Faculty Profile

Rosa M. Espinosa Marzal

Civil and Environmental Engineering
 Rosa M. Espinosa Marzal
Rosa M. Espinosa Marzal
Associate Professor
3215 Newmark Civil Engineering Bldg
205 N. Mathews
Urbana Illinois 61801

Primary Research Area

  • Environmental Engineering and Science


  • PhD. (Engineering/Materials) Hamburg University of Technology (Germany), 2004.
  • MEng. (Mechanical Engineering) Universidad Politecnica de Valencia (Spain), 1997.


Rosa Espinosa-Marzal holds a MEng. Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain), and a Ph.D. in engineering/materials (Hamburg University of Technology, Germany, 2004). Dr. Espinosa-Marzal joined the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as Associate Professor in September 2013, where she is involved in research and teaching in several areas of surface science, materials and technology. Prior to joining Illinois, Dr. Espinosa-Marzal was a Senior Scientist in the Materials Science Department at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), and a research fellow at Princeton University. Dr. Espinosa-Marzal is the recipient of a research grant to promote highly qualified young researchers awarded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and of a DAAD fellowship (German Academic Exchange Service) for her graduate studies. In 2016, Dr. Espinosa-Marzal was appointed CAS Associate (Center for Advanced Study) at the University of Illinois.

Academic Positions

  • CAS Associate, Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since 08/2016.
  • NCSA Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. Since 08/2014.
  • Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since 09/2013.
  • Senior Scientist, ETH Zurich (Switzerland). Materials Science, Surface Science and Technology. 2009-2013.
  • Research Fellow, Princeton University (USA). Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. 2007-2009.
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Hamburg University of Technology (Germany). Institute of Materials, Physics and Chemistry of Buildings. 2005-2007

For more information

Research Statement

Motivated by the global challenges of water, energy and health, Dr. Espinosa-Marzal￿s research aims to (1) design functional (bio)interfaces, (2) understand their behavior at a molecular and nanoscale, and (3) exploit intermolecular interactions to tailor macroscopic properties. The research theme includes the areas of interfaces, liquid confinement, assembly and soft matter and it offers the possibility to develop novel interfaces and materials and to answer fundamental and scientifically relevant questions.

The application fields of this fundamental research are broad, ranging from energy storage, drug delivery, nanofiltration, (bio)lubrication and tissue engineering. Interfacial forces, molecular adsorption, friction, liquid confinement and mechanical behavior are investigated to learn about the behavior of solid-liquid interfaces and soft films. The group has expertise in Atomic Force Microscopy, Force Spectroscopy, Surface Forces Apparatus, QCM, x-ray scattering, diffraction, and spectroscopy techniques, among others.

The current main thrusts of research are: ionic liquids for energy storage and lubrication, interactions between cell membranes and the environment, and (bio)mineral interfaces in the aqueous environment.

Research Interests

  • Ionic Liquids at Interfaces and in Confinement
  • Mineral-aqueous interfaces and biomimetic mineralization
  • Structure-property relationship of hydrogels, polyelectrolytes films and soft nanocomposites
  • Biointerfaces and Biolubrication
  • Interfacial Forces and Tribology
  • Interfaces, Confinement, Assembly and Soft Matter

