Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty Candidate Seminar


Electronic, Microfluidic, and Robotic Systems with Soft Materials or Compliant Structures


Dr. Aaron Mazzeo


Harvard University


Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 11:00:00 AM


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Dr. Craig Forest


Soft materials such as elastomers and compliant structures such as cellulose-based paper are important for developing technologies in flexible electronics, microfluidics, and robotics. With respect to flexible electronics, we have designed a unique class of touch pads based on low-cost metallized paper typically used as packaging for beverages or book covers. The individual keys in the touch pads detect changes in capacitance and contact with fingers by using the effective capacitance of the human body and the electrical impedance across the tip of a finger. With their easily arrayed keys, environmentally benign materials, and low cost, the touch pads have the potential to contribute to future developments in disposable, flexible devices, active, “smart” packaging, user interfaces for biomedical instrumentation, and disposable games. With respect to elastomer-based microfluidics, we have designed a manufacturing process using centrifugal casting to produce silicone-based microfluidic devices. To address the rate-limiting step of removing bubbles during conventional prototyping of PDMS-based devices, centrifgual casting removes bubbles quickly through diffusion and buoyancy, while also permitting simultaneous patterning of multiple surfaces with micro/nano features and precise control of the thickness of parts. The time required for bubble removal is dependent on a critical size of bubbles typically on the order of 100 microns. Finally, elastomeric materials are also useful for design of soft robotic actuators. Our work demonstrates capabilities such as gripping fragile objects and locomotion. Recent designs and selection of materials are working to further lower the cost of soft robots and provide new capabilities.


Aaron Mazzeo is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University with George Whitesides. Prior to joining the Whitesides Group, Aaron completed his undergraduate (S.B.) and graduate degrees (S.M. and Ph.D.) at MIT in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. As a postdoctoral fellow, Aaron has researched paper-based electronics and diagnostics, soft robots, and acoustic extinction of flames. While at MIT, his graduate studies with David Hardt and David Trumper focused on centrifugal casting and hot embossing of microfluidic devices, mechatronics, precision engineering, and atomic force microscopy. His graduate and postdoctoral research has led to co-authored journal publications in Precision Engineering, Lab on a Chip, Angewandte Chemie, Advanced Materials, PNAS, and Polymer Engineering and Science, along with conference proceedings for ASME, SPIE, the Society of Plastic Engineers (SPE), the International Symposium for Nanomanufacturing (ISNM), and the International Conference on Micromanufacturing (ICOMM). Between graduate degrees, Aaron worked at Fusion Optix, a startup company in the Boston area, developing and manufacturing optical films for diffusing light. His areas of future research include design and manufacturing techniques for soft materials with emphasis in energy harvesting, flexible electronics, and robotics.