We are particularly fascinated by the interaction between non-equilibrium chemistry and physical transport of molecules in the processes that sustain life – a rich playing field to derive creative design ideas for the next generation of clean, green and sustainable chemical processes. Effective control of the interaction between molecular transport phenomena and chemistry is also crucial in technologies that address wide-ranging global problems, from the diagnosis and treatment of human disease to the development of paradigm-shifting methodologies for energy capture and utilization.
Microfluidic systems form the core technological platform for scientific investigation in our research. ‘Microfluidics’ involves the flow and interaction of fluids and chemicals within very small (typically sub-millimeter) channels embedded within devices made of plastic or glass. The small sizes and tailored architectures of microfluidic experimental ‘vessels’ enable us to control, interrogate and exploit the subtle interactions between fluid interfaces, solid walls, molecular transport and non-equilibrium chemistry, in ways that are simply not possible using the macroscopic tools of the traditional chemical laboratory.
Research projects at Khan Lab are diverse and highly interdisciplinary, and are spread across a broad spectrum of fundamental and applied problems, from the traffic of microscopic bubbles and drops in complex networks to the manufacture of nanoparticle dispersions with precisely tunable optical properties. Overall, we follow two primary, interwoven themes, involving both fundamental scientific questions and technology development for novel and practical applications of the chemical sciences.
A. Multiphase microfluidics. This theme involves fundamental investigations of multiphase fluid physics within microfluidic channels, using a combination of detailed experiments at high space and time resolution and multi-scale theoretical analysis.
B. Non-equilibrium chemistry, molecular transport and phase transitions. This theme is the driver of our overall research programme, and involves the investigation, description, understanding and exploitation of non-equilibrium chemical phenomena in uniquely scale-dependent ways, with the ultimate goal of developing new process technologies for flexible, scalable and sustainable chemical and materials manufacturing.