Xuanhe Zhao

Xuanhe Zhao joined the MIT faculty in September 2014 as an assistant professor. Before joining MIT, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. He earned his PhD at Harvard University in 2009. Xuanhe conducts research on the interfaces between solid mechanics, soft materials and bioinspired design. His current research goal is to understand and design new soft materials with unprecedented properties for impactful applications. His current research projects are centered on three bioinspired themes: artificial muscle (dielectric polymers & electromechanics), tough cartilage (tough and bioactive hydrogels & biomechanics), and transformative skin (functional surface instabilities & thin film mechanics). Xuanhe’s discovery of new failure mechanisms of dielectric polymers in 2011 and 2012 can potentially enhance electric energy densities of dielectric elastomers and gels over ten times. In 2012, he designed a new synthetic biocompatible hydrogel with hybrid crosslinking, which achieved fracture toughness multiple times higher than articular cartilage — unprecedented by previous synthetic gels. With fiber reinforcements, Xuanhe further controlled the modulus of the tough hydrogel over a wide range from a few kPa to over 10 MPa in 2013 and 2014. By harnessing surface instabilities such as wrinkles and creases in 2014, he dynamically varied both surface textures and colors of an electro-mechano-chemically responsive elastomers to achieve the dynamic-camouflage function of cephalopods. This work was highlighted as Nature News, reported by the Washington Post, and featured on the front page of MIT webpage: “How to hide like an octopus”. Xuanhe is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, ONR YIP Award, and the Early Career Researchers Award from AVS Biomaterial Interfaces Division.



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