Biological tissues are characterized by their softness, curviness, and dynamic nature, while modern electronic devices are known for being rigid, planar, and long-lasting. Bridging this profound mismatch can lead to the development of tissue-like soft bioelectronics that have a wide range of applications in fundamental biomedical research, clinical healthcare, human-machine interface, humanoid robots, digital twin, environmental monitoring, smart city, food safety, homeland security, and many others. Our research group aims to enable next-generation soft bioelectronics with unprecedented attributes that can address the grand challenges faced by our society through fundamental innovations in materials, devices, and manufacturing, together with artificial intelligence. We are currently focused on the following three themes.
Materials: 2D Materials, Liquid Metals, Multifunctional Soft Materials, and Biomimetic Materials
Soft bioelectronics can be achieved through two complementary ways: utilizing flexible and stretchable forms of conventional inorganic materials like silicon and metal and developing new intrinsically soft electronic materials such as conductive polymers, elastomer nanocomposites, 2D materials, and liquid metals. Our SMBE research group strives to gain a fundamental understanding of the material-biology interface to develop multifunctional soft materials (Adv. Mater. 2018, 30, 1804327; PNAS 2020, 117, 205; Sci. Adv. 2023, 9, eadf0575) and biomimetic materials (Nat. Commun. 2022, 13, 524) for soft bioelectronic applications. Our ultimate goal is to enable next-generation soft bioelectronics with unprecedented long-term (e.g., weeks to years) biocompatibility and recording accuracy, even under extreme conditions such as motion, sweating, swimming, and temperature change. Through fundamental material research, we aim to push the boundaries of what is possible with soft bioelectronics, developing new materials and technologies that will have a significant impact on the field of healthcare and beyond. We believe that our interdisciplinary approach, which combines expertise in materials, mechanics, biology, and engineering, is key to achieving this goal.
Devices: Multimodal and Closed-Loop Skin-Like Bioelectronics and 3D Bioelectronic Chips
Our bodies naturally produce a diverse range of physiological signals that can offer valuable clinical insights into our health states, serving as predictive markers for various diseases. Therefore, it is crucial to develop customized multimodal bioelectronic platforms that can generate predictive and personalized information about our body states. At the forefront of this field, we are pioneering the development of skin-like soft bioelectronics that are multimodal and closed-loop (PNAS 2020, 117, 18292; Sci. Adv. 2022, 8, eabp9734). Our bioelectronic platforms are designed to record multiple interrelated biophysical and biochemical signals and provide feedback-based interventions for home-based personalized healthcare. This frontier technology can aid in gaining insights into pathological mechanisms, identifying digital biomarkers, and enabling early diagnosis, timely treatment, and proactive management of various diseases. Additionally, we are developing 3D bioelectronic chips (PNAS 2017, 114, E9455) with customized multimodalities and architectures that can seamlessly integrate with engineered biological tissues such as various organoids (i.e., tissue lab on a 3D chip). These tissue-integrated 3D chips can provide real-time sensing, stimulation, and modulation capabilities, which can find broad applications in tissue regeneration, drug testing, fundamental understanding of tissue development, and pathological studies of various diseases. Join us in our mission to revolutionize personalized healthcare and drive fundamental biomedical research through cutting-edge bioelectronic technologies.
Manufacturing: Innovative Approaches for Cost-Effective and Customizable Fabrications of Bioelectronics
Soft bioelectronics are vital for physiological monitoring and interventions, requiring direct contact with the skin or other organs. Ideally, they should be disposable and one-time use to minimize infection risks. Additionally, it is essential to fabricate soft bioelectronics with customized functions to meet users' personalized needs based on their preferences, body statuses, and diseased conditions. Currently, the dominant approach to making soft bioelectronics involves clean room-based nano and microfabrication. This technique often involves e-beam or photolithography, vacuum deposition, etching, transfer printing, and other complex procedures, which are costly and time-consuming and lack design flexibility. To overcome these limitations, we are exploring innovative manufacturing approaches such as pencil writing, laser scribing, and solution printing (PNAS 2020, 117, 18292; Sci. Adv. 2022, 8, eabp9734). These techniques enable cost-effective, easily customizable, and mass production of soft bioelectronics for personalized healthcare. We believe that our unconventional approaches to manufacturing soft bioelectronics will revolutionize the field, making personalized healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone. Join us in our mission to improve healthcare and enhance the quality of life for people all around the world.