MSc thesis project proposal

Control electronics for soft actuator to stimulate cardiac cells in-vitro

Cardiac cell differentiation has long been known to be affected by external mechanical loads. However, the understanding on the mechanism behind it is still very limited. A biocompatible actuator system, which provides controllable, repeatable, and long-term mechanical stimuli, can pave the way to the in-vitro experiment on such behavior.

In particular, the cells are seeded on the surface of a substrate and grow into a monolayer. Ideally, the device should have an array of control nodes to pattern the mechanical loads and to create a mechanical wave on the cells instead of simpler one-dimensional bending or contraction. Emerging “smart materials” give us candidates for this purpose. For example, a light-responsive liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) was proved to be a cell-compatible actuator in our preliminary tests. In combination with a mini-LED array, it can produce a distributed mechanical output. The project consists of developing the driver and control system for the existing soft actuator (e.g., LCE) and integrating them into a device.

The design and fabrication will be mainly carried out in ECTM. There will be an opportunity to conduct in-vitro characterizations of the device in external partner facilities.


The main tasks of this Master thesis project include:

  • Literature review on soft actuators for in-vitro cell tests
  • Characterizing the LCE actuators
  • Design of the software and hardware of the control system
  • Integrating the electronic parts and soft actuators into a functional device
  • Characterizing and evaluating the performance of the device
  • Conducting cell tests with the device


You are an ambitious student looking for a challenging thesis project combining your microelectronics talents with emerging smart material. Microelectronics background or experience in hardware development is essential. Knowledge in mechanical engineering or biomedical engineering will be a plus. A proactive attitude will be a super plus.


MSc Zichuan Li

Electronic Components, Technology and Materials Group

Department of Microelectronics

Last modified: 2023-12-05