Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering


Mohsen Shahinpoor

Second Committee Member

Sharon Ashworth

Third Committee Member

Vince Caccese

Additional Committee Members

Xudong Zheng

Afsoon Fallahi


The effects of traction forces on cancer cells and wound healing have been reported in many recent kinds of literature. In the past decade, few techniques reported measuring such small force measurements on live cells. In this research, Bovine Aortic Endothelial cells (BAECs) were chosen to study force measurements with micro pillar assays. These assays can not measure the force directly in real time. Certain image processing techniques are necessary to calculate the force quantities. One solution to these issues is to use smart materials that are capable of measuring these small forces in real time and also capable of functioning in the aqua medium for cell culture. For this purpose, Ionic Metal Composites were introduced for this study. A protocol for cell culture on IPMCs was defined and developed. Several Confocal and AFM procedures were implemented to ensure that the live cells behaved similarly to the cells in regular cell culture dishes. The finite element multi-physics model of the IPMC for the cell culture assay was developed based on Poisson-Nernst-Plank (PNP) equations, and the force output data from micropillar studies was applied to the input of this model to calculate and derive an estimation for the output signal value ranges. The response behavior showed a small phase delay which validated our FE study based on similar reports in the literature. The results of this study from the cell culture on IPMC protocol and the signal measurement levels in the simulations proves that IPMCs could be a promising substitute for the currently used assays for the live traction force monitoring of the biological cells.


The application of Traction Forces could be used in early cancer cell diagnosis and wound healing studies of individual cells or collective migration of the cells.