Back to Faculty Directory
Photo of Fan, Donglei
Office Location: GLT 3.344

Donglei "Emma" Fan


Robert & Jane Mitchell Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Engineering

Department Research Areas:
Advanced Design and Manufacturing
Advanced Materials Science and Engineering
Biomechanical and Biomedicine Engineering
Clean Energy Technology
Nano and Micro-scale Engineering
Robotics and Intelligent Mechanical Systems
Complex Systems

Dr. Donglei "Emma" Fan is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a faculty member of the Materials Science and Engineering Program and the Texas Materials Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Fan received two prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the NSF Mid-Career Advancement Award (2022) and the NSF CAREER Award (2012). Dr. Fan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2021) and an invited Official Nominator of the Japan Prize (2017). She also is the 2022 Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering Ilene Busch-Vishniac Lecturer; the lectureship "features outstanding women in engineering and highlights the intellectual contributions of the lecturers while serving to inspire young women to pursue degrees and careers in engineering". Recently, Dr. Fan has been elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) to be officially inducted in March 2024.

Prof. Fan's research program focuses on the fabrication, manipulation, and assembly of intelligent, active micro/nanoscale structures, 3D hierarchical porous materials, and stimulus-responsive materials via understanding and exploiting fundamental materials science, physics, and chemistry. The efforts aim at addressing critical problems in robotics, sensing, biomedicine, and water treatment. She also develops precision tools used in biomedical research. She is an inventor of the patent awarded "Electric Tweezers" technique that can precisely manipulate longitudinal nanoscale materials in aqueous suspension by combined AC and DC electric fields with a precision of 20 nm in positioning and 0.5 degrees in angle under a standard microscope. Her team also discovered the effect of light-semiconductor-electric-field interaction that can be applied to realize multimodal reconfigurable nanodevices.

Prof. Fan's research has spurred a series of publications in leading journals, including Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Communications, Science Advances, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Physical Review Letters, and Advanced Materials. Dr. Fan is particularly interested in technology transfer and entrepreneurship. She is an inventor of eight granted patents and a few pending patents. One patent has been licensed to a startup company.

Prof. Fan received her Ph.D. degree in Materials Science and Engineering and two MS degrees, one in Materials Science and another in Electric Engineering, all from The Johns Hopkins University. She received an interdisciplinary education in both chemistry and physics from the Department of Intensive Instruction at Nanjing University, China, an honor program designed for talented undergraduates. She received early admission to the honor program, exempted from the National College Entrance Examination and awarded with a Freshman Merit Scholarship. 

Besides science and technology, Dr. Fan enjoys reading, music, art, nature, and animals.

Selected Publications
  1. Huaizhi Li, Daniel Teal, Zexi Liang, Hyunah Kwon, David Huo, Alison Jin, Peer Fischer, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Precise Electrokinetic Position and 3D Orientation Control of a Nanowire Bioprobe in Solution,” Nature Nanotechnology, doi: 10.1038/s41565-023-01439-7 (2023) (link). Reported by Nature Nanotechnology News and Views: electric kinetic manipulation of a nanowire.

  2. Zexi Liang#*, Hyungmok Joh#, Bin Lian, and Donglei Emma Fan*, “Light-Stimulated Micromotor Swarms in an Electric Field with Accurate Spatial, Temporal, and Mode Control,” Science Advances, 9, eadi993 (2023) (link).
  3. Zexi Liang, Daniel Teal, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*,”Light Programmable Micro/Nanomotors with Optically Tunable In-Phase Electric Polarization,” Nature Communications, 10, 5275 (2019) (link).

  4. Jingang Li, Yaoran Liu, Linhan Lin, Mingsong Wang, Taizhi Jiang, Jianhe Guo, Pavana Siddhartha Kollipara, Yuji Inoue, Donglei (Emma) Fan, Brian A. Korgel, Yuebing Zheng, “Solid-phase optical nanomanipulation via optothermally-gated photon nudging,” Nature Communications, 10, 5672 (2019) (link).

  5. Zexi Liang and Donglei Fan*, “Visible-Light-Gated Reconfigurable Rotary Actuation of Electric Nanomotors”, Science Advances, 4, eaau0981 (2018). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau0981 (link), featured by UT NewsNano TodayMaterials TodayIEEE Spectrum, Forbes, ASEE First Bell, Science Daily, Physorg, EurekAlert, and The Daily Texan, among numerous news agencies.

  6. K. Kim#, X. B. Xu#, J. H. Guo# and Donglei Fan*, ” Ultrahigh-Speed Rotating Nanoelectromechanical System Devices Assembled from Nanoscale Building Blocks”, Nature Communications, 5, 3632 (2014) (link).

  7. D. Fan#, Z. Z. Yin#, R. Cheung, F. Q. Zhu, A. Levchenko, R. C. Cammarata, C. L. Chien and A. Levchenko, “Sub-cellular resolution delivery of a cytokine via precisely manipulated nanowires”, Nature Nanotechnology, 5, 545, (2010).(link)
    Featured story by Nature Nanotechnology volume 5, page 481: “Nanowires have cells in their sights”, July, 2010. Highlighted by National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, and news agencies including Sciencedaily, Physorg, Chemical Views, Nanotechwire, Eurekalert, etc.

