Hong Zhao is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). With a scientific background in mechanical engineering, she is now in her fifth year at VCU after eight years working in industry.
Zhao’s current research focuses on discovering and understanding new self-assembly mechanisms of colloidal particles. Self-assembly is a process in which organized aggregates spontaneously form from individual components, with sizes ranging from the molecular to the macroscopic scale.
In Zhao’s group, they look at implementing colloidal nanoparticles in a large-scale printing process for micro/nano manufacturing. To learn more about this, check out her comprehensive paper published on the topic.
What is so exciting about this topic, according to Zhao, is the great variety of application perspectives for smart and functional devices fabricated by printing, such as printed electronics, energy-storage devices, or implantable medical devices. But—as so often in science—these processes are also linked with challenges; in her opinion, the main one remains the precise control of the assembly and patterning of colloidal particulates during the printing process, especially when it comes to low-dimensional anisotropic nanomaterials.
Zhao pursues the approach of forming well-ordered monolayer structures by assembling colloidal particles at the air–liquid interface, creating a new paradigm in generating coatings and functional devices through inkjet printing.
What drives Zhao to work hard and to strive for excellence in each of the roles that she takes is her sense of responsibility. She is inspired when she sees that her contributions have a positive impact on society, which fits well with her alternative career path; if she were not a scientist, Zhao thinks she would be a medical doctor.
When it comes to difficult decisions, she has always followed her mentor’s advice: “think about what and where you want to be in five years, prioritize your time and effort, and work towards your goal”.
In the future, in partnership with several collaborations, her group’s goals will focus on applying new printing processes to various low-dimensional materials, aiming at the fabrication of functional optical devices, wearable electronics, high-efficiency thermoelectrical devices, energy-storage devices, and anisotropic gradient magnetic devices.
In honor of the 5th anniversary of Advanced Materials Interfaces, please also watch out for additional articles and posts related to our celebration on Advanced Science News.