Bio-machines and Bio-manufacturing
Robert N Noyce Career Development Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Head, Soft Active Materials Laboratory (SAMs)
MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering
While human tissues are mostly soft, wet and bioactive; machines are commonly hard, dry and biologically inert. Bridging human-machine interfaces is of imminent importance in addressing grand challenges in health, security, sustainability and joy of living facing our society in the 21st century. However, designing human-machine interfaces is extremely challenging, due to the fundamentally contradictory properties of human and machine. At MIT SAMs Lab, we propose to use tough bioactive hydrogels to bridge human-machine interfaces. On one side, bioactive hydrogels with similar physiological properties as tissues can naturally integrate with human body, playing functions such as scaffolds, catheters, drug reservoirs, and wearable devices. On the other side, the hydrogels embedded with electronic and mechanical components can control and response to external devices and signals. In the talk, I will first present a bioinspired approach and a general framework to design bioactive and robust hydrogels as the matrices for human-machine interfaces. I will then discuss large-scale manufacturing strategies to fabricate robust and bioactive hydrogels and hydrogel electronics and machines, including 3D printing. Prototypes including smart hydrogel band-aids, hydrogel robots and hydrogel circuits will be further demonstrated.