Ph.D., Physics, Harvard University, 2013
A.M., Physics, Harvard University, 2010
M.S., Physics, University of Pennsylvania, 2008
B.A., Physics and Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania, 2008
Honors and Awards
- ACS Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award, 2018
- Alfred Rheinstein Faculty Award, 2018
- Princeton Engineering Commendation for Outstanding Teaching, 2018
- Andreas Acrivos Dissertation Award in Fluid Dynamics, American Physical Society, 2015
- Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 2013-2017
- LeRoy Apker Award, American Physical Society, 2008
- Associated Faculty, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
- Associated Faculty, Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials
The goal of our lab is to determine the fundamental principles governing applications of soft materials in energy, environmental science, and biotechnology.
The materials we study include polymer solutions and gels, colloidal dispersions, immiscible fluid mixtures, and “living” materials such as biofilms. These materials hold great promise in helping to solve engineering challenges like water remediation, oil recovery, CO2 sequestration, and drug delivery.
However, applying soft materials typically involves their transport through complex environments—like porous rocks or tissues in the human body—where the environment alters the material, the material itself alters the environment, and these coupled dynamics give rise to non-trivial emergent behavior. Understanding and controlling these interactions is a new frontier for engineering; this is what our lab aims to do.
We are tackling this challenge by integrating microscopy and image analysis, microfluidics and rheology, and materials processing and characterization. We also complement our experiments with theoretical modeling, using ideas from fluid dynamics, polymer physics, soft mechanics, and network theory. Our work is thus highly collaborative and multi-disciplinary, combining expertise from engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science. Ultimately, we strive to do fundamental research that can make a meaningful, positive impact in society.
We focus on three key areas in our work:
Fluid flow in porous rocks. We seek to develop better ways to model and control multi-phase flow for problems like contamination of groundwater aquifers, oil migration and recovery, methane venting, and subsurface CO2 storage. Even just visualizing flow in 3D rocks is typically impossible—after all, rocks are opaque! Our lab has developed expertise to make disordered porous rocks that are transparent. This capability allows us to visualize multi-phase flow within them in 3D, with high spatial and temporal resolution, over length scales ranging from smaller than a pore to that of the entire medium. We are using this platform to answer questions like: How do structural heterogeneities impact flow behavior? How does the complex rheology of polymer solutions impact how they navigate the pore space? How do colloidal dispersions reshape the pore space and alter subsequent flow through it?
Structure, mechanics, and transport in deformable porous materials. Many gels, clays, soils, biological structures, foods, pharmaceutical products, and coatings are deformable porous materials that change their structure in response to osmotic and mechanical stresses. We seek to develop better ways to model and control this behavior for applications in agriculture, formulations, and drug delivery. Our lab has developed tools to investigate the coupling between structure, mechanics, and transport in these systems. We are using these tools to answer questions like: How is flow through a porous medium linked to deformations of its solid matrix? How can osmotic stresses be used to control deformations in gels? How does confinement impact these processes?
Emergent behaviors of bacterial communities. Bacterial communities have exciting potential uses for water filtration and contaminant remediation. Motivated by these uses, we seek to understand and control how collective behaviors—like macroscopic motion, robustness to stresses, and chemical transformations—emerge in these communities. Our lab has developed tools to create communities with well-defined architectures and compositions. We are using these tools to answer questions like: How do environmental stresses impact the spatio-temporal organization of bacterial communities? How does confinement in porous media alter bacterial behavior? How can we use 3D printing to create functional communities?
- "Polymers in the gut compress the colonic mucus hydrogel", S. S. Datta, A. Preska Steinberg, and R. F. Ismagilov, PNAS 113, 7041 (2016)
- "Spatial fluctuations of fluid velocities in flow through a three-dimensional porous medium", S. S. Datta, T. S. Ramakrishnan, and D. A. Weitz, Physical Review Letters 111, 064501 (2013)
- "Delayed buckling and guided folding of inhomogeneous capsules", S. S. Datta, S-H Kim, J. Paulose, A. Abbaspourrad, D. R. Nelson, and D. A. Weitz, Physical Review Letters 109, 134302 (2012)
- "Mobilization of a trapped non-wetting fluid from a three-dimensional porous medium", S. S. Datta, T. S. Ramakrishnan, and D. A. Weitz, Physics of Fluids 26, 022002 (2014)
- "Breakup of fluids in steady-state two-phase flow through a porous medium", S. S. Datta, J. B. Dupin, and D. A. Weitz, Physics of Fluids 26, 062004 (2014)