By Peter Murphy
Published May 31, 2022
Prabodh Varanasi (PhD ’84) received the Samuel Rosen Memorial Award from the American Oil Chemists Society’s (AOCS) Surfactants and Detergents division.
The award recognizes an individual who has made a significant advancement, cumulative advancements, or application of surfactant chemistry principles.
“This award is significant for me,” Varanasi says. “I am honored to be put alongside some of the previous winners who I greatly admire for their major contributions dealing with industrial applications of surfactants and interfacial phenomena.”
Surfactants lower the surface tension between two liquids, a gas and a liquid, or between a liquid and a solid. These compounds are found in many detergents, foaming agents and other household materials. For over 30 years, Varanasi has worked in this, and other areas, to establish significant research breakthroughs associated with consumer products and industrial process.
“Through an enhanced understanding of wicking and transport, and evaporation of multicomponent liquids containing surfactants in porous media, I paved the way to develop several new products in air-care, insect-control and home cleaning,” Varanasi says. “I also worked to develop materials to provide enhanced substantivity and anti-staining property to tooth surfaces in oral care applications.”
Varanasi’s breakthroughs extend to products associated with his other research interests as well. He investigates interfacial and transport phenomena, or what occurs when two different phases (solid, liquid or gas) come together. Additionally, he has significant achievements in rheology of emulsions and dispersions in applications associated with consumer products and industrial processes. Varanasi’s work in this area led to several new and innovative products.
Varanasi chose to attend UB on a scholarship provided by SUNY Distinguished Professor and U.S. National Medal of Science awardee Eli Ruckenstein. While at UB, he switched advisors to work with Professor Pieter Stroeve based on his research interests.
“When I was at UB, Professor Ruckenstein and Professor Robert Good and adjunct professor Carol Van Oss, were all very well-known in the area of colloid and interface science, which is the area that I still work in today,” Varanasi says. “In addition to these faculty, my PhD advisor Pieter Stroeve and one of my PhD classmates, Manoj Chaudhurry, now a professor at Lehigh University, had a strong influence on me.”
Shortly after earning his PhD, Varanasi began his career in the corporate research labs of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. where he worked extensively in the areas of colloid and interfacial phenomena and rheology of dispersions. This work helped develop several new products in different sections, specifically home-care, air-care and insect control. His work at Johnson & Son, Inc. was recognized with 14 worldwide research and development technical merit awards.
Varanasi continued to develop innovative materials for different companies throughout his career, including SPX corporation, and BASF, a chemicals company, where he currently serves as the head of development for home, personal and oral businesses, and is currently associated with BASF’s industrial formulators business.
Varanasi’s research has led to over 100 patents and publications.