Understand the mechanics of soft materials

Explore new opportunities in material science

Topology engineering of polymer networks

A single polymer chain is as soft as living tissue and as strong as carbon fiber. However, rubber bands are weak, and carbon fibers are strong, even though both consist of carbon-carbon bonds. Can soft materials be as strong as carbon fiber? The answer lies in the molecular structure. In a soft material, polymer chains crosslink and entangle, forming a polymer network. Therefore, it is the topology of the polymer network that determines whether the soft material is strong or weak. More importantly, the topology of the polymer network can be engineered. Designing the network topology has enormous potential to achieve extreme material properties, poses fundamental questions in mechanics and material science, and opens new possibilities for diverse applications.

Modeling of soft materials

Modeling materials not only allows us to simulate behaviors—it provides a foundation of material development and insight into their design when they are simple and general. By using a simple and clean material system, we compare the prediction of our model and the experimental data, revealing unknown mechanisms in soft materials.

Multiscale structures

Nature has outstanding mechanical properties with its multi-scale structures, but many fabrication technologies are limited to a certain range of sizes. A fabrication technique capable of multi-scale structures (from nanometer to millimeter) mimics nature with unique advantages.

Thermoelectric generators

Thermoelectric devices can convert low heat energy into electricity. Not only the value of ZT of the thermoelectric material but also the design of the thermoelectric generator plays a key role in performance.