Our lab of Bio-inspired and Bio-integrated Engineering (BIBIE) is an interdisciplinary research team devoted to developing and applying novel materials and manufacturing technologies for unusual microsystems and nanodevices, with an emphasis on biocompatible and bioresorbable devices and systems that interact with cells and integrate with the human body.
The quantitative analysis and means of comparison of the performance of a variety of biopolymers will be conducted using IR-SNOM. Based on a hybrid of an AFM and an infrared laser, s-SNOM allows one to simultaneously monitor and modify the mechanical, optical, chemical and thermodynamic properties of materials on the nano scale. The IR light is focused onto the AFM tip with an electric field strength enhanced typically by a factor of ten to several hundred. The back-scattered light is demodulated at different harmonics of the tip’s tapping frequency to retrieve the near-field interaction between the tip and the sample surface, and therefore extracting information on the local structural/chemical properties. The IR-SNOM approach combines the virtues of conventional AFM modes such as topography, sheer force and local capacitance microscopy to novel IR spectroscopic characterization and offers a spatial resolution down to ~ 10 nm (limited only by the AFM tip radius). Complemented by nano-Fourier transform IR spectroscopy (nano-FTIR), the state-of-the-art apparatus has enabled superior nano-scale imaging as well as simultaneous monitoring of the evolution of spectral features associated molecular responses and mechanical properties of the bio samples.
Biopolymers are promising building blocks for a new generation of green devices. This class of polymers, produced and modified by living organisms, are the mainstay of naturally occurring, self-assembling, structurally hierarchical micro- and nano-scale systems, from the polysaccharide chitin in butterfly wings and beetle exoskeletons, to the collagen in lens arrays or in dermal iridescences, to the keratin in peacock feathers, among many others. Silk proteins represent a unique family of biopolymers due to their novel structural and biological properties. From a materials science perspective, silks spun by spiders and silkworms represent the strongest and toughest natural fibers known and offer unlimited opportunities for functionalization, processing, and biological integration. The clear water-like silk fibroin solution can be further activated, biochemically and/or physically, by simple mixing of various organic (such as cells, proteins, and enzymes) and/ or inorganic (such as quantum dots, laser dyes, and metallic nanoparticles) dopants into the solution. The either undoped or doped solution can be deposited on appropriate substrates (flat or patterned). The solution crystallizes through protein self-assembly upon exposure to air, without the need to resort to exogenous cross-linking reactions or post processing cross- linking for stabilization, yielding a class of patterned freestanding films (e.g., optical elements) or a mechanically robust, biocompatible and bioresorbable substrate for thin film photonic and electronic devices.
Understanding the fundamental operation principles of dauntingly complex living systems (e.g. molecules, cells, tissues and organs) and providing applicable healthcare represents a central challenge in life sciences. Interfacing living systems through a combination of mechanical, electrical, and optical stimuli and simultaneously sensing the resulting bio-responses opens up an exciting gateway to unravel the basic biological functions in living systems and to advance the fundamental biological research. Metamaterials - novel composites with human-engineered sub-wavelength structures as artificial “atoms/molecules” - have attracted considerable attention due to their abilities to access exotic properties beyond the naturally occurring materials. We believe that the real power in metamaterials lies in the fact that it is possible to construct materials with exact properties by simply tailoring their shape and size, which has proven to be very versatile across much of the electromagnetic spectrum. This opens up amazing opportunities for developing new classes of biomaterials and biodevices using non-conventional materials (e.g. metamaterials and regenerated silk fibroin) and micro/nanotechnology.
Great efforts have been paid to develop biodegradable medical devices and materials that can be implanted or injected into the human body for clinical applications (e.g. drug delivery and joint replacement) and would naturally degrade over a desired period of time. To date, many of those devices are currently available only in the form of passive elements with simple and mostly sole functionality (such as sutures for wound closure, matrices for drug release, stents for localized flow constriction). We plan to work on developing a new class of biodegradable devices and microsystems working at radio frequencies with integrated functions of sensing, communication and actuation within the body. The work comprehensively integrates the design, fabrication and validation of dynamic biomaterials and multifunctional microsystems enhanced by metamaterials, which not only helps better understand the fundamental science in cell-biomaterials interactions, but also facilitates the potential application-based studies ranging from in vitro disease assays for drug development to the design & manufacturing of in vivo medical implants.