Faculty Research Highlight Featuring Michael Bartlett


Dr. Michael Bartlett, the newest assistant professor in MSE recently had his research from his postdoc position at Carnegie Mellon University published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

Bartlett currently specializes in Soft Materials and Structures.  He is working to create soft materials with unconventional properties, including “smart” adhesives, deformable electronics and robotics and adaptive materials. 

Dr. Bartlett’s Research Website

What is the problem being solved in his recent research? 

Soft materials typically exhibit poor heat transfer properties. This is limiting for wearable computing, soft robotics, and other

thubber stretched with thermal images

emerging applications that require both high thermal conductivity and low mechanical stiffness. 


What were the results of the research? 

By incorporating liquid metal microdroplets into a soft elastomer, we achieve metal-like thermal conductivity with low mechanical stiffness. This exceptional combination exploits the deformability of the liquid metal inclusions to create thermally conductive pathways when stretched. These materials can keep stretchable electronics and bioinspired robotics cool. The new soft material created is called “thubber.” 

swimming soft robot


Why is this research significant?

Efficient thermal transport is critical for applications ranging from electronics and energy to emerging domains like wearable computing and soft robotics, which require thermally conductive materials that are also soft and stretchable. We create elastomer composites embedded with elongated inclusions of liquid metal that function as thermally conductive pathways. These composites exhibit an extraordinary combination of low stiffness, and metal-like thermal conductivity that far exceeds any other soft materials.

Read the full research report here

Read the press release from Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering here