University of California, Santa Barbara

2010 Best PhD Thesis Award: Transport Processes in Free Surface Microfluidics

February 1, 2010

Brian Piorek is the recepient of the 2010 Best PhD Thesis Award in Mechanical Engineering at UCSB, for his dissertation entitled "Transport Processes in Free Surface Microfluidics," completed in December 2008.

Brian’s research focused on micro- and nanotechnology approaches towards chemical sensor applications. He developed a novel architecture towards microfluidic system design that allows stable, multiphase lab-on-a-chip systems to be designed using common microchip fabrication equipment. Using this lab-on-a-chip platform, mass transport physics can be optimized for automatic, continuous collection of gas-phase materials for real-time, on-chip chemical analysis.

Brian’s work was part of a joint collaboration between Prof. Carl Meinhart in Mechanical Engineering, Prof. Martin Moskovits in Chemistry, and Prof. Sanjoy Banerjee in Chemical Engineering. The resulting technology is capable of detecting vapors emanated from high-explosives over a distance at room temperature and pressure and provides sensitivity and specificity performance for such applications which greatly surpass existing technologies. The results were reported in a 2007 article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

The technology has been shown to be orders of magnitude more sensitive than needed to detect concealed explosive devices as well as buried landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  To address the accelerating need for such safety measures as landmine and IED detection and removal, Brian co-founded the startup company SpectraFluidics, Inc. after completing his Ph.D. to commercialize the technology.  Brian currently serves as VP Research and Development at SpectraFluidics, which now employs about 10 people.

Brian will receive the 2010 Best PhD Thesis award at a cerimony on March 5, 2010. Congratulations!

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