Faculty Profile

John R Abelson

Coordinated Sciences Lab
John R Abelson
John R Abelson
Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering
1-109 Engineering Sciences Building MC 233
1101 W. Springfield
Urbana Illinois 61801
(217) 333-7258

Primary Research Area

  • Computational and Physical Electronics


  • Ph.D., Mat. Sci. & Eng., Stanford University, 9/87
  • B.S., Engr. & Appl. Sci., Yale University, 5/79

Academic Positions

  • University of Illinois - Professor, Dept. MatSE (8/00-present)

For more information

Other Professional Employment

  • M￿re de Recherches, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France (9/02-12/02)
  • Visiting Scientist, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France (10/81-8/82)
  • Research Assistant, Solar Energy Res. Inst., Golden, CO (6/79-9/81)

Major Consulting Activities

  • Dow Corning New Venture Energy 2002-2003
  • 3M Corporation 2000-2003

Professional Highlights

  • Professor Abelson received his BS from Yale University in 1979, was a researcher at the Solar Energy Research Institute (1979-81) and the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris (1981-82), received his PhD from Stanford in 1987, then joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UIUC. He is active in the Materials Research Society and is a Fellow of the American Vacuum Society.

Research Statement

Our research focus is the synthesis of thin films by surface-controlled reaction to afford ultra-smooth, conformal, superconformal, or nanostructured surfaces for use in electronic, photonic, magnetic or tribological applications.

The primary experimental approach is low-temperature chemical vapor deposition (CVD) under conditions where molecular adsorption is strong and the reaction (film growth) rate is moderated by surface site blocking or associative desorption processes. An innovation in our work is the use of neutral ‘inhibitor’ molecules to control the surface kinetics.

Our work involves a very close collaboration with the group of Prof. Greg Girolami in the Department of Chemistry. They specialize in the invention and synthesis of new precursor molecules for the CVD process. These molecules are designed to react at desired substrate temperatures to afford high purity materials. However, if a molecule is not satisfactory, the group of Prof. Girolami creates a new variant for us by modifying the ligand groups. Thus, our joint group effort operates at the leading edge of invention and new possibilities in thin film growth.

Current systems under study include: refractory and ultra-hard metal diborides; oxides of Ti, Mg, and the rare earths; copper and silver; iron, cobalt and other magnetic materials.

We have invented a method to grow films in a superconformal fashion, in which the thickness increases with depth below the opening of a deep feature. This will enable the complete filling of such features, as required in microelectronic and nanoscale device fabrication. We have invented a method to control the density and size distribution of nuclei on relatively unreactive substrates. This can be used to deposit ultra-smooth, ultra-thin films, or instead, an array of relatively uniform islands for plasmonic applications.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Chris Mandrell (1994), MatSE

