Tampere University

ESR 11 – Light-Fuelled Robotics: Going under Water


With almost 20 000 undergraduate and 2500 PhD students, Tampere University is Finland’s second largest multidisciplinary higher education institution. We place our faith in human potential and scientific knowledge. The spearheads of our research and learning are technology, health, and society, and “Revolution of Light and Image” has been identified are one of our key research areas.

Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Smart Photonic Materials Group (SPM; http://research.tuni.fi/spm). The SPM group focuses works at the interface between chemistry, physics, and materials engineering. We are interested in developing functional and stimuli-responsive materials, with particular focus on light-controllable systems. Our activities are centered around soft robotics, soft-matter photonics, light-controllable biomaterials and functional supramolecular systems. We are part of National Photonics and Innovation platform PREIN (http://prein.fi).


Tampere is one of the major academic hubs in the Nordic countries and with some 240 000 inhabitants, offers a dynamic living environment, yet surrounded by nature, providing unlimited possibilities for outdoor activities. Tampere region is one of the three most rapidly growing urban areas in Finland and home to a vibrant knowledge-intensive entrepreneurial community. The city is an industrial powerhouse that enjoys a rich cultural scene. https://eurocities.eu/cities/tampere/; https://visittampere.fi/en/



Arri Priimägi (TAU; Google Scholar Profile)



Hao Zeng (TAU; Google Scholar Profile)

Dirk Broer (TUE; Google Scholar Profile)


Contact email address of the supervisor: arri.priimagi@tuni.fi

Research project

Light robots are soft systems whose mechanical movements are fuelled by light. They provide an attractive platform for remotely controlled soft robotic systems such as grippers, walkers, and swimmers. Among different classes of light-controllable materials, liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) stand out because of their large deformability, efficient light response, and programmability/patterning ability via technologies adapted from the liquid crystal display industry. Recent advances in light robotics include autonomous systems that receive feedback from the environment or undergo locomotion under stationary light fields, and reversibly reconfigurable actuators that are able to adapt different shapes under identical stimulus. Building on these advances, this ESR will focus on LCE systems that act efficiently not only in air, but also under water, a goal especially pertinent to the biomedical field, and materials/surfaces that are sensitive not only to light, but also to humidity.


Planned secondments: TUE (Dirk Broer) to optimize the humidity- and light-sensitive actuators; Lyncee tec (company secondment) to adapt digital holographic microscopy for high-resolution real-time morphological characterisation.

PhD programme – University: Doctoral Programme in Engineering and Natural Sciences – Tampere University


Required MSc degree in chemistry, physics or materials science/engineering

English level: All applicants must submit evidence on a good command of English for academic purposes, either through language proficiency test or higher education degree in English.

Desired skills: We seek talented and motivated candidates with a background in soft matter. Prior experience in liquid crystalline materials, microscopy and/or photonics is seen as a benefit. The candidate should have a strong motivation to carry out interdisciplinary experimental research, creativity to generate new research ideas, and teamwork ability required to act efficiently within the training network.

Specific requirements for the enrolment in the PhD Programme: Details on eligibility can be found from the following link: https://www.tuni.fi/en/study-with-us/doctoral-programme-engineering-and-natural-sciences and more information can be obtained from the project supervisor.