"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.


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).

Jingyu Huang, Wei Wang, Catherine J. Murphy, and David G. Cahill, "Resonant secondary light emission from plasmonic Au nanostructures and the role of high electron temperatures created by pulsed laser excitation," PNAS 111, 906-911 (2014).

Gregory T. Hohensee, R. B. Wilson, Joseph P. Feser, and David G. Cahill, "Magnon-phonon coupling in Ca9La5Cu24O41 spin ladders measured by time-domain thermoreflectance," Phys. Rev. B 89, 024422 (2014).

Gyung-Min Choi, Richard B. Wilson, and David G. Cahill, "Indirect heating of Pt by short-pulse laser irradiation of Au in a nanoscale Pt/Au bilayer," Phys. Rev. B 89, 064307 (2014).

Jiung Cho, Mark D. Losego, Hui Gang Zhang, Honggyu Kim, Jianmin Zuo, Ivan Petrov, David G. Cahill, and Paul V. Braun, "Electrochemically tunable thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide," Nature Commun. 5, 4035 (2014).

Gyung-Min Choi, Byoung-Chul Min, Kyung-Jin Lee, and David G. Cahill, "Spin current generated by thermally-driven ultrafast demagnetization," Nature Commun. 5, 4334 (2014).

Ji Yong Park, Andrew Gardner, Ashwin Ramesh, William P. King, Steve Granick, David G. Cahill, "Droplet impingement and vapor layer formation on hot hydrophobic surfaces," J. Heat Transf. 136, 092902 (2014).

Trong Tong, J. Karthik, R. V. K. Mangalam, Lane W. Martin, and David G. Cahill, "Reduction of the electrocaloric entropy change of PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3 thin films by an elastocaloric effect," Phys. Rev. B 90, 094116 (2014).

R. B. Wilson and David G. Cahill, "Anisotropic failure of Fourier's law in Si and MgO and the importance of temperature-profile extrema," Nature Commun. 5, 5075 (2014).

Trong Tong, J. Karthik, Lane W. Martin, David G. Cahill, "Secondary effects in wide frequency range measurements of the pyroelectric coefficient of Ba0.6Sr0.4TiO3 and PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3 epitaxial layers," Phys. Rev. B 90, 155423 (2014).

Joseph P. Feser, Jun Liu, and David G. Cahill, "Pump-probe measurements of the thermal conductivity tensor for materials lacking in-plane symmetry," Rev. Sci. Instrum.  85, 104903 (2014).

Johannes Kimling, Judith Kimling, R. B. Wilson, David G. Cahill, Birgit Hebler, and Manfred Albrecht, "Role of magnetic heat capacity in ultrafast demagnetization," Phys. Rev. B 90, 224408 (2014).

Jun Liu, Gyung-Min Choi, and David G. Cahill, "Measurement of the anisotropic thermal conductivity of molybdenum disulfide by the time-resolved magneto-optic Kerr effect," J. Appl. Phys.  116, 233107 (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)
  • Yeram S. Touloukian Award, ASME (2015)