David Cahill

 David Cahill
David Cahill

Administrative Titles

  • Donald B. Willett Professor of Engineering
Professor and Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering
(217) 333-6753
1022 Superconductivity Center

For more information


  • B.S. Engineering Physics, Ohio State University, 1984
  • Ph.D. Physics, Cornell University, 1989

Academic Positions

  • Head of Department - Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois - (2010-2018)
  • Willett Professor of Engineering. College of Engineering, University of Illinois - (2005-present)
  • Professor - Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois - (2002-present)
  • Associate Professor - Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois - (1997-2002)
  • Assistant Professor - Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Illinois - (1991-1997)

Other Professional Employment

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, IBM Watson Research Center (1989-91)

Professional Highlights

  • David Cahill is the Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the faculty of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the U. Illinois after earning his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Cornell University, and working as a postdoctoral research associate at the IBM Watson Research Center. His current research program focuses on developing a microscopic understanding of thermal transport at the nanoscale; extremes of low and high thermal conductivity in materials; the interactions between phonons, electrons, photons, and spin; and the kinetics and thermodynamics of aqueous and electrochemical interfaces with materials. He received the 2018 Innovation in Materials Characterization Award of the Materials Research Society (MRS); the 2015 Touloukian Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Peter Mark Memorial Award of the American Vacuum Society (AVS); and is a fellow of the MRS, AVS, APS (American Physical Society), and AAAS. Prof. Cahill received the 2020 Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award from the Grainger College of Engineering.

Research Statement

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.

Research Interests

  • nanoscale thermal transport, GHz frequency acoustics, magnetic materials, heat and mass transport in soft materials, ultrafast magneto-optics, materials property microscopy

Research Areas

  • Ceramics
  • Electronic Materials
  • Metals
  • Polymers

Research Topics

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Dongyao Li, Andre Schleife, David G. Cahill, Gavin Mitchson, and David C. Johnson, "Ultralow shear modulusof incommensurate [SnSe]n[MoSe2]n layers synthesized by the method of modulated elemental reactants," Phys. Rev. Mat. 3, 043607 (2019).
  • Qiye Zheng, Chunhua Li, Akash Rai, Jacob H. Leach, David A. Broido, David G. Cahill, "Thermal conductivity of GaN, 71GaN and SiC from 150 K to 850 K," Phys. Rev. Mat. 3, 014601 (2019).
  • Qiye Zheng, Gaohua Zhu, Zhu Diao, Debasish Banerjee, and David G. Cahill, "High contrast thermal conductivity change in Ni-Mn-In Heusler alloys near room-temperature," Advanced Engineering Materials 21, 1801342 (2019).
  • Jungwoo Shin, Jaeuk Sung, Minjee Kang, Xu Xie, Byeongdu Lee, Kyungmin Lee, Timothy White, Cecilia Leal, Nancy R. Sottos, Paul V. Braun and David G. Cahill, “Light-triggered thermal conductivity switching in azobenzene polymers,” PNAS 116, 5973-5978 (2019).
  • Xu Xie, Jordan M. Dennison, Jungwoo Shin, Zhu Diao and David G. Cahill, “Measurement of water vapor diffusion in nanoscale polymer films by frequency-domain probe beam deflection,” Rev. Sci. Instrum. 89, 104904 (2018).
  • Sheng Li, Qiye Zheng, Yinchuan Lv, Xiaoyuan Liu, Xiqu Wang, Pinshane Huang, David G. Cahill and Bing Lv, “Ultrahigh thermal conductivity in cubic boron arsenide crystals,” Science 361, 579-581 (2018).
  • Hyejin Jang, Christopher R. Ryder, Joshua D. Wood, Mark C. Hersam and David G. Cahill, “3D anisotropic thermal conductivity of exfoliated rhenium disulfide,” Adv. Mat. 29, 1700650 (2017).
  • Johannes Kimling, Gyung-Min Choi, Jack T. Brangham, Tristan Matalla-Wagner, Torsten Hubner, Timo Kuschel, Fengyuan Yang and David G. Cahill, "Picosecond spin Seebeck effect," Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 057201 (2017).
  • Xu Xie, Kexin Yang, Dongyao Li, Tsung-Han Tsai, Jungwoo Shin, Paul V. Braun, and David G. Cahill, "High and low thermal conductivity of amorphous macromolecules," Phys. Rev. B 95, 035406 (2017).
  • Johannes Kimling and David G. Cahill, "Spin diffusion induced by pulsed-laser heating," Phys. Rev. B 95, 014402 (2017).
  • Jungwoo Shin, Minjee Kang, Tsunghan Tsai, Cecilia Leal, Paul V. Braun and David G. Cahill, "Thermally-functional liquid crystal networks by magnetic field driven molecular orientation," ACS Macro Letters 5, 955-960 (2016).
  • Dongyao Li and David G. Cahill, "Attenuation of 7 GHz surface acoustic waves on silicon," Phys. Rev. B 94, 104306 (2016).
  • Gyung-Min Choi, Byoung-Chul Min, Kyung-Jin Lee and David G. Cahill, "Thermal spin transfer torque driven by ultrafast heat flow in metallic spin-valve structures," Nature Phys., 11, 576 (2015).
  • Johannes Kimling, R.B. Wilson, Karsten Rott, Judith Kimling, Guenter Reiss and David G. Cahill, "Spin-dependent thermal transport perpendicular to the planes of Co/Cu multilayers," Physical Review B 91, 144405 (2015).
  • Jun Liu, Xiaojia Wang, Dongyao Li, Nelson E. Coates, Rachel A. Segalman and David G. Cahill, "Thermal conductivity and elastic constants of PEDOT:PSS with high electrical conductivity," Macromolecules 48, 585-591 (2015).

Research Honors

  • Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award, College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2020)
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Section on Engineering (2020)
  • Innovation in Materials Characterization Award, Materials Research Society (2018)
  • Yeram S. Touloukian Award, ASME (2015)
  • Fellow of the Materials Research Society (2012)
  • Donald Bigger Willett Professor of Engineering, University of Illinois, College of Engineering (2005-present)
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society (2005)
  • University Scholar, University of Illinois (2000-2003)
  • Peter Mark Memorial Award, AVS (1998)
  • Fellow of American Vacuum Society (1998)

Recent Courses Taught

  • MSE 201 - Phases and Phase Relations
  • MSE 396 - Introduction to Research
  • MSE 401 - Thermodynamics of Materials