Finding new ways to use functional materials

Finding new ways to use functional materials

Wei Xue leads the microsensors and microelectronics lab team at Rowan University.

Wei Xue, Ph.D.

Mechanical engineer

Areas of expertise:

Functional materials, soft robotics, composites

More information

Mechanical engineering is more than just building cars and airplanes. Engineers need to develop an understanding of materials—their limitations and their potential to be used in new ways.

Wei Xue, Ph.D., an associate professor and interim head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, studies functional materials, which have unique characteristics, such as insulating and sensing properties.

“You can use these materials to detect pressure or to detect motion,” Xue said. “Some of these functional materials can be built into more advanced structures like flexible, wearable electronics or wearable sensors. They can either be attached to the skin or the clothing and then they can monitor the condition of the person wearing these devices.”

Other applications for functional materials include as insulators for power and energy systems on ships, helping to prevent a power outage, for example.

Xue’s research has been supported by the U.S. Navy since 2017 through two grants totaling nearly $1 million. This research involves creating new insulators for the ships’ high-power energy systems.

Xue is also supported by the National Science Foundation to study soft materials for robotics. These soft robots have greater flexibility allowing them more functionality than rigid robots. 

The throughline of Xue’s work is taking materials that aren't typically used in these applications and utilizing them in novel ways. 

“Any engineering application involves a lot of materials research,” Xue said. “For me, I try to use my engineering knowledge to come up with new material solutions to make future systems better.”

Rowan University researchers are passionate about what they do. Find more at Meet Our Researchers.