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Zhengwei Li's blog

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Our recent Science Robotics paper reports a first-ever hybrid bioelectronic robot (eBiobot)

In this work, we presented biohybrid electronic robots (eBiobot) powered by optogenetic skeletal muscles and controlled by wireless optoelectronics, allowing remote control of switching, steering, and other more sophisticated functions. The eBiobot inherits the structural concept motivated by a physiological muscle-tendon-bone architecture from previously demonstrated walking robots, where 3D engineered skeletal muscle tissue forms around an asymmetric hydrogel scaffold.

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Multiple Fully-funded Postdoc and PhD positions in Biomachines & Bioelectronics

There are multiple open positions available in Dr. Zhengwei Li's research group in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Houston. Our research group works on the interface between human and machines to create novel devices and technologies for addressing grand challenges in health, medicine and robotics. The current research topics include Curvy wearable electronics, biohybrid living robotics, biomedical devices, bioelectronic neural interfaces, etc. 

Postdoc Position:

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Call for Paper: Micromachines Special Issue on Bioinspired Devices and Systems

Dear Colleagues, 

Micromachines (ISSN 2072-666X, IF 2.891) is currently running a Special Issue entitled “Novel Devices and Advanced Fabrication in Emerging Bioinspired Systems”. I’m serving as the Guest Editor for this themed issue which is open for submission now. 

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Water as a “glue”: Elasticity-enhanced wet attachment of biomimetic microcup structures

Octopus, clingfish, and larva use soft cups to attach to surfaces under water. Recently, various bioinspired cups have been engineered. However, the mechanisms of their attachment and detachment remain elusive. Using a novel microcup, fabricated by two-photon lithography, coupled with in situ pressure sensor and observation cameras, we reveal the detailed nature of its attachment/detachment under water.

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Living muscle-driven pumps with flow loop feedback

Tissue-engineered living machines is an emerging discipline that employs complex interactions between living cells and engineered scaffolds to self-assemble biohybrid systems for diverse scientific research and technological applications. Here, we report an adaptive, autonomous biohybrid pumping machine with flow loop feedback powered by engineered living muscles. The tissue is made from skeletal muscle cells (C2C12) and collagen I/Matrigel matrix, which self-assembles into a ring that compresses a soft hydrogel tube connected at both ends to a rigid fluidic platform.

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Human-eyeball-inspired curvy, shape-adaptive kirigami imagers

Curvy imagers that can adjust their shape are of use in imaging applications that require low optical aberration and tunable focusing power. Existing curvy imagers are either flexible but not compatible with tunable focal surfaces, or stretchable but with low resolution and pixel fill factors. Here, we show that curvy and shape-adaptive imagers with high pixel fill factors can be created by transferring an array of ultrathin silicon optoelectronic pixels with a kirigami design onto curvy surfaces using conformal additive stamp printing.

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Mechanics helps design better living robotics

Engineering living systems is a rapidly emerging discipline where the functional biohybrid robotics (or ‘Bio-bots’) are built by integrating of living cells with engineered scaffolds. Inspired by embryonic heart, we presented earlier the first example of a biohybrid valveless pump-bot, an impedance pump, capable of transporting fluids powered by engineered living muscle tissues. The pump consists of a soft tube attached to rigid boundaries at the ends, and a muscle ring that squeezes the tube cyclically at an off-center location.

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New method to fabricate 3D curvy electronics

We report a manufacturing technology, called conformal additive stamp (CAS) printing and show that it can be used to reliably manufacture electronic devices with 3D shapes. Our CAS printing approach employs a pneumatically inflated elastomeric balloon as a conformal stamping medium to pick up pre-fabricated electronic devices and print them onto 3D surfaces to create devices with curvy shapes including electrically small antennas, hemispherical solar cells and smart contact lenses.

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A biohybrid valveless pump-bot powered by engineered skeletal muscle

Pumps are critical life-sustaining components for all animals. At the earliest stages of life, the tubular embryonic heart works as a valveless pump capable of generating unidirectional blood flow. Inspired by this elementary pump, we developed the first example of a biohybrid valveless pump-bot powered by engineered skeletal muscle. Our pump-bot consists of a soft hydrogel tube connected at both ends to a stiffer polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) scaffold, creating an impedance mismatch.

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Harnessing Surface Wrinkling-Cracking Patterns for Tunable Optical Transmittance

Optical devices and systems with tunable optical transmittance have recently attracted great interest due to their wide range of applications. However, the reported methods of realizing tunable optical transmittance still suffer from complex fabrication processes, high cost, unstable materials or low tuning range. In this study, we report a simple, cheap, and highly effective approach to achieve large tuning range of optical transmittance through harnessing surface wrinkling-cracking patterns on PDMS films.

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Theoretical studies on lattice-oriented growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes on sapphire

In this work, a theoretical study is performed to quantitatively understand the van der Waals interactions between single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and sapphire substrates. The energetically preferred alignment directions of SWNTs on A-, R- and M-planes and the random alignment on the C-plane predicted by this study are all in good agreement with experiments. It is also shown that smaller SWNTs have better alignment than larger SWNTs due to their stronger interaction with sapphire substrate.

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