"Management of heat
is a critical issue
across many areas
of science and engineering. We are studying the materials physics of thermal transport at the nanoscale, with the goal of enhancing thermal function."

David G. Cahill

David Cahill
Department Head, Donald B. Willett Professor of Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Office 1008 Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory

Telephone 217-333-6753 Fax 217-333-2736

Mail Address Department of Materials Science and Engineering
1304 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801

d-cahill@illinois.edu    Cahill's Web page

  • Profile
  • Research
  • Publications
  • Awards


Professor Cahill received his BS in engineering physics from Ohio State University (summa cum laude) and his PhD in physics from Cornell University in 1989. His PhD work concerned lattice vibrations of disordered solids. Before joining the faculty at UIUC, he worked at IBM Watson Research Center where he conducted research on metal-semiconductor interfaces. His current research program focuses on developing a microscopic understanding of thermal transport at the nanoscale; the development of new methods of materials processing and analysis using ultrafast optical techniques; and advancing fundamental understanding of interfaces between materials and water.

David Cahill is the 1998 winner of the Peter Mark Memorial Award, the outstanding young investigator award of the AVS. Cahill was named a University Scholar by the University of Illinois in 2001, and a Willett Professor of Engineering by the College of Engineering in 2005. He is a fellow of the American Vacuum Society, the American Physical Society, and the Materials Research Society. He is on the editorial boards of Applied Physics Letters and Journal of Applied Physics.


Thermal management is a critical issue in a wide variety of applications of thin films materials from state-of-the-art microprocessors to turbine engines. Heat can be carried by any excitation of the solid that is thermally excited: lattice vibrations, electrons, spin-waves. The lifetime or coherence of these excitations have a complex dependence the microstructure of materials; at nanometer length scales, the transfer of heat between various excitations at interfaces becomes the controlling factor. Our group studies the basic science of thermal transport in materials with a particular emphasis on the exchange of thermal energy at solid-solid and solid-liquid interfaces. We have recently developed new and powerful methods of characterizing nanoscale thermal transport using ultrafast laser metrology of precisely controlled thin film multilayers and suspensions of metallic nanoparticles.  We are currently working to extend our experimental methods to higher resolution in time, space, and energy.


Mark D. Losego, Martha E. Grady, Nancy R. Sottos, David G. Cahill, and Paul V. Braun, "Effects of chemical bonding on heat transport across interfaces," Nat. Mater.  11, 502-506 (2012).

Chang-Ki Min, Kejia Chen, Sung Chul Bae, David G. Cahill, and Steve Granick, "Heat transfer at solid-gas interfaces by photoacoustics at Brillouin frequencies," J. Phys. Chem. 116, 10896-10903 (2012).

J.-C. Zhao, Xuan Zheng, and David G. Cahill, "Thermal conductivity mapping of the Ni-Al system and the beta-NiAl phase in the Ni-Al-Cr system," Scripta Materialia 66, 935-938 (2012).

Wei Wang and David G. Cahill, "Limits to thermal transport in nanoscale metal bilayers due to weak electron-phonon coupling in Au and Cu," Phys. Rev. Lett.  109, 175503 (2012).

Joseph P Feser, Bruno Azeredo, Keng Hsu, Jyothi Sadhu, Jun Ma, Junhwan Kim, Nicholas Fang, Sanjiv Sinha, Xiuling Li, Placid Ferreira, and David G. Cahill, "Thermal conductivity of silicon nanowire arrays with controlled roughness," J. Appl. Phys.  112, 114306 (2012).

Jonglo Park, Jingyu Huang, Wei Wang, Catherine J. Murphy, and David G. Cahill, "Heat transport between Au nanorods, surrounding liquids, and solid-supports," J. Phys. Chem. C 116, 26335-26341 (2012).

Jingyu Huang, Jonglo Park, Wei Wang, Catherine J. Murphy, and David G. Cahill, "Ultrafast thermal analysis of surface functionalized gold nanorods in aqueous solution," ACS Nano 7, 589-597 (2013); erratum 7, 3732 (2013).

Xiaojia Wang, Victor Ho, Rachel A. Segalman, and David G. Cahill, "Thermal conductivity of high modulus polymer fibers," Macromolecules 46, 4937 (2013).

Xiaojia Wang, Christopher D. Liman, Neil D. Treat, Michael L. Chabinyc, and David G. Cahill, "Ultralow thermal conductivity of fullerene derivatives," Phys. Rev. B 88, 075310 (2013).

Dongyao Li, Peng Zhao, Ji-Cheng Zhao, and David G. Cahill, "Generation and detection of GHz surface acoustic waves using an elastomeric phase-shift mask," J. Appl. Phys.  114, 143102 (2013).

R. B. Wilson, Joseph P. Feser, Greg Hohensee, and David G. Cahill, "Analysis of two-channel heat flow in pump-probe studies of non-equilibrium thermal transport," Phys. Rev. B 88, 144305 (2013).

David G. Cahill, Paul V. Braun, Gang Chen, David R. Clarke, Shanhui Fan, Kenneth E. Goodson, Pawel Keblinski, William P. King, Gerald D. Mahan, Arun Majumdar, Humphrey J. Maris, Simon R. Phillpot, Eric Pop, and Li Shi, "Nanoscale Thermal Transport II: 2003-2012", Appl. Phys. Rev. 1, 011305 (2014).

  • Keynote lecture, 17th Japan Symposium on Thermophysical Properties, Tsukuba, Japan (1996)
  • Peter Mark Memorial Award, AVS (1998)
  • Fellow, American Vacuum Society (1998)
  • Plenary lecture, 15th European Conference on Thermophysical Properties, Würzburg, Germany (1999)
  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research (2000)
  • University Scholar, UIUC (2000)
  • Vice Chair, Chair, Program Chair, Nanometer-scale Science and Technology Division of the American Vacuum Society (2000-2003)
  • Willett Faculty Scholar Award (2002)
  • Chair of Gordon Research Conference, "Thin Film and Crystal Growth Mechanisms" (2003)
  • Plenary lecture, 26th Japan Symposium on Thermophysical Properties, Tsukuba, Japan (2005)
  • Fellow, American Physics Society (2005)
  • Donald B. Willett Professor of Engineering, UIUC (2005-)
  • Fellow, Materials Research Society (2012)