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[Illinois] Nanotechnology-Enabled Advances in Biomedical and Energy Research

By Michael McAlpine

Princeton University

Published on


The development of a method for interfacing high-performance devices with flexible, stretchable, and biocompatible materials could yield breakthroughs in implantable or wearable systems. Yet, most high-quality materials are hard or rigid in nature, and the crystallization of these materials generally requires high temperatures for maximally efficient performance. These properties render the corresponding devices incompatible with temperature-sensitive soft materials such as plastic, rubber, and tissue. Nanotechnology provides a route for overcoming these dichotomies, by altering the mechanics of materials while simultaneously improving their performance. In this talk, we will focus on two vital areas for interfacing high performance devices with soft materials: (1) chemical and biological sensors for detecting disease indicators and external threats, and (2) electromechanical sensing and energy harvesting. Our approach in both cases involves the following key steps: first, materials selection, to identify a high performance material suitable for the application in mind; second, nanomaterials synthesis or fabrication; third, fundamental studies of the effect of scaling on nanomaterial properties; fourth, interfacing these materials with soft substrates; and finally, integration into high performance devices. The enhanced performance of nanomaterial assemblies coupled with biocompatible substrates may enable exciting avenues in fundamental research and novel applications.


Michael McAlpine began his appointment as assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Princeton in 2008 and is an associated faculty member with the Princeton Department of Chemistry and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM). He received a BS in chemistry with honors from Brown University in 2000 and a PhD in chemistry from Harvard University in 2006. His research has focused on nanotechnology-enabled approaches to hybridize high-performance inorganic materials with flexible organics, for fundamental investigations in the biomedical and energy sciences. His work has been published in journals such as Nature and featured in major media outlets including Time Magazine. He has given talks at several universities and conferences, most notably to the JASONs Defense Advisory Group. He has received a number of awards, most prominently a TR35 Young Innovator Award, an Air Force Young Investigator Award, an Intelligence Community Young Investigator Award, a DuPont Young Investigator Award, and an American Asthma Foundation Early Excellence Award.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Michael McAlpine (2013), "[Illinois] Nanotechnology-Enabled Advances in Biomedical and Energy Research,"

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Adeeb Yunus, NanoBio Node

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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