Materials Science

Professor Zheng Abstract

Zheng pic

Professor Jie Zheng
University of Akron
Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
From Fundamentals to Design of Multifunctional Soft Materials



Nature designs a vast library of soft materials in living bodies to fulfil many unique and specific functions, including strong mechanics, high actuation and sensitivity, better biocompatibility, and fast self-healing property. Sure nature soft materials offer a rich reservoir for rational design and engineering of synthetic soft materials (i.e. hydrogels). Synthetic polymer hydrogels as soft-wet materials, consisting of three-dimensional cross-linked networks and a large amount of water (50–90%), possess many unique properties such as swelling/deswelling, stimuli-responsiveness, shock absorption, and low sliding friction, making them as potential excellent biomimetics for substitution of soft living materials. However, åconventional hydrogels often suffer from weak mechanical properties, which greatly limit their extensive uses for many other applications. In this talk, we will present different design strategies to prepare tough and multifunctional hydrogels with unconventional polymer network architectures and extraordinary properties. Guided by our design principle, we will demonstrate different hydrogels with high mechanical properties, self-healing, actuation, mechanoresponse, antifouling, and/or wound healing to mimic cartilages, artificial muscles, and mussel-inspired glues. In parallel, molecular simulations will be presented to given atomic-details of structure-properties relationship. Finally, several unique aspects for future development of tough hydrogels will be suggested.


Jie Zheng is Professor of Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Akron. He received his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Zhejiang University, China in 1995 and Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Washington in 2005. He was a research scientist working at Prof. Ruth Nussinov lab at NCI, NIH, before joining the faculty at U. Akron in 2007. He was then early tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2012 and Full Professor in 2016. Zheng is the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, 3M Non-Tenure Faculty Award, and Anton Award from National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing. His main research interest focuses on design of better bio-inspired, bio-functional, and bio-mimetic soft materials for engineering and biomedical applications. He is author of 130+ journal papers, with a total citation of 5700+ times and an h-index of 38.