PRISM/PCCM SEMINAR SERIES SPRING 2020: Rosa Maria Espinosa-Marzal, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 12:00 pm

This is a joint seminar with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

New Paradigms for Interfaces with Implications on the Nano- to the Kilometer Scale

My research is focused on advancing the science and engineering of interfaces to bridge the fundamental knowledge gap needed to advance the design of advanced materials, and thereby to address the Grand Challenges for Engineering ( This requires a fundamental understanding of the principles underlying the properties of, and processes occurring at, interfaces. Interfaces are a key building block of nanomaterials, soft and hard nanocomposites, thin films and sensors; interfacial properties dictate the interaction of the material with the environment; interfaces span from the nanometer (e.g. in low dimensional materials) to the kilometer scale (e.g. in geological faults) in systems of interest. The combination of the characterization of the fundamental properties of these systems, their use as models to study more complex interfaces, and their use as building blocks for advanced materials fabrication, constitutes the core of my research. 

In my talk I will discuss our recent investigations in three different arenas. First, I will share our research on the mechanochemical and tribochemical properties of single calcite crystals and its implications for anthropogenically induced earthquakes. The second part of my talk will be focused on the other side of the spatial spectrum, where we aim to control the interfacial properties of 2D materials in aqueous environments at the nanoscale with the aim to use these materials for water treatment and sensors, among other applications. In recent years, intensive efforts have been devoted to the development of soft materials that exhibit extraordinary mechanical properties, often finding inspiration from nature and biology. Although hydrogels are made up of more than 90 weight percent water, they can be tough and strong and exhibit shape-memory properties, which could inspire advances in applications ranging from deployable structures to cartilage replacement. The last part of my talk will be dedicated to our experimental studies on the relation between hydrogel microstructure, mechanical properties and interfacial forces, emphasizing the relevant length and time scales that dictate the various modes of relaxation. A key challenge to investigating and/or engineering precise interfacial behavior stems from the fact that interfaces are buried underneath a bulk phase and involve only a small number of atoms and molecules compared to the bulk. During my talk, I will emphasize some of our recent developments to advance experimental tools to measure interfacial forces, structure, and dynamics.

Bio: Since 2013 Dr. Espinosa-Marzal is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Materials Science and Engineering. In 2016, she was awarded Associate to the Center for Advanced Study at UIUC to recognize her work on ionic liquids for energy storage, and in 2019 she received the Deans Award for Excellence in Research. Dr. Espinosa-Marzal has a Ph.D. in materials engineering from Hamburg University of Technology (Germany). After her Ph.D., she received an award to promote academic career of young researchers from the German Research Foundation (DFG), which brought her to the Civil and Environmental Engineering department in Princeton University as a research fellow. Prior to joining Illinois, Dr. Espinosa-Marzal spent four years as senior scientist in the laboratory of surface science and technology in the Materials Science Department at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland. She has published over sixty peer-reviewed manuscripts. Since 2016, she serves as member of the executive committee of the Division of Colloids and Surface Chemistry at the American Chemical Society in the role of membership secretary.

All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. in the Bowen Hall Auditorium Room 222. A light lunch is provided at 11:30 a.m. in the Bowen Hall Atrium immediately prior to the seminar.

Bowen Hall Auditorium 222