"Elastomeric surfaces for the rational synthesis, assembly, and fabrication of adaptive, functional materials"
We are investigating new synthetic strategies for the fabrication of adaptive, hybrid structures comprised of combinations of soft materials (e.g., polymers) and hard materials (e.g., inorganic crystals) with functional (optical, mechanical, magnetic, etc.) characteristics. Central to these efforts are elastomeric surfaces with heterogeneous chemical and physical properties that can be reversibly reconfigured using simple, macro-scale processes such as mechanical deformations—we sometimes refer to these mechanically tunable surfaces as 2D "assembly substrates." Specifically, we focus on systems fabricated from elastomeric polymers, such as silicones, which provide a diversity of chemical and mechanical properties. In this talk I will highlight our recent findings involving the synthesis and application of mechanically tunable surfaces, which include the synthesis/assembly of solids (e.g., optically active semiconductor films and catalytically active microparticles) and the manipulation of liquids (e.g., picoliter-volume droplets of aqueous solutions and prepolymer droplets). The unique properties (chemical, physical, and mechanical) of these surfaces and the unique capabilities they provide will enable new methods and structures for the micro/nanoscale manipulation, organization, and assembly of liquids/solids, and provide new techniques for the fabrication of hybrid structures applicable to emergent technologies, for example, soft sensors, optics, and electronics, soft actuators for soft machines/robotics, and smart surfaces with adaptive adhesion. Furthermore, the ability of the strategies we demonstrate to operate simultaneously on large numbers of micro-/nanoscale functional components using macroscale processing (e.g., tensile deformations) presents unique advantages in the scalable, advanced manufacturing of functional structures.