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2018 Winner: Mathias Kolle, PhD

Lead Scientist, Laboratory of Bio-inspired Photonic Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Assistant Professor, MIT


Revealing optimal pressure in compression therapy using color-changing fibers

Among the many challenges for patients with traumatic injuries are painful leg ulcers, hematoma, and burn-related scars. Millions of patients in the United States alone suffer from these conditions. They are frequently treated by applying pressure to affected tissue with bandages—an approach known as compression therapy. To enable optimal healing with this approach, the pressure exerted on the patient’s body must be right. Currently, even medical professionals struggle to correctly assess bandage pressure, leading to prolonged treatments and increased costs. To address this challenge, Kolle’s team uses bio-inspired fibers that change their color when deformed. Integrated in bandages, the fiber color indicates the correct pressure level. By eliminating ambiguity in adjusting bandages, the team hopes to improve the effectiveness of compression therapy, shorten treatment duration, increase the therapy success rate, and decrease soaring medical costs.


Mathias Kolle, PhD, focuses on unique biological light manipulation concepts and the development of bio-inspired, adaptive, and actively tunable micro-optical materials and devices. He heads the laboratory of Bio-inspired Photonic Engineering in the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT, where his group is developing novel optical technologies for applications in healthcare, imaging, and energy harvesting. Kolle joined the faculty of MIT as an assistant professor in November 2013. Prior to that, he held a Feodor Lynen research fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt – Foundation for postdoctoral studies at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of Harvard University. He earned his degree in physics from the Saarland University in Germany and the University of Lorraine in France in 2006. Kolle then continued his graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in the UK at the Cavendish Laboratories, where he received his PhD in 2010.

Topological mechanics of knots and tangles
Q&A with Mathias Kolle and Ben Miller: Innovators Create Scalable Color-Changing Compression Bandages

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