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 material synthesis, device design, and fabrication approaches, together with machine-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, Nanomaterials, Porous Materials, and Bioinspired Materials
Soft biointegrated electronics can be achieved via two conceptually different but complementary ways, using flexible/stretchable forms of conventional inorganic materials (e.g., silicon, metal) and new 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 nanocomposites, bioinspired materials, 2D materials, hydrogels) for unprecedented bio-integrated electronics.
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 human health states and can provide the clinical cues of various diseases. Thus, it is highly desirable to develop customized multimodal sensing platforms to generate predictive and personalized information of body states for timely interventions and proactive management. In this regard, we are exploring customized, multimodal, closed-loop, smart skin-like bioelectronic systems together with machine-learning algorithms, which can concurrently record multiple closely interrelated biophysical/biochemical signals and provide feedback-based adaptive interventions, for both fundamental biomedical research (e.g., brain/neural interfacing) and personalized human healthcare (e.g., diagnosis, treatment, and management of heart diseases and chronic wounds, as well as elderly care). Besides, to integrate with 3D biological tissues, we are developing sensors-innervated, 3D bioelectronic scaffolds for real-time sensing, stimulation, and modulation of live tissues, which can find broad applications in tissue regeneration, drug testing, and pathological studies of various diseases.
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 fabricating skin-like 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 both solution-based, continuous manufacturing and laser-assisted fabrications of multimodal bioelectronics on multifunctional flexible supporting substrates, which are lost-cost and disposable, for customized health monitoring.