Academic Profile : Faculty

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Asst Prof Lum Guo Zhan
Assistant Professor, School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
External Links
Guo Zhan Lum received his B.Eng. with first class honors in mechanical engineering from Nanyang Technological University in 2010. He went on to pursue his postgraduate studies in mechanical engineering under the dual Ph.D. program of Nanyang Technological University and Carnegie Mellon University. He received his M.Sc. degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015, and dual Ph.D. degrees in 2016. From May 2016 to December 2017, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. Since 2018, he has joined Nanyang Technological University as a faculty member and he has served as the School's Assistant Chair for International Engagement from 2022 to present. His research interests include soft robots, miniature robots and magnetic actuation.

To date, he has published seventeen journal papers, including multi-disciplinary journals such as Nature (1x), PNAS (1x), Advanced Materials (5x) and Science Advances (1x). One of his works was nominated for the best paper award at the 2014 Robotics: Science and Systems conference ( and he also won the best paper award at the 2010 IEEE STUDENT conference based on his undergraduate research. Over the years, his research has attracted substantial attention from the international media. For example, his Nature article, entitled “Small-scale soft-bodied robot with multimodal locomotion”, has been reported by at least 32 news outlets worldwide ( His Advanced Materials article, entitled “Small‐Scale Magnetic Actuators with Optimal Six Degrees‐of‐Freedom”, has also been reported by at least 24 news outlets worldwide ( His research has been featured as the Front Cover ( and Frontispiece ( of the prestigious Advanced Materials journal, as well as the Front Cover ( and Inside Back Cover ( of the Advanced Intelligent Systems journal, which is a top journal in robotics research (2021 impact factor: 7.298).

Guo Zhan Lum has served as the Finance Chair for the 6th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Soft Robotics (RoboSoft 2023:, which is a premium conference for scientists and engineers who are working on soft robots. He will also be serving as one of the Regional Chairs in the 2024 IEEE/SICE International Symposium on System Integration ( He is an Associate Editor for the 2023 IEEE/RJS International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), and the Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics ( In 2020, he was also a Guest Editor for a special issue of Advanced Intelligent Systems ( His expertise in soft robotics has also allowed him to contribute an expert opinion for the highly prestigious Nature journal ( He is an active reviewer for Nature, Advanced Materials, Nature Electronics, Nature Communications, Science Advances, Science Robotics, Advanced Functional Materials, Advanced Science, Advanced Electronic Materials, Advanced Intelligent Systems, Robotics: Science and Systems, Soft Robotics, IEEE TRO, IEEE TMech, JPMS, Precision Engineering, Mechanism and Machine Theory, IEEE Industrial Electronics, IEEE TASE, IEEE MRB, Extreme Mechanics Letters, IEEE RAL, ICRA, IROS, AIM, PLOS One, Sensors, and Frontiers in Robotics and AI.
The three main research topics in our lab are: 1. shape-programmable millimeter-scale robots, 2. gallium and 3. flexure mechanisms for high precision applications.

1. Shape-Programmable Millimeter-scale Robots

Shape-programmable robots are machines that can be excited by external stimuli to generate desired time-varying shapes. These robots are especially appealing at small-scale because they have great potential to achieve functionalities unattainable by their rigid counterparts.

As these miniature soft robots can easily access confined spaces within the human body, they show great promise to realize revolutionary biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery and minimally-invasive surgeries. While there exists many different types of actuation, here we are particularly interested in using remote magnetic fields to control our robots. In contrast to other methods, magnetic actuation offers higher control authority as the actuating fields can be controlled not only in their magnitude but also in their direction and spatial-gradients. Furthermore, this actuation method will be compatible for our targeted medical applications as the actuating magnetic fields can easily and harmlessly penetrate through biological tissues.

Heading towards these biomedical applications, we have previously developed a universal design method that can program the magnetization profile and actuating fields for our robots to achieve their specified functionalities. However, to enhance the practicality of these robots, we will continue to develop new design methods to further enhance their functionalities.

2. Gallium

Gallium is a class of liquid metal that can be attached to millimeter-scale robots to enhance their functionality. In our previous research, we discovered that gallium can exhibit highly reversible and switchable adhesion when it undergoes a solid–liquid phase transition. It has been demonstrated that this liquid metal can become highly adhesive when it freezes and it can conversely lose its adhesion when it melts. These adhesive properties had been characterized, and we experimentally show that gallium has good performance over a wide range of smooth and rough surfaces, under both dry and wet conditions.

Another critical advantage of gallium is that it has a natural layer of oxide, which acts like an elastic membrane surrounding the liquid metal. This oxide layer can effectively conserve the mass of gallium when it is in the liquid-state, and this in turn ensures that gallium can be used repeatedly as a reversible and switchable adhesive. The unique adhesive properties of gallium can therefore allow it to perform various pick-and-place tasks at small-scale, which are critical for numerous applications in transfer printing, robotics, electronic packaging, and biomedicine.

We believe there are still many interesting abilities in gallium, which have not been discovered yet. Therefore, we will continue to explore new abilities of this material and transform them into critical functions for miniature robots.

3. Flexure Mechanisms

Flexure mechanisms are flexible structures that are designed to deliver desired motions via elastic deformations. Due to their unique actuation, these structures can effectively eliminate backlash and dry friction, allowing them to achieve highly repeatable motions. As a result, flexure mechanisms have become the ideal candidates for constructing high precision robotic systems, and they have been deployed across a wide range of applications pertaining to biomedical research, microscopy technologies and various industrial manufacturing processes.

From the design perspective, the performances of many existing flexure mechanisms are still not optimal. Hence, here we will explore new design methods that can successfully address such issues such that engineers can fully utilize such machines.
  • Delta - NTU Corporate Laboratory (Phase 2) (Delta)
  • Delta WP1: Hybrid Soft-rigid Grippers with Variable Stiffness
  • NTU-Delta Corporate Laboratory (Phase 2) (IAF-ICP)
  • P3.2: Handling of soft materials: Stacking and packing of parts (e.g. bearings) in the presence of foils
  • WP1: Hybrid soft-rigid grippers with variable stiffness (IAF-ICP)
1. He won the 2021 Dr. S. K. Leung Excellence in Teaching Award, Teacher of the Year (MAE Year 3)

2. His Ph.D. student, Xu Changyu, is one of the five winners for the iFLEX conference under the postgraduate category in 2021

3. His conference paper, "Six-Degrees-of-Freedom Remote Actuation of Magnetic Microrobots", is shortlisted as a best paper award finalist at the 2014 Robotics: Science and Systems conference (

4. He won the Third Prize at the 2012 A*STAR-SIMTech Postgraduate Posters Exhibition

5. His conference paper, "Design and motion control of a cable-driven dexterous robotic arm", won the best paper award at the 2010 IEEE STUDENT conference
Fellowships & Other Recognition
1. His expertise in soft robotics has allowed him to contribute an expert opinion for the highly prestigious Nature journal (

2. His perspective, "Untethered soft robots for future planetary explorations?", is featured as the Front Cover for an issue in Advanced Intelligent Systems and reported by two news outlets (

3. His article, "Magnetic miniature actuators with six-degrees-of-freedom multimodal soft-bodied locomotion", is featured as the Inside Back Cover for an issue in Advanced Intelligent Systems (

4. His Advanced Materials article, "Small-scale magnetic actuators with optimal six degrees-of-freedom", is featured as the Front Cover for an issue in Advanced Materials and reported by at least 24 news outlets worldwide (

5. His Nature article, "Small-scale soft-bodied robot with multimodal locomotion", is reported by at least 32 news outlets worldwide (

6. His PNAS article, "Shape-programmable magnetic soft matter", is reported by at least 8 news outlets worldwide (

7. His Advanced Materials article, "Phase change of gallium enables highly reversible and switchable adhesion", is featured as the Frontispiece for an issue in Advanced Materials and reported by at least 9 news outlets worldwide (