Transport, Colloids, and Interface Science

The soft matter engineering group pursues excellence in theoretical, computational and experimental expertise in synthesis, characterization and processing of soft matter. The group  focuses on providing smart, holistic, engineering solutions to challenging problems in soft matter which fall under the two key areas of national interest, namely Energy and Environment and Health and Hygiene. The research problems can be further classified under the following five broad areas of chemical engineering, namely, (i) Hydrodynamics, Rheology and Granular Flows, (ii) Nano-structured Materials, (iii) Micro-fluidics and Micro-devices, (iv) Colloids and Interface Engineering, and (v) Electro-hydrodynamics. The general approach in the Soft Matter Engineering group has been to provide innovative solutions with an emphasis on fundamentals. The diverse expertise available in the department to address problems at  microscopic, mesoscopic and continuum scales ensures a multi-scale understanding of any problem, a typical characteristic of soft matter. One of the major thrust areas of the soft matter engineering group is in synthesizing and developing new materials (biomaterials, composites, other soft materials) and uncovering the properties and applications of these materials, by investigating their structure and dynamics through experiments, theory and simulations. Specifically, under the broad area of Energy and Environment, the faculty of the soft matter research group focus on problems related to electro-emulsification, electro-spinning, electro-patterning, interplay of interfacial rheology and electric fields, tribology of soft  interfaces, dynamics of charging/discharging process in conducting polymers, physics of film formation and cracking of paints and coatings, atomization processes applied to combustion, microfluidics as a tool for generation of polymer based nanomaterials, dynamics of particle laden fluid flows, hydrodynamics of hydraulic jumps and cavitation, shear banding in amorphous solids, and development of molecular models to predict materials properties for catalysis and electronics applications. In the broad area of Health and Hygiene, the faculty are interested in problems related to development of aerogels for drug delivery from synthetic and natural materials, development of microfluidic devices for biological studies such as cell sorting and behavioral studies of microorganisms such as C. elegans, biophysics of bacterial locomotion, and physics of liposomes and elastic capsules. As the soft matter engineering group looks to the future, it aims to work on problems that are critical to the needs of the nation. These include design of hierarchically structured materials for carbon capture, energy storage, and water purification, suite of porous nanoparticle hosts for sensing, catalysis and drug delivery and mathematical models to address size and shape-controlled nanoparticle synthesis technologies for energy generation, harvesting and storage; and building lab-on chip technology for diagnostics and therapeutics and for sensing of trace molecules in air and water.

Sub Research areas

Development of simulators for dielectrophoretic, electroporation and Electrofusion devices

The sorting of biological cells and vesicles and characterisation for their electro-mechanical properties are important in biotechnological applications as well as developing a fundamental understanding of the response of cells and vesicles to electric fields.  Over the years, our group has developed a fair amount of understanding of response of giant vesicles and cells to electric fields, uniform and nonuniform, AC and DC fields.  This project aims to further that understanding to actual applications of continuous electric field cell devices such as electroporators, electrofusion and diele

Pancreas on a chip to understand nanoparticle mediated drug delivery for killing of pancreatic cancer-cells

Pancreatic cancer is one of the cancers having the lowest 5-year survival rate, because of its late diagnosis and availability of only a couple of known drugs with very moderate increase in patient’s survival. Based on our earlier work, we have shown that, nanoparticle mediated delivery of existing drugs can enhance the cytotoxicity in cancer cells.

Preparation and Characterization of Three Dimensional Graphene

Three dimensional (3D) graphene has applications as adsorbents as well as electrodes for capacitive deionisation. It is formed by reduction of graphene oxide where three dimensional structure is formed by self-assembly of reduced graphene sheets. In this work, the following aspects will be studied: 

(i) dynamics of formation of 3D graphene from graphene oxide

(ii) shape and surface area of the resulting structure

(iii) strength of the 3D graphene network 

(iv) incorporation of silver nanoparticles for applications such as disinfection of water

Design and synthesis studies of porous/catalytic materials

The synthesis of porous catalytic materials has profound impact in the chemical industries. The effectiveness of these materials is governed by the structure and surface morphology which is controlled by the synthesis parameters (such as temperature, synthesis time, pH, additives). This project is aimed at understanding role of synthesis parameters for the better control over porosity, surface morphology and structure of porous catalytic materials using simulations and possible experiments.

Chemical sensor development for water contaminants and technology for their removal

Continuous monitoring of water quality parameters, like total dissolved solids, heavy metals, inorganic ions, organic pollutants an important measurement, to ascertain quality and use of a water body. This is critical for both a flowing water-stream (river, canal) or a stagnant water-pool, like a lake.

Engineering nanoparticle shape and reaction rates: Multiscale modeling, simulation and applications

Nanoparticles show new and interesting properties different from bulk materials due to their extremely small size (diameter), large specific surface area and spatial anisotropy. It is thus critical to understand the variables that control its synthesis, leading to a desired application. Control of mean nanoparticle size, particle size distribution and specially, anisotropic particle shapes - like cylindrical nanorods, is the first step in many of these applications, involving enhanced adsorption and reaction rates.