciton binding energy in interlayer excitons in TMDC materials. Multiple electrodes allow us to engineer different potential landscapes for the exciton diffusion and demonstrate electrical exciton blocking and transistor action, exciton confinement in a potential, exciton expulsion from a region and electrically assisted exciton diffusion, all at room temperature.

The demonstration of such behaviour in a manufacturable device could open the way to industrial applications of the excitonic device concept.