MSE 298 Seminar: Toward Rational Design of Smart Adhesives via Biomimetic Approach

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium (MDEA)
Travis Hu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor 
Department of Mechanical Engineering 
Cal State Los Angeles

Abstract: Countless organisms in nature have adapted high-aspect-ratio micro-/nano- fibrillar arrays on their functional surfaces for achieving special and often optimized functionalities using earthly abundant materials. Some prominent examples include lotus leaves, cactus spines, gecko toe pads, eyes of bees, spider silks and butterfly scales. These "natural designs" are intrinsically multifunctional, actively responsive to external stimuli, biocompatible, biodegradable, energy efficient/effective and tailored to a local and dynamic environment. At the core of nanoscience and nanotechnology, rationally mimicking nature offers a promising route to create multifunctional superstructures that capture organisms and biological materials’ intriguing responsive and self-adjusting properties. 

This presentation takes my research on gecko and bio-inspired fibrillar adhesive systems as a microcosm example to demonstrate that the convergence between engineering and biology, especially at the nano-regime, provides a rich topic with many promising avenues of investigation, research and development, which are highly desirable in the energy, biomedical, environmental and defense sectors. In fact, these little lizards are one of the remarkable examples of smart designs in nature, which hold the promise of revolutionizing how we bond things together and maneuver objects/matters in harsh and extreme conditions, e.g., in outer space exploration, inside the human body as sutures, as critical components of implants/semiconductors/electrodes and as therapeutic/regenerative biomaterials for drug delivery or tissue engineering purposes.

Bio: Hu is an associate professor of mechanical engineering with a background in applied mechanics and materials science. He currently serves as the department's principal graduate advisor for the master’s programs in ME and MSE. Before joining the faculty at Cal State LA in 2016, he worked as a teaching assistant professor in the department of mechanical and materials engineering at the University of Denver (DU). Prior to DU, he spent several years as a postdoctoral researcher at multiple institutes (i.e., Case Western Reserve University, University of Florida and University of Delaware) focusing on multifunctional and smart carbon, polymeric and hybrid materials for energy, biomedical and defense applications. 

Hu seeks organisms and biological systems as "elegant" models to solve intricate engineering problems in an energy-efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable manner. His areas of specialization focus on nanomechanics and nanomaterials, low dimensional materials, nanotribology, interfacial phenomena, biomimetics and biomimicry, multiscale modeling and simulation. His teaching interests are at the crossroads of solid mechanics and materials science and engineering, including statics, strength of materials, fracture mechanics, fatigue and failure, materials science and engineering, composites, nanomaterials and nanotechnology, materials characterization, molecular dynamics simulations and finite element analysis. Hu is also dedicated to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in STEM education and research training in multiple taskforces and outreach programs at Cal State LA and in his external grant applications, e.g., the ECST EDI Task Force, ECST FYrE program, NSF CREST and PREM Centers, NSF REU summer program, NSF RUI grant, DoD DURIP and Upward Bound Program.