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Manjesh K. Singh, Patrick Ilg, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal, Martin Kr￿, Nicholas D. Spencer. Molecular-Dynamics Simulation of the Effect of Crosslinking on the Tribological Behavior of Polymer Brushes. Tribology Letters, 63:17, 1-9, 2016.
  • Manjesh K. Singh, Patrick Ilg, Rosa Maria Espinosa-Marzal, Nicholas D. Spencer, Martin Kr￿, Influence of Chain Stiffness, Grafting Density, and Normal Load on Tribological and Structural Behavior of Polymer Brushes: a Nonequilibrium Molecular Dynamics Study. Po Polymers 8 (7), 254-272.
  • Andres Jurado, Hojun Kim, Antonella Rossi, Andrea Arcifa, Jonathon K. Schuh, Nicholas D. Spencer, Cecilia Leal, Randy H. Ewoldt, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal. Effect of the environmental humidity on the bulk, interfacial and nanoconfined properties of an ionic liquid. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 18 (32), 22719-22730, 2016.
  • Zita Zachariah, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal, Nicholas D. Spencer, Manfred Heuberger. Stepwise collapse of highly overlapping Electrical Double Layers. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 18, 24417-24427, 2016.
  • Yijue Diao, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal, Molecular Insight into the Nanoconfined Calcite-Solution Interface. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, 113(43), 12047-12052, 2016
  • Josue Lopez-Berganza, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal. Mechanistic approach to predict the combined effects of additives and surface templates on calcium carbonate mineralization. ACS Crystal Growth&Design, 16 (11), 6186￿6198, 2016
  • Arcifa, A.; Rossi, A.; Espinosa-Marzal, R. M.; Spencer, N. D., Influence of Environmental Humidity on the Wear and Friction of a Silica/Silicon Tribopair Lubricated with a Hydrophilic Ionic Liquid. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 8(5), (2016) 2961-2973.
  • Shen, Y.; Huang, C.; Monroy, G. L.; Janjaroen, D.; Derlon, N.; Lin, J.; Espinosa-Marzal, R.; Morgenroth, E.; Boppart, S. A.; Ashbolt, N. J.; Liu, W.-T.; Nguyen, T. H., Response of Simulated Drinking Water Biofilm Mechanical and Structural Properties to Long-Term Disinfectant Exposure. Environ Sci Technol 50 (2016) 1779-1787.
  • Sheehan, A.; Jurado, L. A.; Ramakrishna, S. N.; Arcifa, A.; Rossi, A.; Spencer, N. D.; Espinosa-Marzal, R. M., Layering of Ionic Liquids on Rough Surfaces. Nanoscale 8 (2016) 4094-106.
  • Lopez-Berganza, J. A.; Diao, Y. J.; Pamidighantam, S.; Espinosa-Marzal, R. M., Ab Initio Studies of Calcium Carbonate Hydration. J Phys Chem A 119(2015) 11591-11600.
  • Jurado, L. A.; Kim, H.; Arcifa, A.; Rossi, A.; Leal, C.; Spencer, N. D.; Espinosa-Marzal, R. M., Irreversible Structural Change of a Dry Ionic Liquid under Nanoconfinement. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 17 (2015) 13613-13624.
  • Singh, M. K.; Ilg, P.; Espinosa-Marzal, R. M.; Kröger, M.; Spencer, N. D., Polymer Brushes under Shear: Molecular Dynamics Simulations Compared to Experiments. Langmuir 31 (2015), 4798-4805.
  • Arcifa, A.; Rossi, A.; Espinosa-Marzal, R. M.; Spencer, N. D., Environmental Influence on the Surface Chemistry of Ionic-Liquid-Mediated Lubrication in a Silica/Silicon Tribopair. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 118 (2014) 29389-29400.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, A. Arcifa, A. Rossi and N. D. Spencer. Ionic Liquids Confined in Hydrophilic Nanocontacts: Structure and Lubricity in the Presence of Water. Journal of Physical Chemistry C 118 (2014) 6491￿6503
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, A. Arcifa, A. Rossi and N. D. Spencer. Micro-slips to "avalanches" in confined, molecular layers of ionic liquids. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 5 (2014) 179-184.
  • S. N. Ramakrishna, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, V. V. Naik, P. C. Nalam, N. D. Spencer. Adhesion and Friction Properties of Polymer Brushes Coated on Rough Surfaces: A Gradient Approach. Langmuir 29 (2013) 15251￿15259.
  • D. A. Beattie, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, T. T.M. Ho, M. N. Popescu, J. Ralston, C. J. E. Richard, P. M. F. Sellapperumage, M. Krasowska. Molecularly-thin precursor films of imidazolium-based ionic liquids on mica, Journal of Physical Chemistry C 17 (2013) 23676￿23684.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, R. Bielecki, N. D. Spencer. Understanding the role of viscous solvent confinement in the tribological behavior of polymer brushes: a bioinspired approach. Soft Matter 9 (2013) 10572-10585.
  • P. C. Nalam, S. N. Ramakrishna, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, N. D. Spencer. Exploring lubrication regimes at the nano-scale: Nano-tribological characterization of silica and polymer brushes in viscous solvents. Langmuir 29 (2013) 10149-10158.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, G. Fontani, F. B. Reusch, M. Roba, N. D. Spencer, R. Crockett. Sugars communicate through water: oriented glycans induce water structuring, Biophysical Journal 104 (2013) 2686-2694.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, P. C Nalam, S. Bolisetty, N. D. Spencer. Impact of solvation on equilibrium conformation of polymer brushes in solvent mixtures. Soft Matter 9 (2013) 4045-4057.
  • P. C. Nalam, L. Daikhin, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, J. Clasohm, M. Urbakh and N. D. Spencer. Two-fluid model for the interpretation of quartz-crystal microbalance response: Tuning polymer brushes with solvent mixtures. Journal of Physical Chemistry C 117 (2013) 4533￿4543.
  • A. Li, S. N. Ramakrishna, E. S. Kooij, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, N. D. Spencer. Poly(acrylamide) Films at the Solvent-Induced Glass Transition: Adhesion, Tribology, and the Influence of Crosslinking. Soft Matter 8 (2012) 9092-9100.
  • S. Chodankar, E. Perret, K. Nygard, O. Bunk, D. K. Satapathy, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, T. E. Balmer, M. Heuberger, J. F. van der Veen, Density profile of water in nanoslit, Europhysics Letters 99 (2012) 26001-26007.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, G. W. Scherer. Impact of in-pore salt crystallization on transport properties. Environmental Earth Sciences 69 (2012) 2657-2669.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, T. Saidov, L. Pel, G. Scherer. Nucleation of sodium sulfate heptahydrate on mineral substrates, Journal of Crystal Growth 338 (2012) 166￿169.
  • R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, T. Drobek, T. Balmer, M. Heuberger. Hydrated ion correlations of interpenetrating electrical double layers, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 14 (2012) 6085-6093.
  • H. Derluyn, T.A. Saidov, R. M. Espinosa-Marzal, L. Pel, G.W. Scherer. Heptahydrate I: The growth of sodium sulfate heptahydrate crystals, Journal of Crystal Growth 329 (2011) 44-51.
  • R.M. Espinosa-Marzal, G.W. Scherer. Advances in understanding damage by crystallization: discrete and continuum approaches. Accounts for Chemical Research 43 (2010) 897￿905.

Professional Societies

  • Membership Secretary for ACS Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, elected 2016 and 2017.
  • Member of American Chemical Society since 2013


  • CEE Excellence Faculty Scholar (03/2016)
  • NCSA Fellow (08/2014)

Teaching Honors

  • Teaching Excellence (09/2015)

Research Honors

  • CAS Associate (01/2016)
  • DFG Early Career Support (09/2007)
  • DAAD Fellowship (10/1997)