News and events

Catch up with research developments, seminars, conferences and public engagement work from the Microsystems group in MACE:


Image of a dragonfly and biomimetic wingsMarch 2020
New artificial muscles with large deformations and fast responses

An innovative artificial muscle developed by Lei Ren and collaborators is published in Advanced Functional Materials, a prestigious journal in material science (impact factor 15.621). This study presents soft actuators with simultaneous large displacements and fast responses for biomedical devices and bioinspired robotics.

MACE PhD student Ahmad Alsayed was awarded third prize in the poster competition at the 4th IEEE UK & IRELAND RAS conferenceJanuary 2020
Poster Prize for Ahmad Alsayed

Our PhD student Ahmad Alsayed was awarded third prize in the poster competition at the 4th IEEE UK & IRELAND RAS conference (RAS2020), held here at Manchester on 22 January. Ahmad is working on developing drone-assisted aerial systems to inspect and monitor confined spaces.


Andrea Cioncolini and Mostafa Nabawy at the Flag Institute AGM and Winter 2019 Conference November 2019
Keynote Speech at Flag Institute Winter Conference

Andrea Cioncolini and Mostafa Nabawy gave a Keynote speech at the Flag Institute AGM and Winter 2019 Conference held on 2 November 2019. Their speech was on the group work to develop flags that can generate energy from wind and sun. 

Joseph O’Connor receiving the award for second place in the highly competitive ‘Best Oral Presentation’ category at 2019’s Osborne Reynolds Day, held in Manchester in JulyJuly 2019
Joseph O’Connor nominated for ERCOFTAC da Vinci competition

Our alumnus Joseph O’Connor earned second place in the highly competitive ‘Best Oral Presentation’ category at 2019’s Osborne Reynolds Day, held in Manchester in July. This has earned Joseph a nomination to compete in the Europe-wide da Vinci competition, due to be held by ERCOFTAC at the University of Magdeburg in Germany in October. 

Multi-coloured robot octopusJune 2019
Biomimetic 4D printing enables smart soft robots

The biomimetic 4D printing technique developed by Lei Ren and his collaborators at Jilin University has been reported by Nature as a research highlight. The approach enables 3D-printed objects to change shape and colour over time, hence enabling the development of soft robots that can remodel themselves.

Lei Ren giving the keynote speech at Hamlyn medical robotics symposium in LondonJune 2019
Keynote Speech at medical robotics symposium

Lei Ren gave a keynote speech entitled “Musculoskeletal mechanics and mechatronics: biomechanical engineering from human and for human” at the 13th Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics held in London on 23-26 June. The event attracted more than 500 delegates from all over the world, including leading researchers from Harvard, MIT and Cambridge University.

Lee Margetts and Muhammad Omer at Pint of Science 2019May 2019
Pint of Science 2019

Lee Margetts and Muhammad Omer took over the Red Lion Pub in Withington as part of the Pint of Science festival. Pint of Science is a worldwide series of science events where researchers present their discoveries to the public in a cafe, bar or pub. In 2019, the festival ran over 600 simultaneous talks in 40 cities across the UK. Lee and Muhammad gave a hands-on demonstration of Virtual Reality and talked about how gaming technology can be used in bridge inspections.

Logo of a golden cog with text: Top 100 read articles 2018 Official Author - Scientific ReportsMay 2019
Jumping Spider paper in Top100 Collection

Our paper on jumping spiders has appeared in the Nature Top100 collection for Scientific Reports in 2018.


Lee Margetts speaking at the first EuroHPC Summit Week in Poznan in PolandMay 2019
First EuroHPC Summit Week in Poznan

Lee Margetts co-organised the 1st EuroHPC Summit Week, which took place in Poznan, Poland, from 13-17 May. EuroHPC is a new Joint Undertaking (JU); a pan-European legal entity set up to foster close collaboration between member states, similar to CERN and ITER. As well as being used for scientific research, these systems will be available for what is termed urgent computing, ie. dealing with societal issues that may arise without warning. Find out more on Twitter using hashtag #ehpcsw.

Mostafa Nabawy giving a TEDx talk on jumping spidersFebruary 2019
TEDx talk on jumping spiders and micro-robots

Mostafa Nabawy was a speaker at TEDxManchester 2019. The event took place in the Bridgewater Hall, and was attended by 2,000+ TEDsters. Mostafa showed in his talk the extraordinary anatomy and behaviour of jumping spiders and how this was used to imagine a new class of agile micro-robots.

