Emerging Investigators series – Milad Abolhasani

We are delighted to introduce our latest Lab on a Chip Emerging Investigator – Milad Abolhasani!

Milad Abolhasani is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. He received his B.Sc. (2008) and M.A.Sc. (2010) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and the University of British Columbia, respectively. He then obtained his Ph.D. degree (2014) from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in collaboration with the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto. Prior to joining NC State University, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT (Jensen group, 2014-2016), where he developed a modular flow chemistry strategy for in-situ mass transfer and kinetic studies of single/multi-phase chemical processes including bi-phasic cross-coupling reactions and colloidal synthesis and ligand exchange of semiconductor nanocrystals. Dr. Abolhasani‘s research interests include the development of microfluidic technologies tailored for solution-phase processing of energy harvesting nanomaterials and for fundamental studies of transport mechanisms involved in CO2 capture, recovery, and utilization in green chemistry (enabled by switchable solvents). Over the course of his doctoral and postdoctoral research, Dr. Abolhasani received numerous fellowships and awards including NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship, CSME 2014 Best Graduate Student Paper Award, Bert Wasmund Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Energy Research, and Russell A. Reynolds Graduate Fellowship in Thermodynamics.

Read his Emerging Investigators paper “Automated microfluidic platform for systematic studies of colloidal perovskite nanocrystals: towards continuous nano-manufacturing” and find out more about his research in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on studying colloidal perovskite nanocrystals. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Well, my first research article as a graduate student (published in Lab on a Chip) was focused on the development of an inexpensive approach for rapid determination of thermodynamic characteristics of gas-liquid reactions using an image processing technique. Since then, I’ve expanded my expertise in multi-phase microfluidic systems with a focus on integrated systems with in-situ spectroscopy and/or in-line analytical characterization capabilities for material- and time-efficient studies of various physical/chemical processes. Few examples of such processes include homogenous catalytic reactions, partition coefficient of pharmaceutical compounds, colloidal synthesis of semiconductor nanocrystals, and hydrophilicity switching of switchable solvents. Despite different applications, the common theme among all multi-phase microfluidic technologies that I’ve developed so far has been the focus on realizing the early promise of microfluidics on minimizing the reagents volume used for each experimental condition while maximizing the amount of data obtained. My latest article builds on my experience in integrated microfluidic systems and in-situ spectroscopy techniques to study the effect of early stage mixing times on the optical properties of in-flow synthesized colloidal perovskite nanocrystals.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

Development of microfluidic technologies to contribute towards the next generation of energy-efficient and solution phase-processed photovoltaics.

In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage to using colloidal organic/inorganic metal-halide perovskite nanocrystals for photovoltaics over the current materials?

From materials perspective, hybrid organic/inorganic perovskite nanocrystals are inexpensive and can be manufactured using solution-phase processing techniques. In addition, these shiny nanocrystals possess high surface defect tolerance, high and broad absorption coefficient, high quantum-yield, and long charge carrier lifetime and diffusion length. Combining the superior physicochemical properties of colloidal perovskite nanocrystals with precise band-gap engineering and unparalleled experimental parameter control offered by multi-phase microfluidic platforms make them a promising candidate for the next generation photovoltaics and LED displays.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Learning about details of different steps involved in manufacturing thin-film solar cells. It is challenging but fascinating to learn.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I am currently conducting this interview from MicroTAS 2017 conference in Savannah, GA. I will be attending the Annual AIChE meeting in Minneapolis, MN, between Oct 29 – Nov 3.

How do you spend your spare time?

Catching up with our favorite TV shows (TWD and GOT) with my wife

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I would most probably choose to become an architect. I was (and am) always fascinated by “futuristic looking buildings” around the world such as Galaxy Soho in Beijing and Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp. The level of attention to details and precision in engineering are just mind-blowing.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

In my opinion, focusing on one long-term visionary project that fits your research interests and expertise should be the main goal of a junior faculty. There are so many interesting problems around you, but there is probably only ONE big-impact problem that would truly fit your background which you (hopefully) can solve within your precious pre-tenure adventures.

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