Overview

Interfacial Lab (iLab) is a curiosity-driven interdisciplinary research group composed of chemists, physicists, engineers and theorists. We investigate physical and chemical phenomena at interfaces of water with hydrophobic media, such as perfluorinated coatings, oils, and air, to advance basic science and address pressing technological challenges. Our research projects span from creating biomimetic coating-free surfaces for drag reduction (patent-pending), to measuring surfaces forces at angstrom-scale resolution, to probing chemical reactions in electrosprays and emulsions, to producing tons of superhydrophobic sand mulch (patent-pending) for conserving water and enhancing crop yield in desert agriculture. Thus, we use tools and techniques from physics, chemistry and engineering, such as Contact Angle Cells, High-Speed Imaging, the Surface Forces Apparatus, Atomic Force Microscopy, Zeta-Potential Cells, and supercomputers.


Overview-July7

Our doors are always open for brilliant, curiosity-driven graduate students and interns who thrive in a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural atmosphere. KAUST offers exceptional academic environment and infrastructure for scientific research through its outstanding faculty members, researchers, Core Laboratories and collaborations with excellent research institutions world wide.

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10 April, 2022

Effects of superhydrophobic sand mulching on evapotranspiration and phenotypic responses in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants under normal and reduced irrigation

Irrigated agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions is a vital contributor to the global food supply. However, these regions endure massive evaporative losses that are compensated by exploiting limited freshwater resources. To increase water-use efficiency in these giga-scale operations, plastic mulches are utilized; however, their non-biodegradability and eventual land-filling renders them unsustainable. In response, we have developed superhydrophobic sand (SHS) mulching technology that is comprised of sand grains or sandy soils with a nanoscale coating of paraffin wax. Here, we investigate the effects of 1 cm-thick SHS mulching on the evapotranspiration and phenotypic responses of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants as a model system under normal and reduced irrigation inside controlled growth chambers. Experimental results reveal that under either irrigation scenario, SHS mulching suppresses evaporation and enhances transpiration by 78% and 17%, respectively relative to the unmulched soil. Comprehensive phenotyping revealed that SHS mulching enhanced root xylem vessel diameter, stomatal aperture, stomatal conductance, and chlorophyll content index by 21%, 25%, 28%, and 23%, respectively, in comparison with the unmulched soil. Consequently, total fruit yields, total dry mass, and harvest index increased in SHS-mulched plants by 33%, 20%, and 16%, respectively compared with the unmulched soil. We also provide mechanistic insights into the effects of SHS mulching on plant physiological processes. These results underscore the potential of SHS for realizing food–water security and greening initiatives in arid regions.

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01 March, 2022

Study casts doubt on water microdroplets’ ability to spontaneously produce hydrogen peroxide

Scientists in Saudi Arabia have offered a new explanation for how hydrogen peroxide forms in water microdroplets produced by spraying and condensation.1 Led by Himanshu Mishra at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust), the group designed a set of experiments to show that water microdroplets are unable to produce hydrogen peroxide without the uptake and chemical transformation of ozone. In revealing the underlying mechanism of hydrogen peroxide production, they hope their work will help clarify recent speculation into this unique behaviour of water.

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