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Ions, electrons, and ionotronics

Zhigang Suo's picture

I’m enormously pleased that the video of my ⁦iCanX Talk on 15 May 2020 is now placed on YouTube, as well as on Thank Alice ZHANG for creating this wonderland. In preparing the talk, I discovered a new equation: iCanX = ions can do everything. The last slide of the talk lists further readings and watchings, most of which the talk did not cover. The field is full of chaotic energy.

Ions, electrons, and ionotronics

Zhigang Suo, Harvard University

Machines made by nature—plants and animals—conduct electricity mostly using ions, whereas machines made by humans conduct electricity mostly using elec­trons. Ionic and electronic circuits do couple at human–machine interfaces in the electrophysiological study of the brain, heart, and muscle. Hybrid circuits of ions and electrons also enable batteries, super­capacitors, fuel cells, and bio-sensing. These successful hybrids have long sustained the field of ionotronics, in which devices function by both mobile ions and mobile electrons. This talk focuses on ionotronics that use stretchable, transparent, ionic conductors (STICs). Examples include hydrogels, ionogels, and ionoelastomers. Emphasis is placed on the heterojunctions between electronic and ionic conductors, between ionic conductors and dielectrics, as well as between dissimilar ionic conductors. Nature offers only one species of electrons but countless species of ions, which may translate to ionotronic devices with a wide range of physical, chemical, and biological activities. They can be at least as diverse as life itself.


Zhigang Suo grew up on the campus of Xian Jiaotong University, and graduated from its affiliated kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school. He wrote his undergraduate thesis under Professor Xing Ji, at Xian Jiaotong University, in 1985. He earned a PhD degree under Professor John Hutchinson, at Harvard University, in 1989. Suo joined the faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1989, Princeton University in 1997, and Harvard University in 2003. His research centers on solid mechanics. He has little experience outside universities and has no hobbies.

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