Silvia Ahualli received her PhD degree from the University of Granada, in 2008 under financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (FPU grant). Her main contribution at this time involved electrokinetics of concentrated dispersions of nanoparticles in aqueous medium. She also tried to keep an eye on technology transfer: she is co-author of several patent applications.
The electrokinetics of coated polymer particles or “soft particles” was a problem she solved for the first time in the case of concentrated systems. The published work coming from this study is in the top 25% of the most citated articles in the journal in this year, including several from the most relevant researchers in the field, an invited talk and two book chapters. This approach allowed the international collaboration with several research groups.
Her Postdoctoral stay at the University of Graz, under the supervision of Prof. Otto Glatter, a recognized expert in Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS), was extremely useful. She had the opportunity to learn the methodology established for the investigation of concentrated, interacting colloidal systems and complex fluids: experimental techniques of small-angle X-ray scattering and dynamic light scattering. She was in charge of a new project, where she supervised a Ph.D. student.
She joined the University of Jaén in a coordinated research project regarding the study of thermoresponsive microgels by means of Monte Carlo simulations. This is a field highly linked to soft particles, which has gained considerable interest for its potential applications in areas of biotechnology, such as drug delivery.
She later joined the research group in Granada in a very innovative project financed by EU in the VII FP. The project, denominated CAPMIX, is a direct application of the properties of electrical double layers: the expansion of the double layer upon exchanging salt and fresh solutions allows obtaining a certain amount of energy. Her contribution to the project was very intense, since her background makes possible the elaboration of models for the processes involved and their optimization.
At the end of this period, she proposed a new original project, including both blue energy and capacitive desalination from an experimental and theoretical point of view based on mechanism of ion transport and ion selectivity in nanoscale pores and modeling approaches for understanding electrosorption phenomena.
She was the co-advisor of a Ph.D thesis dealing with electrokinetics of non-spherical particles concluded in 2016 and she also supervised several master’s thesis about electrokinetics, blue energy production based on salinity gradients and capacitive deionization.
The international relevance of her research is demonstrated by the opportunity to be invited to write a book in the Interface Science and Technology Series from Elsevier Publishing group, about Charge and Energy Storage in Electrical Double Layer that was published in 2018.