Prof. Boxin Zhao
Boxin Zhao is a professor in the department of Chemical Engineering and member of the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology, Institute for Polymer Research, Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology at the University of Waterloo.
His research focuses on surface science and bionanomaterials, including smart polymers, biopolymers, sustainable polymers, antimicrobial coatings and composites, hydrogels, bionanomaterials, soft materials and interface, biomimetic adhesion, soft robotic devices, advanced manufacturing, etc. He has 100+ peer-refereed papers in top journals, including Macromolecules, Advanced Materials, Nature Materials and Progress in Polymer Sciences.
Professor Zhao is interested in the smart polymers that can change shape and colour and even conduct electrical current and heat. Due to their long-chain structure, polymers are highly flexible and can be readily filled with components such as nanoparticles and nanowires,
enabling many innovative applications (e.g. flexible electronics, smart windows and soft robotic fingers).
One particular interest is in the adhesion phenomena at the micro and nano scales. Effective adhesion between similar or dissimilar material components has become one of the most critical prerequisites for advanced manufacturing at ever-smaller scales. As a result, Professor Zhao concentrates on the optimization of polymer adhesive materials.
Professor Zhao studies biomimicry, which involves biological systems such as lotus leaves, gecko adhesive pads, mussel adhesive plaque and biofilms. He has been studying reversible adhesive properties of gecko footpads. He has conducted theoretical and experimental investigation into the adhesion and friction forces that characterize the gecko’s foot hairs and developed a Johnson-Kendall-Roberts friction model to interpret the dynamic behaviour. This biomimetic research has applications in biomedicine, as the adhesive can be used as an alternative to stitches, as well as a reconstructive material to reduce scarring when treating burn and cancer patients.
Professor Zhao develops advanced polymer composites and coatings as self-cleaning surfaces. One development is a superhydrophobic self-cleaning surface that can prevent the deposition and adhesion of liquid droplets. This includes the tiny respiratory droplets, expelled when talking and sneezing, that might contain infectious virus. Another development is antimicrobial coatings that can actively kill bacterial, fungi and virus.