Material Surfaces, Physico-chemistry and Dynamics of Interfaces, Confined Liquids and Tribology

The research in my group is focused on advancing the science and engineering of materials and interfaces. Our current research efforts are dedicated to materials for energy and health, interfaces in the environment, as well as in nanoscale science and technology. We aim to generate fundamental knowledge to address  Grand Challenges for Engineering (http://www.engineeringchallenges.org).

 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 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. We are very excited about our research on the formation of hydroxyapatite (the material that forms our bones) as well as Engineering Coral Reef Recovery. 

Undergraduate and graduate students

Are you a graduate or undergraduate students at UIUC and are interested in an independent project? Contact me. Potential topics of research include:

  • Energy storage with graphene and ionic liquids
  • Hydrogel material design for biomedical applications and soft robotics
  • Biomineralization


  • Look at the videos about some of our ongoing research projects: graphene/water interface, ILs at interfaces, nanorheology of ILs, the calcite/water interface, soft matter lubrication and stimulus responsive hydrogels.
  • Mengwei Han is Engelbrecht Fellow 2o21. 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!

Past Events: