Michael C. McAlpine
Professor McAlpine’s research is focused on 3D printing functional materials & devices. The ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological and functional materials could enable the creation of bioelectronic devices possessing unique and compelling geometries, properties, and functionalities. Indeed, interfacing high performance active devices with biology could impact a variety of fields, including regenerative bioelectronics, smart prosthetics, medical robotics, and human-machine interfaces. Biology, from the molecular scale of DNA and proteins, to the macroscopic scale of tissues and organs, is three-dimensional, often soft and stretchable, and temperature sensitive. This renders most biological platforms incompatible with the fabrication and materials processing methods that have been developed and optimized for functional electronics, which are typically planar, rigid and brittle. A number of strategies have been developed to overcome these dichotomies. One particularly novel approach is the use of extrusion-based multi-material 3D printing, which is an additive manufacturing technology that offers a freeform fabrication strategy. This approach addresses the dichotomies presented above by (1) using 3D printing and imaging for personalized, hierarchical, and interwoven device architectures; (2) employing nanotechnology as an enabling route for introducing high performance materials; and (3) 3D printing a range of soft and nanoscale materials to enable the integration of a diverse palette of high quality functional materials with biology. Moreover, 3D printing is a multi-scale platform, allowing for the incorporation of functional nanoscale inks, the printing of microscale features, and ultimately the creation of macroscale devices. This blending of 3D printing, functional materials, and ‘living’ platforms may enable next-generation 3D printed devices.