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.
Materials: 2D Materials, Porous Materials, and Bioinspired Materials
Soft electronics can be achieved via two conceptually different but complementary ways, using flexible/stretchable forms of conventional inorganic electronic materials (e.g., silicon, metal) and novel intrinsically soft electronic materials (e.g., conductive polymers, elastic composites, nanomaterials). Specifically, we are interested in exploring the judicious structure and property tailoring of emerging soft electronic materials (e.g., porous elastic nanocomposites, bioinspired materials, 2D materials, hydrogels) for unprecedented bio-integrated electronics.
Devices: Multimodal Skin-Like Electronics and 3D Electronics
Human bodies naturally produce a variety of physiological signals, which are closely relevant to human health states and provide clinical cues of various diseases. Thus, it is highly desirable to develop customized multimodal sensing platforms to generate predictive and personalized information for human healthcare. In this regard, we are exploring smart multimodal skin-like electronic systems, which can concurrently record multiple closely interrelated biophysical and biochemical signals as well as provide adaptive stimulations and treatment, for fundamental biomedical research (e.g., brain interfacing) and customized healthcare applications (e.g., monitoring of sleep, heart diseases, and COVID-19). Besides, to integrate with 3D biological tissues, we are developing sensors-innervated, 3D electronic scaffolds via mechanically guided, 3D assembly for real-time sensing, stimulation, and modulation of live tissues.
Manufacturing: Solution-Based Printing and Laser-Assisted Fabrications
Skin-like electronics usually comprise bioelectronic devices on flexible supporting substrates and need to directly contact skins 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 fabrications can lower manufacturing costs and facilitate their practical applications. At present, the dominant approach to make skin-like wearable electronics is still lithography-based microfabrication. This technique often involves e-beam or photolithography, vacuum-based deposition, etching, transfer printing, and/or other complicated procedures, which are usually complex, costly, and tedious. To overcome these handicaps, we are exploring solution-based, continuous fabrication of multimodal bioelectronics on multifunctional flexible supporting substrates for customized health monitoring. In addition, we are investigating laser-assisted direct patterning of various electronic materials (e.g., graphene) on flexible supporting substrates for low-cost, disposable skin-like electronics.