Events Calendar

ChE Seminar Series - Soft Materials Innovation for Health and Sustainability

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Location: EER 3.646

Polymers and water are the major components that constitute most living species on Earth, ranging from animals, plants, and fungi to bacteria. Polymers are also pervasive and indispensable in almost every aspect of our daily life, ranging from food, clothing, housing, and healthcare to transportation, communication, and entertainment. Furthermore, over 6% of global electricity generated from coal is used to make plastics, and microplastics are ubiquitous in the global biosphere. MIT Zhao Lab is focused on the study and development of soft materials and systems mainly constituted of polymers and water. In this talk, I will first discuss a general strategy to design new soft materials that possess extreme physical, chemical, and biological properties through bioinspired and rational design of unconventional polymer networks. Then, I will illustrate the impacts of soft materials innovation on health and sustainability with examples, including tough and fast bioadhesives that can replace sutures and wearable devices that can continuously image diverse deep organs. I will propose two challenges in fundamental science and technology:

  • Can we develop implants that do not induce fibrous encapsulation?
  • Can we image the full human body continuously over days to months?

I will conclude the talk with a vision for the future development and impacts of soft materials and systems, aided by and synergized with modern technologies such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and precision medicine.


Xuanhe Zhao is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. The mission of Zhao Lab is to advance science and technology between humans and machines to address grand societal challenges in health and sustainability. A major focus is the study and development of soft materials and systems. Dr. Zhao has won early career awards from NSF, ONR, ASME, SES, AVS, Adhesion Society, JAM, EML, and Materials Today. He is a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher. Bioadhesive ultrasound, based on Zhao Lab’s work published in Science, was named one of TIME Magazine's Best Inventions of the year in 2022. SanaHeal Inc., based on Zhao Lab’s work published in Nature, was awarded the 2023 Nature Spinoff Prize. Over ten patents from Zhao Lab have been licensed by companies and have contributed to FDA-approved and widely-used medical devices.

Speaker: Dr. Xuanhe Zhao, Massachusetts Institute of Technology