Areas of Research
Our research areas include not only the classical topics in Chemical Engineering but also, diverse multidisciplinary areas where most recent and challenging problems are being addressed. Many unsolved problems in various disciplines require substantial knowledge of chemical engineering. Combined with our rigourous course work students are motivated to learn many new topics and thereby enhanced their problem solving skills from a scientific and engineering perspective.

Our research areas include:
  1. Biomolecular Engineering
  2. Catalysis and Reaction Kinetics
  3. Colloids and Interfacial Science
  4. Complex Fluids
  5. Energy Engineering
  6. Environmental Engineering
  7. Nanotechnology
  8. Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics and Molecular Simulations


 


 

Biomolecular Engineering

Engineering of biological processes from the molecular to the organismal scale is central to addressing key problems in medicine and healthcare as well as energy and environmental sustainability. Our department employs a unique blend of theory, simulations, and experimental techniques for biomolecular engineering. Fully atomistic and coarse grained molecular simulations are being developed to derive fundamental insights into protein interactions underlying disease states, which help identify novel drug and vaccine targets. Sophisticated single molecule spectroscopic experiments have been set up to probe rare molecular interactions within living cells, allowing first-hand observations of events that cause development and disease. Viral infections that are important globally and nationally, such as HIV, hepatitis C, and dengue, are an important focus of our efforts. Modelling and simulations of viral dynamics and evolution coupled with single molecule experiments and data from patients, obtained in collaboration with clinicians, are being employed to unravel the origins of the failure of current treatments and to design more potent and economical therapeutic protocols. Reaction network theory and experiments on quorum-sensing are being used to understand cellular signalling events and emergent systems-level properties that viruses and bacteria manipulate to overcome our immune response, presenting new avenues for vaccine design. Metabolic engineering of bacteria coupled with optimization and control techniques for bioreactors is being exploited to produce biofuels and degrade environmentally harmful effluents and waste. Our efforts thus synergize a broad spectrum of engineering and design techniques to achieve precise manipulation of biological phenomena for improved healthcare and sustainable development.


Catalysis and Reaction Engineering

Developing new catalysts, methods, and processes that deliver efficient and economical ways to carry out chemical transformations encompasses this field. Using knowledge from catalytic chemistry, reaction mechanisms, reaction kinetics, and transport processes, researchers in the department are trying to improve on reactions that span from polymer degradation to biomass conversion in reactors. Significant progress has been made in understanding of polymer polymerization and degradation under various conditions using experimental and kinetic modelling. Other interesting avenues of pursuit are in the development of catalysts for organics degradation and enzymatic catalysis in supercritical carbon dioxide. Similarly, designing and engineering improved steps for nanoparticle synthesis are allowing us to develop new reactors/contactors to control nanoparticle mean size and polydispersity. Efforts are also ongoing to unravel systems level properties of complex cell signalling and transcription networks applying ideas from reaction network theory, with the goal of identifying novel drug targets and outcomes of intervention. Another key theme has been to understand the mineral-microbe interactions that can be utilized for bioprocessing of various industrial materials. Using detailed mathematical models for coupling multiphase transport phenomena and biochemical reaction kinetics in bioreactors, problems in bioleaching of minerals and ores, biological adsorption of toxic metals and biomethanation of biomass are being addressed.


Colloids and Interface Science

A reduction in the length scale of reactors and attempts to create microstructured systems with novel and desired properties have brought in the interplay of colloidal and interfacial interactions to prominence over a broad range of length scales. Our department has earlier contributed richly to the understanding of bubble and drop formation at orifices, foam bed contactors/ reactors, and agitated dispersions. Researchers are currently engaged in investigating colloidal interfacial behaviour at nano and sub-nano length scales. Synthesis of nanoparticles, nanowires, and nanorods, and formation of arrays and superlattices of nanoparticles for a variety of applications are controlled by manipulation of colloidal interactions and nucleation of a new phase. The formation of monolayers and bilayers and modulation of their properties for lubrication and oral care applications through sub-nanoscale chemical substitutions is another focus area in the department. Current research efforts in the department to store electrical energy efficiently in classical and novel batteries and super-capacitors draw heavily from new materials and interaction entities such as ions, charged surfaces, charged cavities, and charged micro-porous solids. These new storage systems are required to harness power from solar and other renewable resources.


Complex Fluids and Transport Processes

From food grains and processed foods, through industrial products such as paints and mineral slurries, to hygeine and cosmetic products such as toothpaste and lotions, complex fluids are an intimate part of our lives. They range from multiphase mixtures (e.g., ice-cream, a dispersion of fat globules, ice crystals and air bubbles in an aqueous liquid) to simply a collection of discrete particles (e.g. dry food grains). They are interesting subjects for study because their response to applied forces is more complex than that of normal fluids such as water and air. Though diverse in their constitution, there are similarities in important aspects of their behaviour, and also in the tools used for their study. Faculty in our department engaged in studying complex fluids employ a variety of tools: experimentation at macroscopic and microscopic scales, continuum mechanical modelling and computation, and particle-dynamics simulations. We have groups engaged in the study of granular flows, fluidized beds, solid-liquid and liquid-liquid dispersions, and liquid-crystalline mesophases, to name a few. Our tools of experimentation include rheometry, high-speed imaging, confocal microscopy, and the use of soft microchannels for synthesis and mixing of fluids. Our computational tools span length and time scales from study of phenomena at the molecular scale, through mesoscale dynamics and population balances, to continuum mechanical simulations. Through our studies, we hope to achieve two objectives. On one hand, we want to develop materials and design processes required for today's technology and on another, we hope to understand the fundamental physical and chemical processes that underly the dynamics of complex fluids, which in turn will help in the design of newer and novel products and processes of the future.


