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Hongbo Wang

Marie Curie Fellow (MSCA-IF-2017)

Research Line

Artificial Touch in Soft Biorobotics




Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34
+39 050 883021
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Hongbo Wang (王洪波) obtained his B.E. in Precision Instrumentation and Machinery (with solid background in both mechanical and electronic engineering, as well as applied physics) at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), Hefei, China in 2010. Then, he became a PhD student in Professor Zhihua Feng’s group to study precision sensors and actuators at the same institute. During his PhD, he developed several state-of-the-art sensors and sensing systems, from low-power, high resolution magnetometers, and eddy-current displacement sensors with sub-nanometer resolution and low thermal drift, to a non-contact metal film thickness measuring system. In June 2015, he received his PhD from USTC and was awarded with the President’s “Special Prize” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Hongbo Wang moved to England as a postdoctoral research fellow in June 2015, working on a Leverhulme Trust funded project on soft tactile sensors and sensing system optimization at the Surgical Technology Research Group (led by Dr Peter Culmer) in School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, UK. In this project, he developed tri-axis soft tactile sensors (MagOne) and sensing arrays (MagTrix) based on Hall-effect sensors, and soft inductive tactile sensors (SITS) based on Eddy-current effect.

In September 2017, he joined Dr Lucia Beccai’s Group (Artificial Touch in Soft Biorobotics) at Center for Micro-Biorobotics (@SSSA) of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Pontedera (Pisa), Italy. His current research focuses on developing 2D/3D stretchable strain and tactile sensors, and the associate design, materials, fabrication, powering, and data interpretation technologies, enabling them to be directly integrated into next generation robots (e.g. soft robots) and smart healthcare systems.

Hongbo Wang is a grantee of the Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (MSCA-IF-EF-2017). Since September, 2018, he has been working on his fellowship project "3D Stretchable Inductive Tactile Sensors for Soft Artificial Touch (3D-SITS)".


Recent Activities

 Special Issue "  Soft Perceptive Robots" - Robotics 

  • Guest Editors: Lucia Beccai, Kathryn Daltorio, Barbara Mazzolai, Hongbo Wang 
    Deadline: June 30, 2019


Soft Tactile Sensors Soft Robotics Stretchable strain sensors Functional Materials Inductive Sensors Sensing Electronics Wearable Systems


3D Stretchable Inductive Tactile Sensors for Soft Artificial Touch (3D-SITS), 09/2018-09/2020,

Project Logo Final marginTactile sensors are essential components that enable robotic systems to interact safely and effectively with humans and the environment, and also offer significant potential for use in modern healthcare systems. Compared to visual and auditory senses, the tactile sensory system provided by human skin is complex, consisting of large number of high performance, multi-modal sensory elements (mechanoreceptors) in soft 3D structures to extract information during interaction with objects. To be effectively applied in real-world environments, tactile sensors must have both high compliance and high performance, and also need to be durable and robust to the repeated physical interactions. Researchers seeking innovations in tactile sensing have explored and exploited new materials, novel composites/structures, fabrication techniques and transducer mechanisms. Although remarkable progress has been made in developing 2D flexible sensing skins, a third dimension in soft sensing technology should be investigated to emulate multimodal, highly sensitive mechanoreceptors, and ultimately the human sense of touch.

In this Marie Curie Fellowship Project (3D-SITS), I propose to use elastomers with embedded 2D/3D coils to form multi-modal, stretchable sensing nodes. By investigating this overlooked transducer mechanism, together with novel design and fabrication techniques, that allow us to build truly soft, durable, high-performance, distributed, 3D tactile sensing systems at component level (artificial receptors) and then system level (soft robotics and wearable skin), providing a leap forward in the area of artificial touch for the next generation of robots, wearable systems, and human–machine interfaces. 

  • A Wireless Inductive Sensing Technology for SPAs Using Magnetorheological Elastomers, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Italy. YouTube Video


Previous Projects

  • Inductive Tactile Sensors based on Eddy-current effect, University of Leeds, UK YouTube link
  • Tri-axis Soft Tactile Sensors based on Hall-effect Sensors, University of Leeds, UK YouTube link
  • Eddy-current Displacement Sensors with 0.07 nm Resolution, University of Science and Technology of China, China YouTube link



  • 2018: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship (MSCA-IF-2017).
  • 2017: One of the Best Papers (Top 5%) of the IEEE Sensors 2017, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.  
  • 2015: “Special Prize” of the CAS President Scholarship (CAS, Chinese Academy of Sciences).
  • 2015: “Gold Medal” at the 43rd International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 2014: “National Scholarship” of graduate students in China (PhD level).
  • 2014: “First Prize” in Eastern China of “2014 China (International) Transducer & Sensor Innovation Contest”, “Third Prize” in National Contest.


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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.