Research

Today, humanity faces unprecedented challenges in the global distributions of energy, food, water, and healthcare. The mission of Dr. Zhang’s lab is to create an interdisciplinary and collaborative research environment to solve the grand challenges in personalized health monitoring, early diagnosis, and brain science. Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on three major fields: (I) “Lab-on-skin”: materials, chemistry, and devices of wearable biosensors for personalized health monitoring and early diagnosis; (II) Materials and interfacial phenomena of device-tissue interfaces; (III) Materials, design, and fabrication of new tools for brain science.

(1) Wearable Bioelectronics & Biosensors. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition where kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as healthy ones. 30 million or 15% of US adults are estimated to have CKD but most of them are not aware of it at an early stage of the disease. Early detection and treatment can often keep chronic kidney diseases from getting worse. Therefore, a novel method for painless and stress-free kidney health monitoring is highly desirable. We developed a wearable sweat sensor that can capture and analyze creatinine and urea in sweat for the early detection of CKD.

(2) Implantable Microsystem. Diseases related to the central and peripheral nervous systems, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, pain, Alzheimer’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, affect the life quality of millions of people worldwide. To understand the function of neural networks and the causes of these mental health problems, we designed and fabricated injectable/implantable optofluidic devices for brain and peripheral nerve interfaces. This technology has been transferred from the research bench to commercialization by a startup company Neurolux (http://neurolux.org/).

(3) Soft Materials-Complex Colloidal Systems. Our major accomplishment in colloids is the discovery of a new class of soft materials called capillary foams. We studied its stabilization mechanism, the effect of system parameters, and its potential applications in energy-efficient separations. This research has been reported by many press releases, such as Science Daily, NSF News, and World Industrial Reporter.

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