Dr. Donglei (Emma) Fan


Dr. Donglei (Emma) Fan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering of The University of Texas at Austin. She received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from the honor program, Department of Intensive Instruction (DII) of Nanjing University (NJU), and doctorate degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in 2007. She also obtained a master's degree in Electrical Engineering from JHU. Dr. Fan was a Postdoctoral Fellow at JHU before joining UT-Austin as an Assistant Professor in 2010. Prof. Fan’s research focuses on exploiting the fundamental magnetic, optical, chemical, and mechanical properties of materials for innovative design, manufacturing, assembly, and manipulation of nanomaterials for applications in micro/nanorobotics, stimulus responsive devices, biochemical sensing, single-cell biocue delivery, solar steaming for water treatment, and flexible self-powered systems. Prof. Fan’s research has spurred a series of publications on leading journals including Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Communications, Science Advances, Physical Review Letters, Advanced Materials, and ACS Nano. She has five granted patents and five pending patents/disclosures.


Prof. Fan received the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award in 2012. Her work on bottom-up assembling of inorganic nanomotors was ranked as #3 of "10 discoveries that will shape the future in 2014" by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Focus magazine and highlighted by Science Year by Year published by DK Smithsonian in 2017. She was featured by "Woman in Nanoscience", an NSF sponsored scientific blog highlighting achievements of female scientists in US, and was honored as a recognized mentor by the Siemens Foundation in 2012. Dr. Fan has won multiple awards in national/provincial K12 competitions in physics and biology in China, and received early admission to NJU, exempted from the National College Entrance Examination.



The successful development of nanoscale machineries, which can operate with high controllability, long lifetime, and tunable driving power, is an essential step towards the realization of future intelligent nanorobots. In this talk, I will discuss our recent progress in the design, assembling and actuation of an innovative type of rotary nanoelectromechanical (NEMS) motors made from nanoscale building blocks. Arrays of rotary nanomachines can be efficiently assembled and rotated with controlled angle, chirality and speed up to 18,000 rpm, the same magnitude of that of jet engine. The nanomachines have all dimensions less than 1 µm. More importantly, they can operate for at least 80 hours with a total of 1.1 million cycles, the longest device lifetime that has been reported. By exploiting the nanoscale magnetic interactions, nanoscale step-motors that can rotate to arbitrary angular positions have been developed. By leveraging the interactions of electric fields, materials, and light, reconfigurable micromachine arrays have been obtained. The micromotors can be assembled at designated locations in microfluidic channels for pumping and mixing. They are further equipped with sensing capabilities as motorized sensors, which can actively tune biochemical release rate, enhance the efficiency of DNA capture and detection, and monitor the processes in quasi-real time. These works bring the micro/nanomachines a step closer to practical applications.

Institute of Medical Robotics

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