Chemomechanics of Soft Living Materials
Materials that are composed of polymer networks and solvent molecules are called gels. They are soft and both liquid like and solid like. Gels are everywhere in nature, from cells, tissues, to organs. In every level of the organism, these soft components constantly communicate and coordinate through a cascade of the coupled diffusion, reaction and deformation. As a result, the nutrients are supplied and wastes are expelled, allowing growth, healing and all sorts of magical things happening in the body. Gels are also important engineering materials. Like the macromolecules in the living systems, synthetic polymer chains are connected into networks that selectively allow solvent and other chemical species to diffuse in and out. Various synthetic gels have been used as cell and tissue culture scaffold, wound dresser, drug carrier, microfluidic device, sensors and actuators, soft robots, fuel cell membrane, loud speaker, artificial axon, wearable electronics and many others. The unique functionalities of gels lie in the coupled behavior of deformation, mass transport, and chemical reaction. In this talk, I will introduce our work in developing a rigorous nonequilibrium thermodynamic framework to study the coupled chemo-electro-mechanical responses of synthetic gels and living soft materials. I will also discuss our efforts in using these fundamental knowledge in developing new multi-functional materials for various applications.
Dr. Yuhang Hu is currently an Assistant Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. She received her PhD degree at Harvard University. Dr. Hu’s research focuses on mechanics of soft materials and bioinspired materials. Her study involves both theory and experiments. She is the recipient of NSF CARRER award, and AFOSR YIP award.