Innovations at Interfaces: From Energy to Biomedical Applications


Monday, April 3, 2023 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm


ESB 1001


Professor Kripa K. Varanasi

Physico-chemical interactions at interfaces are ubiquitous in multiple industries including energy, water, agriculture, medicine, transportation, and consumer products. In this talk, I will summarize how surface/interface chemistry, morphology, thermal, and electrical properties can be engineered across multiple length scales for significant efficiency enhancements in a wide range of processes. These approaches can involve both passive and active manipulation of the interface. First, we will describe a wide range of slippery interfaces that can significantly reduce interfacial friction for efficient dispensing of viscous products, enhance thermal transport in heating & cooling systems, and provide self-healing barriers for protection against scaling. We will describe active approaches such as engineering charge transfer to alter multiphase flows for water harvesting, anti-dust systems for solar, and reducing agricultural run-off to solve important problems at the energy-water and water-agriculture nexus. Next, we will describe our efforts in enhancing electrochemical and biological capture and conversion of CO2 by addressing interfacial bottlenecks. In parallel, we will discuss biomedical applications where surfaces can be engineered to prevent thrombosis and biofilm formation, tailor cell adhesion and protein adsorption, and can enhance biomanufacturing value chain. Inspired by these slippery surfaces, we present a new methodology to inject highly viscous biologics subcutaneously to expand the range of injectable formulations and make healthcare more accessible. We then describe novel approaches for protein separation via undersaturated crystallization that is promoted via in-situ templating and how such an approach could enable continuous biomanufacturing. Finally, we present both passive and active techniques for preventing foam buildup in bioreactors. Our approach is non-invasive and eliminates the need to use defoamers so that cell-death due to popping of bubbles is prevented and reactor space is optimally utilized. Manufacturing and scale-up approaches, robust materials and processes, and entrepreneurial efforts to translate these technologies into useful products and markets will also be discussed.

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