The National Science Foundation has named Arun Kota, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a recipient of its Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award.
Kota’s award will support his research into liquid-repellent surfaces. The long-chain fluorocarbon materials that are typically used in nonstick coatings are rapidly being phased out, due to growing concerns regarding their negative environmental and biological impacts. Kota’s research will provide the basic knowledge needed to design novel liquid-repellent surfaces with more benign materials, while maintaining performance. Such innovative liquid-repellent surfaces have the potential to drastically alter the nonstick coatings technology landscape for consumer, industrial, and defense applications.
The Kota lab specializes in tailoring chemical composition, modulus, and structure to achieve desired surface properties. Recent work has focused on superomniphobic surfaces that have extreme repellence to both water and low-surface-tension liquids, such as oils and alcohols. Kota anticipates that these superomniphobic surfaces will have numerous applications, including stain-free and spill-resistant clothing, breathable protective wear, self-cleaning and drag-reducing coatings, and biofouling-resistant surfaces.
Kota’s lab has created a simple and inexpensive device that can sort droplets by their surface tensions. Here they show the ability to trap droplets of varying ethanol concentrations. Sections of the device have been slightly altered by ultraviolet light to have different surface chemistries.
In a recent advance reported in Lab on a Chip, Kota and his team utilized titanium dioxide’s photocatalytic properties to precisely tailor the surface chemistry of a superomniphobic surface with flower-like titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanostructures, and developed a simple and inexpensive device that can sort droplets of liquid based solely on the liquids’ varying surface tensions (see video above for a demonstration). The team envisions that this methodology for droplet sorting will enable inexpensive and energy-efficient analytical devices for personalized point-of-care diagnostic platforms, lab-on-a-chip systems, biochemical assays, and biosensors.
A longstanding interest of Kota’s is the development of hemocompatible surfaces, which would offer a potential solution to the current critical need for reducing blood clotting and infection due to blood-contacting medical implants such as stents and catheters.
In order to develop the next generation of implants with improved hemocompatibility, Kota’s team, in collaboration with Ketul Popat, associate professor in mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering at Colorado State University, is pursuing the unusual approach of utilizing superhemophobic surfaces that have extreme repellence to blood. Their initial tests indicate such surfaces display very low platelet adhesion and activation. This work is supported through NIH R01 and R21 grants.
In the team’s work, they investigated the blood platelet adhesion and activation on superhemophobic titania surfaces (i.e., surface that are extremely repellent to blood). Results indicate that superhemophobic surfaces with a robust Cassie-Baxter state display very low platelet adhesion and activation.
Kota research group
Prior to joining the faculties of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, Kota earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland. He held research positions in materials science and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Michigan.
Leveraging his diverse education and training in multiple fields, he and his group pursue highly interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research that spans across materials, mechanical, chemical, and biomedical engineering with focus on both fundamental and applied aspects of surface and interfacial science. By systematically tailoring the surface nanostructure, or hierarchical structure and surface, or interfacial energy, his research group attempts to understand and design novel superhydrophobic surfaces, superomniphobic surfaces, icephobic surfaces, chemically patterned surfaces, stimuli-responsive surfaces, paper-based microfluidic devices, bio-compatible surfaces, and other bio-inspired surfaces for a wide variety of applications.
Kota’s work has been highlighted by Nature, Bloomberg TV, NBC News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, ACS News, NASA Tech Briefs, Chemical & Engineering News, and several other newspapers, magazines and websites. He received the Best Science Paper Award from the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2014, the Teaching Excellence Award from the School of Biomedical Engineering at CSU in 2016, and is the holder of three patents.
“Our research will allow a paradigm shift in the way nonstick coatings are made, making them far less toxic without losing liquid repellency.”
Make the connection
The School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME) at Colorado State University is proud to celebrate its 10th anniversary as a graduate degree-granting program. SBME was built on a foundation of excellence in four colleges, including Health and Human Sciences, Natural Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering.
SBME celebrates its interdisciplinary commitment to improve health, fight disease, and aid persons with disabilities. The faculty has grown from 29 core faculty in 2007 to almost 50 core faculty today, with more planned.