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2017 ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science Award Winner: Dr. Zhenan Bao

Zhenan Bao is the winner of the 2017 American Chemical Society Award in Applied Polymer Science.

Bao is a K.K. Lee Professor of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, and by courtesy, a Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Material Science and Engineering.

Now a naturalized US citizen, Zhenan Bao emigrated to US from China in 1990. She went to the University of Chicago to pursue graduate study with Prof. Luping Yu on synthesis of conjugated polymers. After obtaining her Ph.D. in 1995, she was offered a research position in Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies, at Murray Hill, NJ. It was at this time where she was exposed to multidisciplinary research programs, in which the disciplines of physics, chemistry and engineering where synergistically meshed to offer exciting new research opportunities. She was appointed a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff in 2001 in recognition of her accomplishments on printed plastic transistors and development of flexible electronic paper. After moving to Stanford in 2004 as an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, she proceed to assemble a research lab that is comprised of chemists, material scientists, physicists, and chemical, mechanical electrical and biological engineers. Her research focuses on understanding of design rules of electronic polymers for flexible and stretchable electronics.

The work in Bao group in the past five years has changed the state of polymer electronics. Her group uses human skin as the inspiration for electronic material design. Skin is the human body’s largest organ, and is responsible for the transduction of a vast amount of information. This conformable, stretchable and biodegradable material simultaneously collects signals from external stimuli that translate into information such as pressure, pain, and temperature. The development of electronic materials, inspired by the complexity of this organ is a tremendous, unrealized materials challenge. However, the advent of organic-based electronic materials may offer a potential solution to this longstanding problem. Bao’s group came up with new tactile sensor designs based on elastic polymers. This enabled them to develop an artificial skin that is so sensitive that it can sense the landing of a butterfly. They subsequently developed such sensors into a wireless version for intracranial brain pressure monitoring, a biodegradable version for cardiac monitoring. The initial discovery of tactile sensors further inspired them to develop a new generation of skin-inspired electronic materials that incorporate stretchability, self-healing and biodegradability.

Bao was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 2016. She is a Fellow of ACS, AAAS, MRS, SPIE, ACS PMSE and ACS POLY.  She has contributed over 450 refereed publications and over 60 US patents, along with a Google Scholar H-Index of 120. In addition, she has received numerous awards and recognitions, such as the L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Award in Physical Science in 2017, Nature Magazine’s 10 in 2015, Most influential Chinese Scientist in 2014. AICHE Andreas Acroivos Award for Professional Progress in Chemical Engineering 2014, ACS Polymer Division Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award 2013, ACS Author Cope Scholar Award 2011, Royal Society of Chemistry Beilby Medal and Prize 2009, IUPAC Creativity in Applied Polymer Science Prize 2008, American Chemical Society Team Innovation Award 2001, R&D 100 Award 2001. She was selected by MIT Technology Review magazine in 2003 as one of the top 100 young innovators. She is among the world’s top 100 materials scientists by Thomson Reuters.

Bao is a co-founder and on the Board of Directors for C3 Nano, a silicon-valley venture funded start-up commercializing flexible transparent electrodes.