We’re interested in how the world works on a nanoscale and we believe that some of the most fascinating phenomena occur on interfaces. Our research is focused on obtaining a fundamental understanding of the properties of, and processes occurring at interfaces. We aim to elucidate how liquids and soft matter interact with solid surfaces, and how they behave in nano-scale films or pores, among others. Our objective is to solve problems and advance the knowledge relevant to a range of applications including energy storage, nanofiltration, lubrication, adhesion, and nanomaterials like graphene.

Some examples:

  1. Future resources for the water and energy needs of our society, such as supercapacitors for energy storage and water desalination by nanofiltration membranes, rely significantly on solid-liquid interfacial properties. We have innovative ideas using graphene to improve nanofiltration membranes and energy storage…. Highly concentrated electrolytes like ionic liquids open up new opportunities to design energy storage systems with higher energy densities and power, and thereby, to make better use of our precious renewable energy resources.
  2. When two bodies are in contact and in relative motion, friction happens at the interface. A significant amount of energy in transport industry is lost due to friction, and new green and safe materials and lubricants are needed to reduce such energy loss and control friction. Even our body needs to maintain very low coefficients of frictions in our joints, eyes and oral tracks;  discovering new hydrogel-like biomaterials to replace  damaged biological tissues is another motivation for our search for questions and answers. We believe that our studies will inspire new avenues to craft biomaterials with improved functionality.
  3. The interfacial chemistry of minerals dictates many important phenomena and is quite complex. The precipitation and dissolution of CO2-binding carbonates participates in geomorphological processes of the Earth’s crust, biomineralization, contaminant capture, climate change and it may be even important in the evolution of earthquakes.

Undergraduate and graduate students

If you are interested in doing an independent project (research) on biomineralization of calcium carbonate and hydroxyapatite, please send me your CV. The independent project is only for credits (e.g. 2 credits is 9-10 hours per week). Experience in chemistry labs will be considered in the selection.

Are you a graduate or undergraduate students at UIUC and are interested in an independent project? Contact me.


Three open PhD positions in the fields of:

  • energy storage with graphene and ionic liquids
  • hydrogel material design, microstructure, and performance


  • Rosa will give an invited seminar at WeSST, the Web Seminar Series in Tribology, with the theme TRIBOLOGY ADVANCES OVER THE NEXT DECADE. Do not miss it!
  • Gus and Tooba are awarded poster prizes at STLE Tribology Frontiers Conference in Chicago 2019! Congrats to both of them!
  • We are truly grateful for the coming invited lectures by Prof. Rosa Espinosa-Marzal:
    • STLE Tribology Frontiers Conference 2019 in Chicago, October 2019
    • American Physics Society, Division of Soft Matter, Denver, March 2020
    • Materials Research Society, Symposium on Nanomanipulation of Materials, Spring meeting in Phoenix, April 2020
    • Gordon Research Conference in Ionic Liquids, August 2020
    • Nordtribo20, June 2020 in Norway.
  • Well done, Tooba Shoaib and Mengwei Han, for passing your preliminary PhD exams!
  • Congratulations to Yijue Diao for passing her PhD final examination!
  • Congrats to Prof. Rosa Espinosa-Marzal for the 2019 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research! Click here to learn more about!
  • Congratulations to Josue Lopez for passing his PhD final examination!
  • Yijue Diao is Engelbrecht Fellow 2019. This award is given to the PhD student in environmental science and engineering with the highest potential for a successful career. Congratulations, Yijue!
  • Independent projects for undergraduate students. Contact us!
  • PhD Student Tooba Shoaib wins First Poster Prize at the STLE Tribology Frontiers Conference 2018, in Chicago. She presented a poster on the mechanisms of hydrogel lubrication. Congrats, Tooba!
  • Exciting Special Issue “Surface Forces, Adhesion and Friction“, guest editors: Younjin Min, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal, and Seong H. Kim. Submit your paper to Colloids and Interfaces, an open access MDPI Journal. Deadline for manuscript submission: 30 June 2020.
  • Our research in Hydrogel Lubrication has been recently featured as Cutting Edge Research in the Journal “Tribology & Lubrication Technology” (TLT). Read about it here. Congrats Tooba for an outstanding publication!
  • Gus Greenwood has been awarded Bienvenido M. Esmilla Memorial Writing Award in the Spring 2018 ! Well done, Gus!
  • Yijue won the first poster award at the Gordon Research Conference on Tribology and was elected as the chair of the next Gordon Research Seminars (GRS) for young investigators that will take place in 2020! 2xCongratulations to Yijue!
  • Josue Lopez was awarded the TechnipFMC Fellowship at UIUC in Spring 2018 to recognize his research on mineralized soft matter! Congratulations Josue!
  • Check our newest results about the role of water in fault lubrication!

Past Events: