At the final of this year’s Falling Walls Conference held in Berlin, five projects submitted by researchers from ETH Zurich were named as Breakthrough of the Year on Monday in various categories, the university writes in a press release. Overall, there were 1,000 nominees from 111 different countries. Metin Sitti emerged victorious in the Engineering & Technology category following a unanimous vote from the jury.
Sitti’s medical micro-robots open up new opportunities for non-invasive medical diagnoses and treatments. In around ten years’ time, the aim is for these to be transported throughout the human bloodstream where they will be able to diagnose diseases and convey drugs to precisely defined locations within an organism. Sitti’s most recent invention involves a bio-compatible micro-robot that can move around the body in seven different ways. Microorganisms served as a model for this development.
According to ETH Zurich, Sitti described the 1966 film “Fantastic Voyage” as his main inspiration. In the film, a submarine and its expedition team are shrunk so that they can be injected into a patient's bloodstream. "Micro-technology and micro-robotics enabled me to turn my fascination for nature and living beings into an important part of my work”, Sitti explains in the press release. In 2009, he founded nanoGriptech. The company focuses on developing medical adhesive and bonding materials. His inspiration for this came from the feet of geckos.
At present, Sitti is a Professor at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, in addition to his role as Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart. In May, he was also appointed as an affiliated Professor at the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at ETH Zurich. Previous to this, Sitti conducted research and taught for many years in the USA at the University of California, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The other ETH winners included: Simone Schürle, Director of the Responsive Biomedical Systems Lab, and Alessio Figalli, Professor of Mathematics, also in the Engineering & Technology category. In terms of the science start-ups, Manuel Schaffner of the ETH spin-off Spectroplast also ranked among the winners. And finally, quantum computing pioneer Andreas Wallraff was recognized for his efforts in the category of Physical Sciences.