Newsweek magazine has named Jie Xu as one of America’s 50 “greatest disruptors”: visionaries, innovators and pioneers who are transforming the world through technology. Xu is an assistant scientist in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. She and the other disruptors were chosen on the basis of having developed technology that is driving major change in society or has clear and demonstrable potential to do so.
“Just imagine the next generation of electronics. It’s not going to be rigid anymore. It’s going to be soft, comfortable. It can even be biocompatible and biodegradable like our skin or plants.” — Jie Xu, Argonne assistant scientist
Newsweek magazine recognized Xu for her pioneering research on flexible, skin-like electronics that could someday transform people’s lives. What’s more, they are mass producible by a common industrial process. Applications include new wearable electronic technology, robots with skin-like coverings and on-skin medical sensors.
“Just imagine the next generation of electronics,” said Xu. “It’s not going to be rigid anymore. It’s going to be soft, comfortable. It can even be biocompatible and biodegradable like our skin or plants.”
In the past decades, silicon-based electronics have undergone great leaps forward, from the very first giant computer to today’s wearable technologies like Apple watches. These remarkable technologies have brought electronics closer and closer to our bodies. Moving forward, the next generation, like the flexible electronics being developed by Xu, will better monitor our health, treat disease, enhance prosthetics and more.
In Xu’s recent project, she has set up an autonomous discovery platform. Its purpose is to drive scientific discovery without human intervention by bringing together the power of robotics with high-performance computing and artificial intelligence (AI). At present, she is applying this new platform to develop new types of electronic materials for future flexible electronics, such as “green” electronics that are recyclable or degrade after use.
“With this new capability, we can attack the big problems that currently are beyond human reach and discover new solutions quickly,” said Xu.
Joining Xu on this inaugural list are household names, as well as CEOs, scientists, engineers, artists, musicians and others. One is biologist Katalin Karikó, whose research enabled rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Another is the celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is pioneering reusable rockets that send tourists into space and fostering AI enhancements to the brain. There’s also electrical and computer engineering professor Amay Bandodkar, who is developing lightweight batteries powered by human sweat.
Xu is on the staff of Argonne’s Nanoscience and Technology division, which houses the Center for Nanoscale Materials, a DOE Office of Science user facility. She is also a Consortium for Advanced Science and Engineering scientist in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and a Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering fellow at Northwestern University.
Xu’s achievements were also recognized by the editors of MIT Technology Review, who named her a 2021 Innovator Under 35.
About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://science.osti.gov/User-Facilities/User-Facilities-at-a-Glance.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.