Research

Self-regulating materials for cell and metal ion manipulation

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Living organisms exhibit unique homeostatic abilities, maintaining tight control of their local environment through inter-conversions of chemical and mechanical energy and self-regulating feedback loops organized hierarchically across many length scales. Inspired by this, we have applied the concept of homeostasis to the design of autonomous materials and created a synthetic homeostatic material, SMARTS (Self-regulated Mechano-chemical Adaptively Reconfigurable Tunable System), which reversibly transduce external or internal chemical inputs into user-defined outputs via the “on/off” mechanical actuation of catalyst-bearing, hydrogel-driven microstructures. Further exploiting the potential would have transformative impacts in areas ranging from fatigue-reporting or self-healing system that help stabilize functions and prevent failure to smart materials that regulate energy usage.

Bio-inspired photo-responsive materials and their applications

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Optical sensing of chemical and biological molecules-Photo-responsive materials for optics, photonics, waveguides, and photo-harvesting.

Additive Manufacturing technology

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Our group has three 3D printing systems, capable of printing devices of various sizes. The newest 3D printing system that we are building is able to print hybrid materials. Combining with our stimuli-responsive polymer research, 3D printing techniques will allow us to print out soft robotics, investigate its practical uses and provide the foundation for developing applications of self-regulated and bio-inspired photosensitive materials as well.

Novel stimuli-responsive polymers for soft robotics

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Stimuli-responsive polymers consisting of elastomeric matrices with embedded flexible materials (e.g. cloth, paper, fiber, particles) are of particular interest to the robotics community because they are lightweight, affordable and easily customized to a given application. These polymers can be rapidly fabricated in a multi-step molding process and can achieve combinations of contraction, extension, bending and twisting with simple controls. In our approach is to use new design concepts, fabrication approaches and soft materials to improve the performance of these stimuli-responsive polymers compared to existing designs.
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