IAS Fellow at Ustinov College, January – March 2023


Khalil Hanna is Professor of Chemistry at the Graduate Engineering School of Chemistry of Rennes (France). He earned his PhD (2004) in Environmental Chemistry from the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon. He was appointed in 2017 as a junior member of the “Institut Universitaire de France”, a prestigious institution that distinguishes each year a small number of university professors for their outstanding research. He has published over 140 peer-reviewed original research articles in top international journals. He has developed several collaborative programs with international research institutes, and has earned numerous awards and grants from different national and international organizations. He has also been invited to give talks and keynotes at numerous universities and international conferences. Professor Hanna’s work is funded by premier funding agencies including the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA-EU), the French National Research Agency (ANR) and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME).

Professor Hanna’s research group is engaged in elucidating molecular-scale reactions at mineral surfaces and in translating molecular-level information to observations made at the larger scales using thermodynamics and reactive transport modelling. More specifically, he has developed metal-mediated redox reactions which could be used in heterogeneous catalysis and environmental remediation processes. He has also developed a multi-scale procedure for reactivity assessments in order to incorporate chemical and physical heterogeneities in contaminant fate studies. As one of the very few chemists who has worked on joining the edges of molecular chemistry at the solid/water interface and hydrology for reactive transport, Professor Hanna’s work has gained international recognition. This particularly addresses the fundamental challenge of upscaling coupled chemical and physical processes from the molecular to the meso- (pore) scale. Reactivity assessment of interfacial reactions under flow-through is broadly applicable to various chemical processes, including Earth and space chemistry, prebiotic chemistry, atmospheric chemistry, and green chemistry.

During his IAS Fellowship in Durham, he will be collaborating with Professor Chris Greenwell in the Chemistry Department, and set up an interdisciplinary team to tackle environmental issues related to contaminant fate and transport in natural systems. Contaminant migration in subsurface environments is a pressing concern, given its potential hazard to humans, animals, and aquatic life. As a result, improved knowledge on protecting and managing as well as decontaminating water resources is continually needed. This can in particular be gained by connecting molecular-scale processes to the larger scales that matter for society and the environment. This interdisciplinary team will propose a methodology crossing time and length-scale boundaries, connecting molecular level and pore-scale to Darcy-scale processes in reactive transport models that account for chemical and physical heterogeneities. Crossing disciplinary boundaries, from fundamental physics, through chemistry to engineering and earth sciences, will allow the gathering ofimportant data and to develop models to quantify the impact of flow on surface reactivity and reaction rates. This will represent a decisive step, opening up a broad range of environmental, and wider, applications. Furthermore, a well-thought-out prevention strategy must be developed to question the most effective way to address escalating global chemical use. It would be more effective to focus on corrective measures of root causes, rather than simply remediating the pollution.