Understanding nanofilm

28th March 2018

News, Student news

Investigating discrepancies between theory and experiment in nanofilm research will take a Wadham undergrad to California this summer.

  • Kishan Makwana

Kishan Makwana, (MPhysics, 2015), is heading to the US to conduct research into the properties of nanofilms.

Thanks to the Laidlaw Scholarship, Kishan will be investigating the discrepancies between theory and experiment for the frictional response of liquid nanofilms (fluid samples on the nanoscale).

Having spent last summer in Perm in Russia, Kishan became familiar with the computational and numerical aspects of fluid dynamics and now aims to apply this by mimicking the behaviour of nano-fluids, and hence accounting for the discrepancies between current models and experimental data

“In many areas, particularly biology and electronics, it is useful to know the fundamental properties of the films of liquid that, for example, act as lubricants in complex machines. On the nanoscale, it is difficult to experimentally measure fluid properties. Scientists currently use the ‘blow-off’ method to research the viscosity of nanofilms. By blowing air across the film, the shape of the air deforms and you can measure the deformation and from that work out the viscosity. This gives experimental results but we need a mathematical formula to illustrate this to be able to predict the viscosity of fluids. As yet, we don’t have a reliable formula.”

After identifying scientific groups which specialise in this area of research, Kishan approached the Troian Research Group, led by Dr Sandra Troian, Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

He was offered a ten week programme over the summer of 2018 where he will have the opportunity to research the analytical, computational and experimental aspects of fluid dynamics, funded by the Laidlaw Scholarship.

Kishan is optimistic that a clearer understanding of the properties of nanofilms will have applications in a number of areas including as a diagnostic tool, predicting the key properties of synovial fluids in human joints. “When a joint is infected, the ‘runniness’ of the synovial fluid changes. We could potentially use a viscosity measurement to determine the severity of joint related illness. And it would not be entirely unreasonable in the future to create nanofilms similar to synovial fluids to use in prosthetic joints,” he said.

The Laidlaw Scholars Undergraduate Research & Leadership Programme was launched at the University of Oxford in 2016, building upon Lord Laidlaw’s visionary commitment to supporting undergraduate student development and education. The programme is open to students of all academic disciplines.

Kishan, who attended the UNIQ Summer School before coming to Oxford, was a pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet. Since joining Wadham he has taken up a number of opportunities including the Sarah Lawrence exchange programme, telephone campaigns, conducting access and outreach tours and leading the #IGavetoDorothy Leavers Campaign, 2018. “Talking to alumni during the telephone campaigns, they emphasise the importance of getting experience in addition to academic work and that is what I am trying to do,” he added.  After completion of his Masters, Kishan is currently considering studying for a doctorate.