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Lei Zhou
October 25, 2023

New NSF robotics and manufacturing awards for Lei Zhou

Written By: Caitlin Scott


Congratulations to Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Lei Zhou on her two new grants from NSF!

Next-Generation Safe and Dexterous Robot Hands using High-Torque Direct-Drive Actuation

Skillfully and safely manipulating objects with a sufficiently strong robot hand is highly desirable for factory and warehouse automation applications. However, today’s robot hands often cannot simultaneously offer high strength with dexterity and safety due to major limitations in actuation technology. To address this challenge, this project will fundamentally advance the robotic actuation solution through creating new magnetically geared motors with potential to exhibit high torque and excellent interaction capabilities simultaneously, and will evaluate the new actuation through developing new robot hands with proprioceptive sensing and dexterous manipulation.

Zhou shared, “We are excited to start working on high-torque and transparent electric machines to enable new high-performance robotic actuation solutions, and we look forward to working together with Dr. Ashish Deshpande at UT-Austin to explore the new robotic capabilities endowed by the advances in actuation technology.” The award is $565,968 for 3 years. Read more via NSF.

Wafer-Scale Ultrathin Layered Device Array Assembly through a Precision Soft-Robotic Stamp Transfer Process

Monolayer materials such as graphene can be vertically stacked into van der Waals heterostructures (vdWH) to realize new ultrathin layered optoelectronic, electronic, and quantum devices, which have significant potential to revolutionize nanoelectronics for a wide range of applications. Current assembly of vdWH-based devices is mainly through manual operation, which lacks the precision, repeatability, and scalability needed to manufacture vdWH-based device arrays at scale.

This award supports the research for a new assembly approach using a novel soft-robotic stamp transfer process with precision alignment and in-process adhesion control. “We will use our core expertise on precision engineering and instrumentation to conduct fundamental research that removes technical barriers towards the deterministic assembly of monolayer-based device arrays,” shared Zhou. The research has strong potential to enable high-throughput and high-yield manufacturing of vdWH-based device arrays and circuits for next-generation transparent displays, sensor arrays, and logic and memory circuits.

Zhou is collaborating with Prof. Jamie Warner at UT-Austin on this 3 year, $520,934 award. “We are grateful that the award will allow us to have this valuable interdisciplinary collaboration with experts in material sciences to make advances in nanomanufacturing technology.” Read more via NSF.

Top photo: Assistant Professor Lei Zhou is pictured in the Mechatronics lab. Photo: Joel Hallberg