Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces

Our research efforts are motivated by challenges in energy, health, and environment. We aim to generate fundamental knowledge at the nanoscale to address  Grand Challenges for Engineering (http://www.engineeringchallenges.org).

The common driving force for the research in my group is understanding and harnessing interfacial properties as well as the dynamic processes happening at the interface, which determine behavior and functionality. The functionality is quite ample; we are not focused on a specific application. We create new materials –via polymerization, gelation, self-assembly and mineralization– to discover new properties and functionalities. Obtaining information from the interface is a challenge: on the one hand because the interface is a blurry region with dimensions that are hard to define, on the other hand, one of the components is usually a liquid, i.e. low density, so number of atoms or molecules that constitute the interfacial region is much smaller than in the bulk, and experimental methods are limited. Therefore, we often compare interfacial with bulk characterization to construct a full picture of the interface. Furthermore, soft matter can naturally flow forward in many ways.


  • Rosa delivered an invited talk to ACS National meeting in August 2023, in a symposium in honor of Prof. Nicholas D. Spencer.
  • Rosa was on tour in Sweden (May 2023): thanks so much to the Swedish Chemistry Society for inviting me to their retreat, thanks to my host at KTH, Mark Rutland, a honor to provide the keynote lecture at Chemistry Days, and thanks to my host Jiayin Yuan, Chemistry Department at Stockholm University for the invite to give a seminar.
  • Great day at the Chemistry Department, Purdue University (April 2023)– thanks to Shelley Claridge for hosting me, the invitation to give a seminar, and to everybody for the exciting discussions!
  • Rosa provided a keynote lecture in ACS Spring Meeting (March 2023), Polymer Division, on biological/biomimetic interfaces- Thanks to Roberto Eguiluz and Syeda Tajin Ahmed for their kind invitation.
  • Great trip to TMS2023 in San Diego (March 2023) and interesting symposium on hydrogel interfaces. Thanks to Alison Dunn for the invitation to give an invited talk in her symposium.
  • Congratulations to Gus and Alex, who won 1st and 3rd poster awards at the EES symposium April 2023.
  • Welcome Kangdi Sun and Jingyu Li to the lab! Kangdi will be doing his PhD research on soft matter interfaces (lipids and gels) and Jingyu´s PhD will be on active substrates to enhance coral larvae settlement and coral growth.
  • This has been a very exciting Summer with intense research discussions and networking through the participation in several conferences. Rosa gave invited talks at the nanotribology conference in the University of Durham, Nordtribo in Alesund (Norway), symposium “All about Surfaces” at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and the Gordon Research Conference in Tribology (Maine, US).
  • Congrats to Gus for his poster award in the Gordon Research Conference in Tribology 2022!
  • Rosa was elected as the co-Chair 2024 and Chair 2026 of the Gordon Research Conference in Tribology.
  • Look at the videos about some of our ongoing research projects: graphene/water interface, the calcite/water interface, and soft matter lubrication.

Past Events:

  • Mengwei Han is Engelbrecht Fellow 2021. This award is given to the PhD student in environmental science and engineering with the highest potential for a successful career. Congratulations, Mengwei!
  • Rosa will give a keynote talk at STLE Tribology Frontiers Conference in November 2020. Do not miss Gus’ talk on graphene friction and the posters presented by Tooba, Mengwei, Binxin and Alex about their latest research results.
  • Rosa will give invited talks at the American Physical Society March Meeting in 2021 about our work on biomineralization and and invited talk at the 5th International Conference on BioTribology in April 2021 focused on biological lubrication.
  • 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!
  • Submit your paper to Lubricants, an open access Tribology Journal, in the Special Issue “Ionic Liquids: Friction and Lubrication Mechanisms“. Deadline for manuscript submission: 30 June 2018 (extended!).
  • Interesting upcoming symposium in Nanotribology -Molecular Mechanisms in Tribology – in October 2018 in Postdam (Germany). Registration is still open.
  • Come to our Symposium on Fundamental Studies of Mechanochemical and Tribochemical Processes at Interfaces (255th ACS National Meeting, in New Orleans). Deadline for the Call for Papers is October 23, 2017 for the COLL Division.
  • Ionic Liquids at Interfaces and their Tribological Behaviour. Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal, Mengwei Han, Andrea Arcifa, Antonela Rossi, Nicholas D. Spencer.  Chapter in the Encyclopedia of Interfacial Chemistry: Surface Science and Electrochemistry, Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-409547-2.13857-0 (2017).