Prof. Kumar Varoon Agrawal

photo Kumar

Kumar Varoon Agrawal is GAZNAT Chair of Advanced Separations and a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering (ISIC).  He received his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT Bombay in 2005 where he was awarded the Institute Silver Medal for academic excellence.  Following this, he joined the global R&D division of Procter & Gamble in Kobe, Japan, where he worked on product design focusing on the needs of low-income consumer markets (2005-2008). Kumar joined the department of Chemical Engineering & Material Science of the University of Minnesota to pursue a PhD degree.

Working in the labs of Prof. Lorraine Francis and Prof. Michael Tsapatsis, Kumar investigated the synthesis of thin zeolite films for high-throughput separation of gases and organic vapors.  In the process, Kumar led the development of dispersible coating suspensions of highly crystalline two-dimensional (2-d) zeolite nanosheets (Science, 2011).  He developed a density gradient centrifugation (DGC) based solution-processing route (AIChE Journal, 2013), a gel-less secondary growth technique for sub-100-nm thick permselective zeolite films, and a novel high throughput sintered silica fiber support, yielding record performances in the separation of butanes and xylenes (Advanced Materials 2015).  He was awarded the University of Minnesota Doctoral Degree Fellowship (2012-2013), the Sigma Xi Award, and the AICHE Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award (2013) for his graduate research achievements.

After completing his PhD, Kumar joined the lab of Prof. Michael Strano at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a postdoctoral associate.  He worked on developing a novel experimental technique to probe the phase change of water confined inside a single, isolated carbon nanotube (CNT).  This work conclusively proved that freezing transition of confined water in sub-2-nm diameter CNT is highly diameter-dependent (Nature Nanotechnology, 2017).  An extremely high freezing point of water (>100 C) inside 1.05-1.06 nm CNT was discovered, owing to the strong confinement effect on water.

At EPFL, Kumar’s group is developing novel synthetic routes for two-dimensional (2-d) nanoporous materials and their films with a precise control of nanopore size and functionality.  In the next few years, the Laboratory of Advanced Separations (LAS) will pursue the synthesis of high-flux 2-d membranes, while elucidating the relative roles of molecular adsorption and diffusion in overall separation.  A special focus will be given to the measurement of molecular transport through a single crystal of nanoporous material to investigate the dominant transport mechanism in the nanoporous channels devoid of grain boundary defects.  The lab will take up a wide range of separation problems including those encountered in the classical separation processes as well those in complex reactors and fuel cells.

Education

  • Ph.D. (Chemical Engineering), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA (2008-2013)
  • B. Tech. (Chemical Engineering), IIT Bombay, Mumbai, India (2001-2005)

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPF), July 2016 onwards
  • Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA    in the lab of Prof. Michael S. Strano (2014-2016)
  • Engineer, Global Hair Care R&D, Procter & Gamble, Kobe, Japan (2005-2008)    

Selected Awards

  • Young Membrane Scientist Award, North American Membrane Society (NAMS), 2018
  • Swiss NSF Assistant Professor Energy Grant (2017 – 2021)
  • AIChE Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award, 2013
  • Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF), University of Minnesota, 2012-2013
  • IIT Bombay Institute Silver Medal, 2005
  • Manudhane Best Undergraduate Student Award, IIT Bombay, 2005