Available Technologies

Browse Penn-owned technologies available for licensing.

Automated micro-particle robotic swarm for the chemical and mechanical removal of biofilms

Wirelessly activated iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) forming micro-robots that chemically and mechanically remove biofilms with high precision and efficacy by magnetic control.

Technology Overview:

Biofilms are extremely difficult to eliminate. They are made up of bacterial cells encapsulated in a protective, sticky matrix that helps them to firmly attach to a variety of surfaces, which ultimately lead to infections, biofouling, and biocorrosion. Biofilms are often resistant to traditional antibacterial treatments so removing them is an important challenge.

Most current strategies for treating biofilms rely on antimicrobials (e.g. antibiotics), which have been shown to be ineffective due to antibiotics’ inability to penetrate or break down the structure of biofilm. Therefore, new methods for biofilm treatment and removal are required.

Dr. Koo, along with his collaborators, have developed a novel approach to eliminate biofilm which utilizes Catalytic Antimicrobial Robots (CARs) built with IONPs. CARs were designed to tackle all facets of biofilm resistance by simultaneously degrading the protective matrix, killing the embedded bacteria, and physically removing the biodegraded products.

Activated IONPs are targeted to and through biofilms with submicrometer precision using a magnetic field, wherein they aggregate to form CARs. Upon contact with the biofilm, CARs produce bio-actives which kill bacteria and degrade the protective matrix; while in parallel, CARs mechanically remove the biodegraded biofilm material. The use of the CARs alone, or in combination with known methods, offers increased potential for full biofilm removal and reduction of contamination.


  • Can remove biofilms from hard to access small areas
  • Wireless technology
  • Precise and automated complete removal of biofilm
  • Retrievable after usage
  • Tunable technology; can be fashioned into various shapes and forms depending on the need


Medical device companies, cleaning device companies, health systems, and food manufacturers who need effective tools for controlling biofilm infections will use our automated micro-particle robotic swarm for the degradation and removal of biofilms

Stage of Development:

Reduction to practice

Intellectual Property:

Provisional filed

Reference Media:

Desired Partnerships:

  • License
  • Co-development

Patent Information:


Docket # 19-8727

For Information, Contact:

Melissa Kelly Associate Director
University of Pennsylvania