Biological tissues are soft, curvy and dynamic; modern electronic devices are rigid, planar and everlasting. Innovations that eliminate this profound mismatch would enable soft materials and devices with wide application opportunities in fundamental biomedical research, clinical health care, human-machine interface, intelligent robots, internet of things, environmental monitoring, smart cities, food safety, homeland security and others. Through fundamental innovations in material synthesis, device design, and fabrication approaches, together with deep-learning-enabled data analysis and predictions, 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 of Novel Soft Functional Materials
Soft electronics can be achieved by two conceptually different but complementary ways, using flexible/stretchable forms of conventional inorganic electronic materials (e.g., silicon, metal) and intrinsically-soft novel electronic materials (e.g., conductive polymers, nanomaterials). Specifically, we are interested in exploring the judicious structure/property tailoring and mass production of emerging soft functional materials (e.g., laser-induced graphene, PEDOT/PSS, silver nanowires, elastomer nanocomposites, hydrogels) for unprecedented bio-inspired and/or bio-integrated electronics.
II. Design and Scalable Fabrications of Next-Generation Skin-Like Electronics
Emerging skin-like wearable electronics are designed to provide a non- or minimally- invasive way for long-term and real-time monitoring of a broad spectrum of biological signals from human bodies and can find broad applications in fundamental biomedical research, clinical health care, human-machine interface, robotics, internet of things. and others. Our research group is particularly interested in exploring the design and clean-room-free fabrications of novel skin-like wearable electronics with customized multimodallities and unprecedented multifunctionalities by taking the advantages of judiciously tailored, emerging soft functional materials (e.g., laser-induced porous graphene, PEDOT/PSS, silver nanowires, hierarchical porous elastomer nanocomposites).
III. Deterministic 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 multifunctional polymer composites with adaptive properties, 3D multifunctional systems with unique electrical, thermal, mechanical or acoustic properties, and 3D multimodal interfacing platforms that can communicate and interact with live tissues.