Dual Piezo/Solar Flags for Energy HarvestingFebruary 2019
Dual piezo/solar flags for energy harvesting

A novel concept for flags capable of simultaneous harvesting of wind and solar energies was published in the world-leading Journal of Applied Energy. The aim of the research is to allow cheap and sustainable energy harvesting solutions consistent with the deploy-and-forget strategy anticipated for remote sensors. The developed flags are capable of generating sufficient power for a range of low power sensors and electronics within a number of potential practical applications in avionics, land and sea remote locations, and smart cities. 

Cartoon of a spider wearing a headband and doing the high jumpJanuary 2019
Research on jumping spiders among the major scientific breakthroughs for UoM in 2018

Our research on jumping spiders has been selected as one of the 53 amazing breakthroughs made by researchers at The University of Manchester in 2018. This was revealed through the diary for alumni this year that included the ‘53 things we know now that we didn’t know last year’. The spider research actually appeared top of the list of these 53 breakthroughs! The paper was also earlier selected for In Abstract – Edition 6.


Mostafa Nabaway at the Welcome the Bee: Late event and the Manchester Museum of Science and IndustryJuly 2018
Robotic bees flapping their wings at MOSI

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester (MOSI) is one of the locations for the Bee in the City sculpture trail this summer and to mark the occasion, the museum organised a Bee-themed Late for adults on Wednesday 25 July as well as a Bee-themed Family Event on Saturday 28 July. Mostafa Nabawy participated in both events showcasing the robotic bees developed in the Microsystems Lab to the public audience. Our robotic bees (nicknamed μABees) were highly welcomed by the audience with lots of “wow” moments when the robots started flapping their wings!

Side and aerial views of a regal jumping spider in flightMay 2018
Jumping spider research released

The Spiders Attack team published a paper in Nature Scientific Reports on our jumping spiders research. The paper unlocked the secrets of jumping spiders by successfully training one to jump different distances and heights for the first time. The study is the most advanced of its kind to date and first to use 3D CT scanning and ultra-high-speed, high-resolution cameras to record, monitor and analyse a jumping spider’s movement and behaviour. The aim of the research is to answer the question of why jumping spider anatomy and behaviour evolved the way it did, and secondly, to use this improved understanding of spiders to imagine a new class of agile micro-robots that are currently unthinkable using today’s engineering technologies.

Mostafa Nabawy giving a talk at Pint of ScienceMay 2018
Microsystems at Pint of Science

Mostafa Nabawy participated in the 2018 Pint of Science Festival, delivering a talk in the “Extreme Engineering” event. Pint of Science brings some of the most brilliant scientists to local pubs to discuss their latest research and findings with the public giving them a chance to meet the people responsible for the future of science (and have a pint with them). Extreme Engineering took place in Beer Nouveau on 15 May and included three talks on challenging engineering problems requiring unconventional solutions. Using spiders and bees as examples in his talk entitled “Bioinspired Micro-robots”, Mostafa highlighted how understanding locomotion in insects can help solve micro-robotic challenges. 

Artist's impression of a robotic bee in flightMarch 2018
Keynote speech at Industry 4.0 summit

Mostafa Nabawy was a keynote speaker at the Industry 4.0 Academia summit held on 1 March 2018 at Manchester Central. In his talk, Mostafa showed the innovative research undertaken within the Microsystems Lab to set the agenda for the future of micro-robots.


Big screen and attendees in the main hall at 10th International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications (ICIRA 2017)August 2017
10th International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications (ICIRA)

As one of the organising committee chairs, Lei Ren co-organised the 10th International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications held on 15-18 August, Wuhan, China. Some 400 researchers worldwide in the areas of robotics, mechatronics, automation, mechanical and electrical engineering attended the conference. In the bio-inspired robotics session, Lei gave a talk entitled “Musculoskeletal mechanics and mechatronics: towards a better understanding of human body system design”.

Lei Ren giving a talk at International Workshop on Biorobotics and BiomechanicsAugust 2017
International Workshop on Biorobotics and Biomechanics

Lei Ren chaired the International Workshop on Biorobotics and Biomechanics held on 15-16 August, Changchun, China. The workshop was organised by International Society of Bionic Engineering (ISBE) for researchers from engineering, biology, and physics to disseminate cutting-edge advances in bio-inspired robotics, biological mechanics, perception and control. Around 100 researchers worldwide attended the workshop. In the opening ceremony, Lei gave a keynote speech on his latest studies on musculoskeletal biomechanics, smart prosthetics and exoskeletons, and musculoskeletal robotics.

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Take a 360 degree look around our campus and discover places for yourself