Decreasing Testing Times for New Porous Media

Krishna Pillai’s research in porous media can accelerate a new product’s speed to market by simulating the potential product’s performance. Pillai, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Laboratory for Flow and Transport Studies in Porous Media, is one of the few researchers worldwide capable of applying the volume averaging technique method –a rigorous technique to upscale flow and transport in porous media.

The porous-media problems that Pillai researches include processing of composites, drying of porous materials, and wicking in porous substrates.

“Companies create potential new products based on the market’s demands,” he explains. “By mathematical modeling and writing a computer program to simulate any potential product’s performance –to transport liquid, dry, or wick, for example—we can shave months off the testing and refining time. This is very valuable to companies.”

A NSF CAREER grant supported Pillai’s earlier research. He’s since received funding from Kimberly-Clark Corporation (for developing computer simulations) and SC Johnson (for optimizing wicking material), as his research can help accelerate a new product’s speed to market.

Working with Nidal Abu-Zahra, Associate Professor and Department Chair, Materials Science and Engineering, Pillai is developing a low-cost, gravity-driven filter to remove at least 70 percent of arsenic from water. Such a filter would be valuable to tens of millions of people in developing countries who use and drink arsenic-contaminated well-water daily. (Current commercial filters that remove arsenic are cost prohibitive.) Pillai’s filter features iron oxide nanoparticles in a polyurethane foam filter, which increases the surface area of the iron oxide. The goal is to work with an established industry partner on concurrently optimizing the material synthesis and manufacturing process.

You can contact Krishna Pillai at: or 414-229-6535.