Biological systems are mechanically soft, with complex, time-dependent 3D curvilinear shapes; modern electronic and microfluidic technologies are rigid, with simple, static 2D layouts. Eliminating this profound mismatch in physical properties will create vast opportunities in man-made systems that can intimately integrate with the human body, for diagnostic, therapeutic or surgical function with important, unique capabilities in fitness/wellness, sports performance and clinical healthcare. Over the last decade, a convergence of new concepts in materials science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and advanced manufacturing has led to the emergence of diverse, novel classes of ‘biocompatible’ electronic and microfluidic systems with skin-like physical properties. This talk describes the key ideas and presents some of the most recent device examples, including wireless, battery-free electronic ‘tattoos’ with applications in continuous monitoring of vital signs in neonatal and pediatric intensive care; and microfluidic/electronic platforms that can capture, manipulate and perform biomarker analysis on microliter volumes of sweat, with applications in sports and fitness.
Who is Professor John Rogers?
John A. Rogers is the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Medicine at Northwestern University, where he is also Director of the newly endowed Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics. His research has been recognized by many awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship (2009), the Lemelson-MIT Prize (2011), and the Smithsonian Award for American Ingenuity in the Physical Sciences (2013) – and most recently the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute (2019). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2019, he was nominated to the National Academy of Medicine.
Rogers’ research seeks to understand and exploit interesting characteristics of ‘soft’ materials, such as polymers, liquid crystals, and biological tissues as well as hybrid combinations of them with unusual classes of micro/nanomaterials, in the form of ribbons, wires, membranes, tubes or related. The aim is to control and induce novel electronic and photonic responses in these materials; and also develop new ‘soft lithographic’ and biomimetic approaches for patterning them and guiding their growth. This work combines fundamental studies with forward-looking engineering efforts in a way that promotes positive feedback between the two. Current research focuses on soft materials for conformal electronics, nanophotonic structures, microfluidic devices, and microelectromechanical systems, all lately with an emphasis on bio-inspired and bio-integrated technologies. These efforts are highly multidisciplinary, and combine expertise from nearly every traditional field of technical study.