Whereas human tissues and organs are mostly soft, wet and bioactive; machines are commonly hard, dry and biologically inert. Merging humans, machines and their intelligence is of imminent importance in addressing grand societal challenges in health, sustainability, security, education and joy of living. However, interfacing humans and machines is extremely challenging due to their fundamentally contradictory properties. At MIT Zhao Lab, we exploit soft materials technology to form long-term, high-efficacy, multi-modal interfaces and convergence between humans and machines. In this talk, I will first discuss the mechanics to design extreme properties including tough, resilient, adhesive, strong, fatigue-resistant and conductive for hydrogels, which are ideal material candidates for human-machine interfaces. Then I will discuss a set of soft materials technology platforms, including i). bioadhesives for instant strong adhesion of diverse wet dynamic tissues and machines; ii). bioelectronics for long-term multi-modal neural interfaces; iii). biorobots for teleoperated and autonomous navigations and operations in previously inaccessible lesions such as in cerebral and coronary arteries. I will conclude the talk with a perspective on future human-machine convergence enabled by soft materials technology.
Xuanhe Zhao is an associate professor in mechanical engineering at MIT. The mission of Zhao Lab is to advance science and technology on the interfaces between humans and machines for addressing grand societal challenges in health, sustainability, education and joy of living. Dr. Zhao was a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher in 2018. He received young investigator and early career awards from National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Society of Engineering Science, Adhesion Society, American Vacuum Society, and Materials Today; and best paper awards from Extreme Mechanics Letters and Journal of Applied Mechanics. He held chair professorships at MIT and previously at Duke University.