Cockrell School of Engineering

The University of Texas at Austin

Nanshu Lu Receives NSF CAREER Award for Flexible, Wearable Electronics Research

Nanshu Lu

Nanshu Lu with the fume head and spinner in the Stretchable and Bio-Integrated Electronics Lab.

Assistant Professor Nanshu Lu is one of four Cockrell School of Engineering faculty members selected to receive the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award in 2014. NSF recognized Lu for research that could eventually lead to wearable electronics powered by the mechanical energy of body motion.

The prestigious NSF CAREER Program offers awards to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their organization’s mission.

Lu was awarded for her project “Flexoelectricity of Nanomaterials on Deformable Substrates.” The goal of this research project is to enhance electromechanical coupling, the process that transforms a mechanical action into an electrical impulse or vice versa, at a nanoscale level by using flexoelectricity. Flexoelectricity is a form of electrical polarization that works well with nanomaterials. If successful, the proposed research will enable better performing nanoelectrical systems (NEMS). As part of the project, Lu will provide research opportunities for undergraduate and high school students.

The Lu Research Group investigates the mechanics and materials of stretchable and bio-integrated electronics. The ultimate goal is to help develop high-quality, multifunctional flexible electronics in forms that can conform to the soft, curvilinear and time-dynamic surfaces of the human body for sensing, stimulation and energy harvesting. Lu’s research has led to the design and construction of various health-related inventions, including the electronic tattoo (ultra-thin, wearable electronics), the smart fingertip, and the 3D electronic sock for the heart.

Lu joined the ASE/EM department in 2011. Last fall, the National Academy of Engineering’s 19th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium featured Lu as a speaker on the topic of mechanics and materials of bio-integrated electronics. NAE also published her invited review article in The Bridge, a quarterly magazine. In 2012, MIT Technology Review in 2012 named Lu world’s top 35 innovators under the age of 35. She received the NetExplo Grand Prix in 2013