Current Research

Our experiments provide simultaneous measurement of normal (or shear) forces and distances between surfaces down to angstrom level. This will lead to unprecedented insights into adhesion, friction, wear, and corrosion between thin films of metals, polymers, organics, metals, minerals, and biomaterials. Typical forces of interaction include hydrophobicity, electrostatics, van der Waals, hydration, and Lewis acid-base interactions. We are also applying computational tools to understand the molecular basis of these forces. ​
We are investigating proton transfer reactions (e.g. catalysis, polymerization, and acid-base neutralization) and specific ion effects at the air-water interface—an archetypical interface between water and hydrophobic media. Resulting insights will enhance our understanding of chemistries in clouds and at the interface of oceans and the atmosphere. in lms of water are also implicated in contact electrication at solid interfaces, e.g. PTFE and aluminum.
We are investigating mechanisms underlying enhanced oil recovery when cores are flooded with low salinity water (‘smartwater’). This process involves complex non-equilibrium interactions between minerals, crude oils, asphaltenes, brines, and ‘smartwater’. A systematic investigation of roles of overlapping electrical double layers across thin liquid films, hydrated ions, surface potentials, interfacial tensions, mineral dissolution and precipitation reactions is underway.​
We are creating omniphobic (or omniphilic) coatings via micro- or nano-fabrication techniques for prevention of biofouling and scaling. We are also curious about wetting of natural surfaces, such as flowers, spider webs, and wings of butterflies.