Nanotechnology

Buoyed by the ever-advancing ability to characterize, control and fabricate materials at the nanoscale, the interdisciplinary field of nanotechnology is becoming pervasive in every aspect of our lives. The potential application areas of nanotechnology range from semiconductor electronics, smart materials, energy solutions to biological diagnostics. Nanotechnology research in our department similarly ranges in its diversity and extends from simulations to understand phenomenon at the nanoscale to the engineering processes for generating nanomaterials and nanoarchitecture. Researchers are applying molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations to understand structure and dynamics of fluids confined to the nanoscale that are important for developing novel gas storage applications and enhancing our molecular view of wear at the nanoscale. Similarly, population balances approaches are being employed to investigate the role of various mechanisms, such as nucleation, growth, coagulation, capping, and ripening of nanoparticles in influencing particle size distribution to develop better and efficient nanoparticle synthesis methods. Aggregation and 3D nanoparticle array formation is being modeled with thermodynamic and statistical mechanics approaches. Novel technologies are being pioneered for high throughput synthesis of metal nanoparticles and semiconductor nanowires in large scales. Extending these for generation of functional nanoscale architectures with guided self-assembly to form 2D and 3D superlattices is a key theme of the current work in the department. Researchers in our department are also interested in biological processes at the molecular level to understand underlying mechanisms. Design and characterization of polymers at the nanoscale has led to the development of new materials with unique structure, properties, and functions.


Energy Science and Engineering

The standard of living across the nations is strongly correlated with per capita energy production. Given the limited and finite nature of fossil fuels and the problems associated with the traditional renewable resource such as hydel power, it is imperative to develop technologies to harness and store energy from renewable sources such as solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, etc. Renewable energy also has an additional advantage of being by and large environment friendly. In this department, pioneering research is being carried out towards the development of new materials and processes for energy capture and storage. Fundamental work on methane and natural gas storage using novel adsorbents such as metal organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs) is currently pursueds using computational tools such as ab-initio electronic structure calculations and classical Monte Carlo simulations. Continuum and molecular modelling studies pursued in the department are helping us in improving the design and performance of rechargeable batteries and super-capacitors. Fundamental work on nanoparticle self- ssembly carried out in the department is helping towards development of novel devices that greatly enhance the collection efficiency of solar power.


Environmental Engineering

Research work in our department addresses problems of land, water, and air pollution. Consider the problem of plastic waste that is plaguing many of our cities and towns. We are trying to degrade the polymers in solution, using a variety of techniques. Even though the projects have not covered the last mile between lab and the land, we hope to do so within the next few years. The use of polymers as scaffolds marks our maiden attempt to venture into the field of biomedical engineering. Several promising photocatalysts have been developed that appear to be good at degrading pollutants in waste water from industries. Similarly, supercritical solvents have been developed for enzymatic reactions to produce compounds that are used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Efforts has also been focused to develop activated carbon fabric and modified granular activated carbon for the removal of gases such as CO2, NOx, CO and also Cr and As. Work is in progress to reduce or eliminate foul smell from the sites (landfills) that have been identified by the Corporation of Bangalore. Methods have been developed to determine sub- icrogram levels of Mo and Fe in industrial effluents. Our major research interests concern engineering and designing of processes and tools for treatment of water from various sources to make them compatible for human consumption or environmental release. One main theme has been defluoridation of drinking water where we have shown how column design and choice of adsorbents are critical to the output water quality. Similarly, we have demonstrated the use a solar still for the treatment of drinking water, rainwater harvesting and efficient disposal of spent analytical reagent can be achieved at the laboratory scale. Similar efforts are being pursued for reuse of greywater and development of inexpensive biosand filters for the rural population.

 


Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics and Molecular Simulations

Understanding phenomenan at the molecular scale allows one to tailor products using a bottom-up approach. We study a wide variety of phenomenon using classical molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations and statistical thermodyamics, which require a knowledge  of the forces between the various molecules. This approach provides a molecular understanding of adsorption and separations processes, catalysis, energy storage for transportation, novel drug synthesis protocols, nanoparticle engineering, biomembrane function and transport in complex fluids. Using a variety of molecular simulation techniques, we study transport and phase equilibria of fluids confined to the nanoscale, fluids adsorbed in microporous materials such as zeolites and metal organic frameworks, gas hydrates, structure, dynamics and flows of complex oil-water-surfactant systems and protein biomembrane interactions. With enhanced computing power, molecular simulations are increasingly providing a powerful in silico method to predict properties of a wide variety of engineering systems without resorting to detailed experimentation. Multiscale modelling strategies which bridge molecular level information with continuum transport models that are of direct engineering relevance are also being pursued.