Nanoscale Heat Transfer Laboratory

AFOSR Research | Probing Thermal Transport on the Nanoscale

Developing the next generation of thin film microelectronic devices will depend on two key advances. We must develop a much more refined understanding of the thermophysical properties of extremely thin films used in microelectronics, properties that differ dramatically from bulk materials. We must also develop nondestructive sensors capable of monitoring thin film deposition. Precise control of thin film properties requires the ability to measure the evolving microstructure and morphology of the film as it is being deposited and gauge such properties as conductivity, bulk modulus, thickness, and thermal boundary resistance. Development of sensor technology is just one of the projects currently being undertaken by the Nanoscale Heat Transfer Laboratory at the University of Virginia.


The mission of the Nanoscale Heat Transfer Laboratory is to develop new techniques to measure, understand, and utilize microscale thermal phenomena on the subpicosecond time scale and the submicron length scale. The lab conducts a mixture of fundamental and applied research. Current activities include:

  • Experimental measurements of cooling profiles with femtosecond temporal resolution for determining thin film thermophysical properties.
  • Theoretical examination of the reduced thermal diffusivity of thin metallic films and wires.
  • Nondestructive characterization of thin film thickness and acoustic properties.
  • Experimental investigation of the electron-phonon coupling factor.
  • Solution of the parabolic two-step heat conduction model at high electron temperatures.
  • Theoretical examination of the laser damage threshold of thin coatings.
  • Development of a new optical technique for monitoring wafer temperature and oxide film growth on silicon wafers.
  • Development of nonintrusive laser sensor technology.


The Nanoscale Heat Transfer Laboratory is one of only a few laboratories in the world capable of measuring changes in surface temperature with subpicosecond temporal resolution. It houses a state-of-the-art femtosecond pump/probe laser system that allows resolution of transient phenomena in the microscale regime. Computational facilities include both personal computers and an IBM RS-6000. Current research is sponsored by a variety of private and public institutions. These have included the National Science Foundation, Solarex, MATSYS, Inc., and Aerojet.

It's never too early to start thinking about Grad School (Professor Norris' son Alex is!)


Researchers at the Nanoscale Heat Transfer Laboratory welcome additional collaborations with industry.  Contact information is in the right-hand sidebar.

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