The Bellan Lab for Advanced Materials at Vanderbilt University focuses on developing scalable fabrication techniques for making microfluidic materials with unique properties. We use these microfluidic materials for biomedical, structural, and energy related applications, keeping in mind that the processes involved should be easily translated to large-scale manufacturing lines.
Materials with micro- or nanofabricated features can respond in intelligent ways to external stimuli and can serve to mimic living systems. However, the vast majority of techniques used to produce such materials are either derived from the semiconductor industry or are based on rapid prototyping approaches, hindering the development and widespread use of patterned smart materials. Because these conventional techniques were developed to fabricate devices, they are not necessarily well suited to produce materials. Devices typically require precise placement of functional elements and do not necessarily extend significantly in all three dimensions, whereas materials (which often must have significant extent in all three dimensions) often depend more on feature density and patterns, and not necessarily perfectly reproduced structures. A major focus of our lab is to develop non-traditional fabrication techniques that are well-suited to producing such microfluidic materials.