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, personalized healthcare, human-machine interface, humanoid robots, internet of things, environmental monitoring, smart cities, food safety, homeland security, and many others. Through fundamental innovations in materials, devices, and manufacturing, together with machine-learning-enabled data analysis and predictions, our research group aims to enable and translate next-generation soft bioelectronics with unprecedented attributes to bring solutions to the grand challenges faced by our society. Current areas of interest include the below three themes.
Materials: 2D Materials, Liquid Metal, Porous Materials, and Bioinspired Materials
Soft biointegrated electronics can be enabled through two conceptually different but complementary ways, using flexible/stretchable forms of conventional inorganic materials (e.g., silicon, metal) and novel intrinsically soft electronic materials (e.g., conductive polymers, elastomer composites, nanomaterials, liquid metals). Specifically, we are interested in exploring the judicious structure and property tailoring of emerging soft electronic materials (e.g., porous nanocomposites, bioinspired materials, 2D materials, and liquid metals) for soft bioelectronics with unprecedented characteristics.
Devices: Customized, Multimodal, Closed-Loop Skin-Like Electronics and 3D Electronics
Human bodies naturally produce a variety of physiological signals which are closely relevant to our health states and can provide clinical cues for various diseases. Thus, it is highly desirable to develop customized multimodal bioelectronic platforms to generate predictive and personalized information about our body states. In this thrust, we are exploring customized, multimodal, and closed-loop skin-like soft bioelectronics together with machine-learning-based algorithms, which can concurrently record multiple interrelated biophysical/biochemical signals and provide feedback-based interventions, for both fundamental biomedical research (e.g., gaining insights of pathological mechanisms and identifying digital biomarkers) and home-based personalized healthcare (e.g., early diagnosis, timely treatment and proactive management of various diseases). Besides, to integrate with engineered biological tissues (e.g., organoids) through three dimensions, we are developing 3D bioelectronic scaffolds with customized modality and architectures for real-time sensing, stimulation, and modulation of tissue models, which can find broad applications in tissue regeneration, drug testing, and pathological studies of various diseases.
Manufacturing: Solution Printing and Laser Scribing
Skin-like electronics usually comprise bioelectronic devices on soft supporting substrates and need to directly touch human skin or other organs for physiological information recording. Ideally, they should be one-time use (i.e., disposable) to minimize infection risks. Thus, realizing their scalable fabrication can lower manufacturing costs and facilitate practical applications. At present, the dominant approach to fabricating skin-like electronics is still the lithography-based fabrication. This technique often involves e-beam or photolithography, vacuum-based deposition, etching, transfer printing, and other complicated procedures, which are complex, costly, and tedious. To overcome these handicaps, we are exploring solution printing and laser scribing of multimodal bioelectronic devices on multifunctional soft substrates for customized health monitoring.