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Measuring bioadhesive stress with microfluidic chip




2: Mechanical Engineering

Faculty Supervisor:

Kripa Varanasi

Faculty email:


Apply by:

February 28th, 2021


Victor Leon (vjleon@mit.edu)

Project Description

*Note: Spring-summer availability preferred, but we can work with only spring availability. Algae in photobioreactors can generate useful products (eg fuels and omega-3) from light and the CO2 in waste streams and industrial exhaust gas. Biofouling is one of the main limitations to the photobioreactor technology. Indeed, the algal growth on the walls prevents illumination of the reactor and limits the development of the algae, forcing expensive cleaning operations. The specific constraints of photobioreactor: the transparency of the walls and the necessity for a favorable growth environment in the bulk render the traditional anti-biofouling approaches based on toxic paints ineffective in this system. The long term objective of this project is to develop novel strategies to restrict biofouling: (i) passive hard-soft composite interfaces, and (ii) electro-active interfaces while avoiding toxic effects in the bulk and maintaining transparency of the surfaces. The specific goal of this project is to measure the adhesion force of algae to various substrates. A flow of controlled magnitude in a microfluidic chip will be used to impose the shear stress at the adherent interface, allowing to measure the adhesion force as a function of algae properties( algae type, algae state of growth, algae growth medium) surface properties (hydrophilicity, roughness, charge, fluidity, “activity”). The candidate will learn basic microfluidic, microscopy, surface treatment, image analysis tools and will also benefit from being immersed in a research lab environment.


None. Applicant with an interest in mechanical engineering, physics, chemical engineering, biological engineering are welcome.