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MEAM Seminar: “Understanding Particulate Soft Materials: An Integrated Approach for Novel Energy and Environmental Solutions”
February 22, 2022 at 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Many industrial processes involve multiphase soft materials in which solid particles are dispersed or co-exists with a fluid phase and are therefore referred to as Particulate Soft Materials (PSMs). Examples can be found in many industries, including food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and energy, as well as in natural settings, e.g., soils and glaciers. PSMs often display a complex mechanical behavior that is characterized by features common to both viscous fluids and elasto-plastic solids, with material properties that can change over time due to thermodynamic, chemical or kinematic conditions. Consequently, these complexities and our limited understanding of the behavior of PSMs can lead to critical industrial challenges, ranging from quality control of concrete to shelf-life of consumer products. These issues can also prove environmentally disastrous, as in the case of clogged subsea pipelines or in landslides and avalanches. Such problems call for immediate solutions to measure and model the PSM overall mechanical behavior, towards an improved understanding of this vast class of materials and corresponding processes.
My research demonstrates that these challenges can be overcome by: (i) introducing novel experimental tools and protocols that allow us to study the mechanical and rheological response of PSMs, even when their behavior is rapidly changing, or mutating, in time; and (ii) rigorously setting sound theoretical frameworks that explain the experimental observations. In this talk, focusing on two PSMs that are of interest to the energy industry (i.e., paraffin gels and hydrate suspensions), I will introduce an example of the integrated experimental and theoretical framework that can successfully capture PSM complex visco-plastic response. As I will demonstrate in my talk, this powerful approach not only improves our understanding of both artificial and natural PSMs, but also provides guidelines to develop superior materials for critical energy and environmental challenges.
Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michela is currently a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Energy Engineering from the University of Bologna (Italy), both summa cum laude. She obtained her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at MIT in 2019, during which she explored the dynamics and rheology of soft phase-change materials for the oil and gas industry. Prior to her post-doc appointment, fascinated by the emergence of advanced teaching platforms, Michela worked on developing Guided Discovery Labs and online content for both residential and EdX curses at MIT, as an instructor/lecturer. Michela has received several honors and awards, including the Rohsenow fellowship from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT (2012) and the Wunsch Foundation Silent Hoist and Crane Award for Outstanding Graduate TA (2018). She was selected as the Chevron-MIT Energy Fellow by the MIT Energy Initiative for two consecutive years (2016-2018) and accepted for the Rising Star in Mechanical Engineering Workshop (Stanford 2019).