Dissertation Proposal Defense – Ruilong Ma
Dr. Vladimir Tsukruk, Advisor, MSE
Dr. Meisha Shofner, MSE
Dr. Paul Russo, MSE
Dr. Yulin Deng, ChBE
Dr. Andrei Fedorov, ME
"Flexible, Stretchable Biopolymer-Graphene Nanocomposites"
Next-generation materials for advancing technologies require added functionalities as constrained by size, weight, power, and cost requirements. Flexible and stretchable materials are areas of intense research interest due to the emergent need for multi-functional devices to withstand strain without failure. Whereas traditional (metallic, ceramic and semiconducting) device components are heavy, prone to breaking, and confined to their as-manufactured form-factor—soft materials, such as from bio-derived polymers, overcome these orthodoxies by enabling devices with diverse functions such as displays, energy harvesting/storage systems, and man-machine interfaces to operate under mobile and wearable environments. For instance, in the rapidly evolving field of bio-interfaced (or skin-mounted) electronics, device flexibility opens routes toward the seamless and adaptive detection of fine-motor gestures, body health indicators, and external hazards such as noxious chemical or warfare agents.
In this research, materials design is employed toward the innovation of biopolymer-graphene composites that combine the structural and functional capabilities of nanoscale components. While the incredible mechanical robustness and chemical stability of certain bio-derived materials (i.e. spider silks, cellulose nanocrystals) are well-established, the exploration of these materials have thus far been limited to their use in structural applications. Through controlling intermolecular forces during film assembly, and post-assembly processing, biopolymer composites with active materials are leveraged for uses beyond structural applications, toward application spaces such as conformable haptic sensing, energy storage, and waste-energy harvesting/recycling.