Emergent Nanomaterials Lab


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We manipulate matter on the smallest of scales to create materials with emergent properties, characterized by novel and sometimes surprising features arising from the interactions of multiple bodies.

By synthesizing, assembling, combining and organizing nanoscale building blocks, we design technologies that enhance the quality of human lives in the domains of health, energy, sensory augmentation and self-expression.

Tech Tattoos


A tattoo is a body modification involving particles (typically pigments) embedded in the dermis layer of skin. Although tattooing has been practiced for thousands of years, innovations in particle science have not been brought to bear on this ancient technology. 

Our lab is re-thinking the tattoo ink as a way to permanently embed useful technologies in the skin. We are formulating tattoo inks that impart the skin with new conductive and sensing properties. We hope to use these "tech tattoos" to power biomedical devices and wearable technologies, monitor and diagnose health issues, and augment human sensing and self-expression.

See our tattoo research featured on CBS News, Colorado Public Radio, KUNC, CU Boulder Today, and the ATLAS Institute. Read Carson’s account of The Rise of Smart Tattoos, listen to the conversation on The Disruptors podcast, or watch the TEDx talk:

The Mechanical Bond

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The mechanical bond is a name we give to the interaction between parts that are entangled but not otherwise bonded, as in the links of a chain or a bead on a string. While it is easy to thread a bead on a string in the macroscopic world, this is not always the case on molecular, nano-, and microscopic length scales. 

We design molecules, macromolecules, and colloids that possess extra degrees of motional freedom attributable to the presence of mechanical bonds. These compounds form the basis of ultra-tiny machines and materials with unusual and potentially functional properties to suit a wide variety of applications in the domains of health and energy.  

Read The Nature of the Mechanical Bond, the definitive book on mechanically bonded molecules.