Research topics and methodology

The research scope of the Research Unit falls within the area of Bioengineering and specifically on the following main topics:

  • Biomechatronics: methods and tools for the biologically informed mechatronic design of machines, robotic systems and microsystems
  • Biorobotics: robots for applications in medicine and biology, bioinspired robotic systems
  • Neuroengineering and neurorobotics: neural interfaces, bionic systems and robotic platforms for research in neuroscience
  • Assessment and management of biomedical technologies: Health Technology Assessment, Project Management, Management of Biomedical Research.

Main application areas are:

  • Rehabilitation engineering:
    • Methods and systems for Robot-Assisted movement therapy
    • Methods and tools for Functional Assessment and Behavioral Analysis
    • Technical aids for independent living and work reintegration
    • Upper limb prostheses
    • Adaptive and multimodal man-machine interfaces for movement therapy and technical aids
  • Surgical Robotics:
    • Endoscopic micro-robots
    • Mechatronics tools for urological applications
    • Highly backdrivable haptic interfaces with large working area.
    • Methods and tools for haptic feedback
    • Teleoperation control architectures
    • Clinical and socio-economic assessment of robotically-assisted surgery devices
  • Biomicrosystems:
    • New actuators for Biorobotics based on chemical and electrokynetic phenomena
    • Miniaturized sensors for applications in Biorobotics
    • Invasive micro-interfaces for bidirectional communication between robotic prostheses and biological systems
    • Microfluidic platforms based on soft lithography and electrokinetics
  • Neuroengineering and Neurodevelopmental Engineering:
    • Study and modeling of human motor control
    • Study and modeling of neuro-muscular disorders, in order to improve clinical evaluation and to guide therapy
    • Definition of tools and methods for quantitative analysis of human behavior during neurodevelopment
    • Study of neurodevelopmental alterations
    • Designing of new mechatronic and robotic components and systems applied to the study, in ecological conditions, of typically and atypically developing children, or animal models
    • Study of gestures in typically developing children and in children with autistic spectrum disorders

The Research Unit works in close collaboration with the Department of Medicine and Surgery and with the Policlinico Universitario Campus Bio-Medico to devise, develop and validate innovative solutions for healthcare, healthy living and active ageing and, in general, for the improvement of citizens’ quality of life. Those solutions must be based on biomedical technologies characterized by high levels of safety, reliability, robustness and acceptability, developed by a human-centered design approach focused on man-machine interaction.

Collaborations with other research centers

  • Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne
  • Technische Universiteit Delft
  • Universiteit Twente
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
  • University of Aalborg
  • Massachussetes Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering - USA
  • Technische Universitaet Muenchen
  • Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche
  • Budapesti Muszaki Es  Gazdasagtudomanyi Egyetem
  • Uiverza V Ljubiani
  • Stiftung Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies
  • University of Ulster
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Centro Protesi, Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione contro gli Infortuni sul Lavoro (INAIL) di Vigorso di Budrio
  • Università di Friburgo
  • Fraunhofer IBMT
  • Nanyang Technological University - Singapore
  • Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Trento
  • New York University
  • Fondazione S. Lucia - Rome
  • Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering - Boston
  • Università degli Studi di Cagliari
  • Politecnico di Milano
  • Scuola Internazionale Superiore di studi avanzati di Trieste


Biomedical Robotics and Biomicrosystems (PRABB, Floor -1)

The Laboratory of Biomedical Robotics and Biomicrosystems is equipped as follows:

  • Rehabilitation bioengineering:
    • Planar robot device for rehabilitation of shoulder and elbow areas (CBM-Motus, patented).
    • Biomechatronic prosthetic hands.
    • Anthropomorphic robot hand (DLR/HIT hand II).
    • Prototypes of actuators and intrinsically compliant robot joints (series/parallel elastic actuators).
    • Sensorized objects for biomechanical analysis of grasping.
    • Redundant, Anthropomorphic  arm (Kuka, Lightweight robot).
  • Surgical Robotics
    • Prototype of swallowable capsule with locomotion capabilities in the intestinal tract.
    • Tele-operated system composed of the Kuka robot arm and Novint Falcon haptic interface for minimally invasive surgery.
  • Biomicrosystems
    • Sliding sensors with no-moving parts
    • Micro-capsules for controlled drug infusion
    • Micro-manufactured electrodes for invasive neural interfaces
    • Simulator for intercranial drug infusion
  • Bioinspired robotics:
    • Prototype of robot fish with carangiform propulsion.
    • Prototype of hornet robot.
  • Neurodevelopmental bioengineering:
    • Magneto-inertial sensors for movement analysis.
    • Interactive mechatronic board for behavior analysis.
    • Sensorized toys for children neurodevelopment studies.
    • Devices for suction monitoring.
  • Neuroengineering:
    • Robotic arm (Kuka, lightweight robot) for robot-assisted transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Laboratory of Neurodevelopmental Engineering, a joint lab with the Research Unit of Developmental Neurosciences (PRABB, Floor 1, East wing)

Main activities: Designing and development of devices and methods for the study of neurodevelopment and motion control in healthy and pathological subjects. Modeling of physiological and pathological processes; designing of support-systems for evidence-based medicine.

Equipment. The unit is provided with  the following equipment available in three work stations of the laboratory area:

  • Soldering station (standard and hot air) for through-hole and surface-mount assembly (SMD)
  • Station for bench electronic test (power supply, signal generator oscilloscope)
  • Firmware development software (CCS)
  • Electronic prototype board development with lithography techniques (mono- and double-face)

Laboratory of Rehabilitation Bioengineering  (CESA – Center for the Health of the Elderly, Floor 1)

The Laboratory of Rehabilitation Engineering at CESA is a joint lab with the U.R. of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine. It is composed of 4 different working areas (rooms) where the following equipment is available.

  • Room 1:
    • Planar robot device for shoulder\elbow robot-assisted rehabilitation (InMotion2, Interactive Motion Technologies).
    • Robot device for wrist robot-assisted rehabilitation (InMotion3, Interactive Motion Technologies).
  •  Room 2:
    • Non-anthropomorphic wearable robot  for lower limb rehabilitation  (LENAR – Lower-Extremity Non-Anthropomorphic Robot, patented)
  • Room 3:
    • Mechatronic platform for whole-body force/torque isometric measurements (torso, pelvis, feet, forearm, hand) during the execution of daily life activities (ALLADIN system).
    • Neural recording and stimulation unit  (GRASS Technologies) composed of:
      • Four-channel amplifier (QP511) for extracellular recording from nerve or muscle.
      • Pre-amplifier (P511) for extracellular recording from nerve or muscle.
      • Two-channel stimulator (S88X)
      • Stimulation/recording switch unit  (SRS)
      • Audio monitor (AM10) for audio reproduction of electrophysiological signals.
  • Room 4:
    • 6-camera stereo photogrammetric system for movement analysis (BTS SMART system), with 8-channel EMG wearable recording system and biomechanical modeling software tools