We have strong interest in interdisciplinary research across multiple disciplines from engineering to medicine to agriculture. We are employing a combination of theoretical, numerical and experimental approaches to study the fundamental questions and solve the grand challenges that we are facing in the field of emerging electronics, robotics, energy storage and harvesting, healthcare and medicine, food safety, smart and precision agriculture. Our current research are focusing on the following research thrusts: 1) Mechanics and applications of soft materials & soft robotics, 2) design and fabrication of flexible-stretchable-printed-wearable electronics, 3) High-performance energy storage and harvesting, and 4) 3D/4D printing of advanced multifunctional materials.

Soft Materials & Soft Robotics

In this field we investigate the properties and responses of soft materials (e.g. polymer, elastomer, hydrogel) under external stimuli, such as mechanical force, temperature, light, or electrical and magnetic field, to fully utilize them with hard materials for a variety of novel applications, such as actuators, energy-harvesters, artificial muscles, drug delivery, wearable electronics and soft robotics. We also study biological materials and structures to develop new biomedical devices for improving human well-being, such as urinary catheters, artificial cartilage, and artery stent. This research direction is funded by NSF, USDA, and MSU.

Stretchable/Wearable/Printed Electronic Systems

Emerging stretchable/wearable electronics creates new opportunities in consumer electronics and bio-integrated devices, with examples from flexible displays, stretchable circuits, to sensors and epidermal electronics, to artificial skins and robotics. In this direction, we are integrating mechanical principles and additive manufacturing techniques to fabricate high-performance, robust but cheap electronics and energy-storage devices capable of extreme deformations without sacrifice of high performance. In the long run, the developed stretchable electronics will be integrated with the biological tissues/organs for monitoring their activity, detecting diseases and offer effective therapies. This research direction is funded by DOT, USDA, and MSU.

Energy Storage, Energy Conversion, and Energy Harvesting

Power sources are essential components that drive the electronics and robotics to work. We make attempts to build high-performance, deformable and compatible energy devices, including the flexible/stretchable supercapacitors, solid-state rechargeable batteries, and triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) and piezoelectric nanogenerators (PENGs). We develop compatible energy devices for wearables, biointegrated electronics, IoTs, industry 4.0, and environment monitoring and management.  This research direction is funded by MDEC, DOT, and MSU.

Additive Manufacturing and Machine Learning-driven Design of Bio-inspired Materials and Multifunctional Metamaterials

Natural materials and structures have many unprecedented surface, optical, mechanical, and thermal properties, such as self-cleaning properties of gecko feet, superhydrophobicity of lotus leaf, ultra-hardness of turtle shell, as well as vivid structural colors of butterfly wing. In this thrust, we explore and biomimetic the natural materials/structures with remarkable properties or functions using 3D/4D printing and self-assembly. With special attention to the fundamental physics and mechanics, our long-term goal is to design and optimize synthetic materials and structures to address the grand challenges that we are facing, ranging from durable infrastructure to energy harvesting to medical treatment.

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