Biological tissues are soft, curvy and dynamic; modern electronic devices are rigid, planar and everlasting. Innovations that eliminate this profound mismatch would create soft materials and devices with wide application opportunities in fundamental biomedical research, clinical health care, human-machine interface, intelligent robots, consumer appliances, internet of things, environmental monitoring, food safety and quality inspection, smart cities, defense, homeland security, and many others. Through fundamental innovations in material synthesis, device design, and manufacturing approaches, together with deep-learning-based data analysis, our research group aims to enable and translate next-generation soft materials and devices with unprecedented attributes to bring the solutions to the grand challenges faced by our society. Current areas of interest include the below three themes.

I. Synthesis and Manipulation of Soft Materials

Soft electronics can be achieved by two conceptually different but complementary ways, using flexible/stretchable forms of conventional inorganic electronic materials and intrinsically-soft novel electronic materials. In particular, our research group is interested in synthesizing and manipulating emerging soft materials, such as graphene, 2D materials, silver nanowires, elastomer nanocomposites, and hydrogels, and exploring their applications in next-generation soft bio-integrated electronics.

II. Development and Scalable Manufacturing of Novel Skin-Like Electronics

Emerging skin-like electronics are designed to provide a non- or minimally- invasive way for long-term, real-time monitoring of a broad spectrum of biological signals and can find broad applications in fundamental biomedical research, clinical health care, human-machine interface, robotics, prosthetics, internet of things, and many others. Our research group is particularly interested to employ emerging soft materials (such as graphene, silver nanowires, and hierarchical porous elastomers) to the creation and scalable fabrication of next-generation multifunctional skin-like electronic devices with unprecedented attributes.

III. Design and Assembly of Adaptive 3D Multifunctional Systems

Complex 3D structures in biology (e.g., cytoskeletal webs, neural circuits, and vasculature networks) form naturally to provide essential functions in even the most basic forms of life. Compelling opportunities exist for analogous 3D architectures in human-made devices. Recently, we developed a mechanically-guided 3D assembly approach of building previously inaccessible classes of 3D constructs with programmed geometries in advanced materials across wide length scales (Science 2015, 347, 154). Our current interests in this area center on fully taking the advantage of this deterministic 3D assembly approach to design and develop adaptive multifunctional polymer composites, 3D functional devices with unique electrical, optoelectronic, thermal, electromechanical, electromagnetic or acoustic properties, and 3D multimodal cellular interfacing platforms integrated with various sensors and actuators which can communicate and interact with live cells and tissues.