Development of a soft robotic heart

Date posted August 18, 2017
Type PhD positions

The Soft Robotic Matter group at AMOLF is looking for a PhD students who will work on the design, fabrication and analysis of an artificial soft heart. This project is part of a recently started European consortium, that envisions the development and bring to the clinic soft biocompatible artificial organs. These will consist of a soft robotic shell with actuators (‘artificial muscles’) and sensors, enabling completely natural motion. The innerlining and structures will be made by in situ tissue engineering, ensuring biocompatibility of blood-contacting surfaces. As the first step, the goal of the consortium will be to develop the Hybrid Heart, which can completely replace a patient’s heart in a procedure similar to a heart transplant, and to provide a cure for heart failure, which affects ~23 million people worldwide. Currently, patients with end-stage heart failure either receive a heart transplant, if available, or long-term mechanical circulatory support, which causes severe complications. To achieve the ambitious goal of providing a permanent cure for these patients, the consortium will, in parallel, develop the components of the Hybrid Heart: 1) a soft elastomeric robotic shell containing actuators and sensors, 2) scaffolds for in situ tissue engineering of inner lining, valves and vessels and 3) a wireless energy transfer system. The Hybrid Heart project will be carried out by an interdisciplinary group of (academic) researchers and high-tech SMEs, with experience in cardiac surgery, tissue engineering, soft robotics and engineering. The PhD project in the Soft Robotic Matter group focusses mostly on the development of the soft robotic components.

About the group

The Soft Robotic Matter group is part of the Designer Matter initiative at AMOLF. The group focuses on the design, fabrication and fundamental understanding of materials that are capable of autonomously adapting to – and even harnessing – variations in their environment. We aim to uncover principles that help us understand how non-linearity and feedback can result in the emergence of complex – but useful – behavior in soft actuated systems. To this end, the Soft Robotic Matter group explores active and sensing elements to implement feedback capabilities and computation in soft architected materials, and uses a combination of computational, experimental and analytical tools. This line of research uniquely combines concepts from soft robotics and architected materials, providing new and exciting opportunities in the design of compliant structures and devices with highly non-linear behavior. See also: www.overvelde.com.

Qualifications

At the start of the PhD the candidate meets the requirements for an MSc-degree, to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination. The position is open to candidates from a range of backgrounds, including Physics, Engineering, Mathematics, or a related field. The Soft Robotic Matter group is looking for a highly motivated candidate with a go-getter mentality. Preferably, the candidate has a strong experimental background, in combination with a sound appetite for numerical/theoretical work. Knowledge of medicine and experience in Finite Element Analyis and additive manufacturing is an advantage, but not required. Excellent verbal and written communication skills (in English) are essential.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at a university within the Netherlands. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. AMOLF assists any new PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Dr. ir. Bas Overvelde
Group leader Soft Robotic Matter
E-mail: overvelde@amolf.nl
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

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