  8. Xianfu Luo, Weigu Li#, Zexi Liang#, Yifei Liu, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Portable Bulk-Water Disinfection by Live Capture of Bacteria with Divergently Branched Porous Graphite in High-Frequency Electric Fields,” ACS Nano, doi:10.1021/acsnano.2c12229 (2023) (link). Reported by UT-Austin News, KVEU Station, Fox4, KXAN Station, New York Post, etc. 

  9. Yun Huang, Jianhe Guo, Yufan Li, Huaizhi Li, Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “2D-Material-Integrated Micromachines: Competing Propulsion Strategy and Enhanced Bacterial Disinfection”, Advanced Materials, 34, 2203082, doi:10.1002/adma.202203082 (2022) (link).

  10. Hyungmok Joh and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Materials and Schemes of Multimodal Reconfigurable Micro/nanomachines and Robots: Review and Perspective,” Advanced Materials, 33, 2101965 doi:10.1002/adma.202101965 (2021) (link).

  11. Yun Huang, Kang Yu, Huaizhi Li, Kai Xu, Zexi Liang, Debora Walker, Paulo Ferreira, Peer Fischer, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Scalable Fabrication of Molybdenum Disulfide Nanostructures and their Assembly,” Advanced Materials, 32, 2003439, (2020) (link), featured by UT Cockrell School of EngineeringNCYTAzoMaterialsNanowerkEurekAlertAzonanoScienMag and

  12. Jianhe Guo#, Zexi Liang#, Yun Huang, Kwanoh Kim, Peter Vandeventer, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Acceleration of Biomolecule Enrichment and Detection with Rotationally Motorized Opto-plasmonic Microsensors and the Working Mechanism,” ACS Nano, 14, 15204–15215, doi: 10.1021/acsnano.0c05429 (2020) (link), featured by UT Cockrell School of EngineeringScience DailyPhys.orgThe Medical NewsScienMagEurekAlert, and AzoSensors.

  13. Weigu Li, Yun Huang, Yifei Liu, Marshall Tekell, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Three Dimensional Nanosuperstructures Made of Two-Dimensional Materials by Design: Synthesis, Properties, and Applications”, Nano Today doi: 10.1016/j.nantod.2019.100799 (2019) (link).

  14. Weigu Li, Zheng Li, Karina Bertelsmann, and Donglei Fan*, “Portable Low-Pressure Solar Steaming-Collection Uni-system with Polypyrrole Origamis,” Advanced Materials, 31, 1900720 (2019) doi:10.1002/adma.201900720 (link), featured by UT News, UT ME News, NSF News, PBS TV station, First Bell,, Science Daily, and ECN among many news agencies.

  15. Jianhe Guo, Jeremie J. Gallegos, Ashley R. Tom, and Donglei (Emma) Fan*, “Electric-Field Guided Precision Manipulation of Catalytic Nanomotors for Cargo Delivery and Powering Nanoelectromechanical Devices,” ACS Nano, 12, 1179-1187 (2018) doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b06824 (link).

  16. Weigu Li, Marshall Tekell, Yun Huang, Max Lau, and Donglei Fan*, “Synergistic High-Rate Solar Steaming and Mercury Removal with MoS2/C @ Polyurethane Composite Sponges”, Advanced Energy Materials, 8, 1802108 (2018) DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201802108 (link), featured by The Daily Texan.

  17. Weigu Li, Marshall C Tekell, Chang Liu, Jacob A Hethcock, and Donglei Fan*, “Flexible All-Solid-State Supercapacitors of High Areal Capacitance Enabled by Porous Graphite Foams with Diverging Microtubes,” Advanced Functional Materials, DOI:10.1002/adfm.201800601 (2018) (link).

  18. Jianhe Guo, Andrew Chan, Weigu Li, and Donglei Fan*, “Kirkendall Effect in Creating Three-Dimensional Metal Catalysts for Hierarchically Porous Ultrathin Graphite with Unique Properties,” Chemistry of Materials, 29, 4991–4998 (2017) DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.7b01518 (link).

  19. Weigu Li, Jianhe Guo, and Donglei Fan*, “Three-Dimensional Graphite-Polymer Flexible Strain Sensors with Ultrasensitivity and Durability for Real-Time Human Vital Sign Monitoring and Musical Instrument Education,” Advanced Materials Technologies, 2, 1700070 (2017) doi: 10.1002/admt.201700070 (link). (featured on the front cover)

  20. X. B. Xu, K. Kim and Donglei Fan*, “Tunable Release of Multiplex Biochemicals by Plasmonically-Active Rotary Nanomotors,” Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 54, 2525–2529 (2015) (link).

  21. K. Kim, J. H. Guo, X. B. Xu and D. L. Fan*, ” Micromotors with Step-Motor Characteristics by Controlled Magnetic Interactions among Assembled Components,” ACS Nano, 9, 548–554 (2015) (link).

  22. K. Kim, F. Q. Zhu, and Donglei Fan*, “Innovative Mechanism for Precision Assembling and Actuation of Arrays of Nanowire Oscillators, “ACS Nano, 7, 3476–3483 (2013) (link).

  23. X. B. Xu, K. Kim, H. Li, Donglei Fan*, ” Ordered Arrays of Raman Nanosensors for Ultrasensitive and Location Predictable Biochemical Detection, “Advanced Materials, 24, 5457 (2012) (link).(Ranked top 40 most accessed articles for August 16 and featured on the backcover of the journal)

  24. D. Fan*, F. Q. Zhu, R. C. Cammarata* and C. L. Chien, “Electric Tweezers,” Nano Today, 6, 339 (2011) (Invited article) (link).