Professor David McIlroy's Research Group

Welcome to the website of David McIlroy's research group.

Research Foci and Philosophy: Our group studies nanoscale phenomena. This is a common area of condensed matter physics that spans a large swath of the landscape. Within this broad area we focus on zero and one dimensional nanomaterials and combinations thereof. We are interested in the surface properties, electronic and optical properties of these nanomaterials. To specialize in nanoscale phenomena dictates that we split our efforts between basic and applied research, and not necessarily in that order. We have found that as we pursue an application of our materials we often uncover behavior that is basic nature, thereby leading to new directions of basic research. Similarly, pursuit of basic research problems produce outcomes that lead to applied projects.

 Revolutionizing hi-tech optical lenses with novel pyramid structuresRevolutionizing hi-tech optical lenses with novel nano-pyramid structures.

Current Projects:

  • Surface Plasmon Polarition Pumped Explosives Sensors

          The goal of this project is develop novel hybrid forms of matter that support metastable electronic states that, in turn, are highly responsive to changes in the chemical state of the surface of the material. The strategy is to create excited (metastable) electronic states by populating normally unoccupied states in the conduction band. To achieve this, plasmonic materials, such as Au, Ag, Al, etc. are mated with semiconducting materials. By exciting surface plasmon polaritons, we pump energy into the semiconductor either by injecting electrons into its conduction band (hot electrons) or energy transfer by inelastic scattering of surface plasmon polaritions. By establishing a unstable equilibrium of excited states, we produce a material with an electron state that is extremely sensitive to pertubations of the electronic environment. By functionalizing the surface of this hybrid material with molecular receptors that target ammonium nitrate, a common explosive used in IED, a highly sensitive explosive sensor is realized. This project is funded by the Office of Naval Research (N00014-20-2433).

  •  Metamaterials for Nonlinear Coupling and Decoupling in Opto-Electronic and Mechanical Systems


Research Topics:

  • Nanomaterials: Nanosprings, Nanowires, Metallic Nanoparticles and Hybrid (zero-D and 1D) Nanostructures
  • Gas interactions at the Surfaces of Nanomaterials
  • Catalytic Properties and Applications of Hybrid Nanostructures
  • Conductivity and Photoconductivity of Transport of Individual 1D and Hybrid Nanostructures
  • Chemical Sensors Constructed with Hybrid Nanostructures
  • Hydrogen Storage by Nanosprings
  • Carbon Coated Nanosprings for Electrodes


Group History

We are best known for our work on nanosprings, where my lab has successfully created boron carbide, silicon carbide, and silica nanosprings. In the case of boron carbide and silicon carbide nanosprings the sample will consist nanosprings dispersed in a sea of nanowires. In contrast, the silica nanosprings are produced at ~350 C, at atmospheric conditions, and only takes 15-30 minutes start to finish. This process produces 100% nanosprings every time!


Experimental Capabilities in McIlroy's Lab:

  • X-ray and Ultraviolet Photoelectron Spectroscopy ( Dual anode X-ray source, UV lamp, hemispherical electron energy analyzer, electron flood gun, e-beam sample heating, 77K and 15K temperature capabilities, and Ar sputter gun)
  • J.A. Woollam Ellipsometry
  • Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Electronic/Optoelectronic Microprobe/Microscope Test Station


Materials Synthesis Capabilities:

  • Nanospring Growth Systems (Three)
  • Atomic Layer Deposition (Two for metal oxides and another for GaN)
  • Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (Primarily for Au nanoparticle coating of 1D nanostructures)
  • Dual Target Sputter Deposition System

Professor David McIlroy's Research Group