Emulating Biology To Engineer Dynamic Structures


The goal of our group is to uncover the physical laws and mathematical principles that govern the innate dynamic functions of living structures. Drawing inspiration from the actuation mechanisms and material architectures seen in musculoskeletal systems, we are seeking to mimic biological functions to provide insights into their complex yet elegant and efficient dynamics. These insights help us establish new scientific and engineering foundations for creating living structures that go beyond the typical design objectives such as strength, stiffness, toughness and low mass, towards a new class of structures capable of dynamic functions, such as actuation, sensing, self-healing, and adaptation.


The illimited LAB benefits greatly from collaborative interactions within the University of Washington, and with colleagues in U.S. and international research laboratories and centers. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of The illimited LAB, the scientific breakthroughs target applications such as adaptive and dynamic aeronautic and astronautic structures, flexible robots for health monitoring and inspection in constrained spaces, biomedical devices, self-actuated prosthetics, and wearable assisted actuators for elderlies. The alignment of our research with current funding opportunities in DoD, DoE, National Science Foundation, and various international organizations and industry is ensuring the financial support necessary for high impact research activities and an abundance of collaborative opportunities.

The current research efforts at the illimited lab are bringing new capabilities in multi-functional structures, architectured materials, soft actuators, and biomimicry to engineering engineered dynamic materials and living structures with distributive control for robotics and aerospace systems. The knowledge created at the illimited lab is transitioning to academia, Sandia National Laboratories, the US Department of the Navy, and nScript 3D Printing. Additional information on the illimited lab research projects and the lab outputs can be found on our research and publication tabs.

Our illimited Culture:

The lab culture is shaped by five principles [1-3]: (i) Autonomy, (ii) Mastery, (iii) Sense of Purpose, (iv) Common Purpose, and (v) Consensus. In this framework, the lab members feel the Autonomy when they believe that they are independent thinkers. Autonomy frees them to focus on continual Mastery by immersing themselves in the science to grow in their specialization. Subsequently, each team member feels a Sense of Purpose because their team (or community) values the mastery. When embracing the five principles; we go above and beyond to empower each other because we have created a Common Purpose for The illimited LAB guided by a common vision and mission. We understand that the success of our colleagues is our success. The common purpose, however, requires Consensus building.

To this end, we firmly believe it is imperative to nourish a collaborative culture within and beyond The illimited LAB, while still embracing our individual strengths. We will always adhere to Sutton’s golden rule [4].

The five principles plus Sutton golden rule are nourishing:

  • our nonhierarchical culture – facilitating the freedom for independent thinking to explore exciting scientific topics, to enjoy intellectual curiosities, to take risks, and to propel discoveries toward impactful technologies.
  • our commitment to societal impact – breaking from egoism to pioneer discoveries and inventions for the betterment of humanity and our planet.
  • our open science: creating and sharing ground-breaking technologies, knowledge, data, and designs

[1] D H Pink. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Books. 2011.

[2] S T McChrystal, T Collins and D Silverman. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. Portfolio 2015.

[3] H J Leavitt, and J Lipman-Blumen. Hot Groups. Harvard Business Review Jul-Aug Issue (1993).

[4] R I Sutton. The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. Business Plus, 2007.