Chintan Amin (1995), MatSE

Jill Steinbach (1996), MatSE; Motorola, Phoenix AZ

Maribeth Swiatek (1996), MatSE; Ph.D. at Caltech

Patrick Buchana (1996), ChemE; Budweiser, St. Louis MO

Andrew Dolvig (1997), MatSE; Intel, Portland OR

John Kaeding (BS thesis) (2000), MatSE; Ph.D. at UCSB

Joseph Grill (BS thesis) (2000), Chemistry; chemical industry

Roger Dickey (2004), ECE

Milka Alyssa (2004), UIC ChemE/Math

Angela Gonzales (2006), MatSE

Nouman Ali (2007), CIIT-Pakistan

Muhammad Yasar (2008), CIIT-Pakistan

Research Areas

  • Computational and Physical Electronics

Selected Articles in Journals

  • E. Mohimi, Z. V. Zhang, S. Liu, J. L. Mallek, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Area selective CVD of metallic films from molybdenum, iron, and ruthenium carbonyl precursors: Use of ammonia to inhibit nucleation on oxide surfaces," JVST A 36, 041507 (2018)
  • P. Zhang, S. Babar, S. Sahoo, M. Zhu, L. M. Davis, M. Kautzky, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Iron-Cobalt Alloy Thin Films with High Saturation Magnetizations Grown by Conformal Metalorganic CVD," JVST-A 33, 061521 (2015)
  • E. Mohimi, T. Oskan, S. Babar, A. A. Polycarpou and J. R. Abelson, "Conformal growth of low friction HfBxCy hard coatings," in press, Thin Solid Films (2015).
  • S. Babar, E. Mohimi, B. Trinh, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Surface-selective chemical vapor deposition of copper films through the use of a molecular inhibitor," ECS J. Solid State Sci. Tech. 4(7), N60-63 (2015)
  • S. Chowdhury, K. Polychronopoulou, A. N. Cloud, J. R. Abelson and A. A. Polycarpou, "Nanomechanical and nanotribological behavior of hafnium boride thin films," Thin Solid Films 595, 84 (2015)
  • K. Darmawikarta, T. T. Li, S. G. Bishop and J. R. Abelson, "Nanoscale Order in Amorphous GeTe Thin Films," APL 105, 191903 (2014)
  • W. B. Wang and J. R. Abelson, "Filling High Aspect Ratio Trenches By Superconformal CVD: Predictive Modeling and Experiment," J. Appl. Phys. 116, 194508 (2014)
  • S. Babar, T. T. Li and J. R. Abelson, "Role of nucleation layer morphology in determining the statistical roughness of CVD-grown thin films," JVST A 32, 060601 (2014)
  • W. Wang, A. Yanguas-Gil, Y. Yang, D.-Y. Kim, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Chemical Vapor Deposition of TiO2 Thin Films at Low-Temperature from a New Halogen-free Precursor," JVST A 32, 061502 (2014)
  • W. W. Wang, N. N. Chang, T. A. Codding, G. S. Girolami, and J. R. Abelson, "Superconformal Chemical Vapor Deposition of Thin Films in Deep Features," JVST A32, 051512 (2014)
  • J. Lee, K. Polychronopoulou, A. N. Cloud, J. R. Abelson and A. A. Polycarpou, "Shear strength measurements of hafnium diboride thin solid films," Wear 318, 168-176 (2014)
  • S. Babar, L. M. Davis, P. Zhang, E. Mohimi, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Chemical Vapor Deposition of Copper: Use of a Molecular Inhibitor to Afford Uniform Nanoislands or Smooth Films," JEC-JSSP 3(5), Q79-Q83 (2014)
  • B.-S. Lee, R. Shelby, S. Raoux, C. Rettner, G. Burr, S. N. Bogle, K. Darmawikarta, S. G. Bishop, and J. R. Abelson, "Nanoscale Nuclei in Phase Change Materials: Origin of Different Crystallization Mechanisms of Ge2Sb2Te5 and AgInSbTe" J. Appl. Phys. 115(6), 063506 (2014)
  • B.-S. Lee, K. Darmawikarta, S. Raoux, Y.-H. Shih, Y. Zhu, S. G. Bishop, and J. R. Abelson, "Distribution of Nanoscale Nuclei in the Amorphous Dome of a Phase Change RAM," Appl. Phys. Lett. 104, 071907 (2014)
  • A. N. Cloud, L. M. Davis, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Low-temperature CVD of iron, cobalt, and nickel nitride thin films from bis[di(tert-butyl)amido]metal(II) precursors and ammonia," JVST-A 32(2), 020606 (2014)
  • T. T. Li, S. N. Bogle and J. R. Abelson, "Quantitative fluctuation microscopy in the STEM: Methods to identify, avoid and correct for artifacts," Microscopy and Microanalysis, 20(5), 1605-1618 (2014)
  • K. Darmawikarta, T. T. Li, S. G. Bishop and J. R. Abelson, "Two Forms of Nanoscale Order in Amorphous GexSe1-x Alloys," Appl. Phys. Lett., 103(13) 131908 (2013)
  • K. A. Arpin, M. D. Losego, A. N. Cloud, H. Ning, J. Mallek, N.P. Sergeant, L. Zhu, Z. Yu, B. Kalanyan, G. N. Parsons, G. S. Girolami, J. R. Abelson, S. Fan and P. V. Braun, "3D Self-Assembled Photonic Crystals with High Temperature Stability for Thermal Emission Modification," Nature Communications 4, 2630 (2013)
  • S. Babar, N. Kumar, P. Zhang, J. R. Abelson, A. C. Dunbar, S. R. Daly, and G. S. Girolami, ￿Growth Inhibitor To Homogenize Nucleation and Obtain Smooth HfB2 Thin Films by Chemical Vapor Deposition￿ Chem. Mater. 25, 662−667 (2013).
  • T. T. Li and J. R. Abelson, "Quantifying nanoscale order in amorphous materials via scattering covariance in the TEM," Ultramicroscopy 133, 95(2013)
  • K. Darmawikarta, S. Raoux, P. Tchoulfian, T. Li, J. R. Abelson and S. G. Bishop, "Evolution of Subcritical Nuclei in Nitrogen-alloyed Ge2Sb2Te5," J. Appl. Phys. 112, 124907 (2012)
  • T. S. Spicer, C. W. Spicer, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, "Low-Temperature CVD of Crystalline Manganese Nitride (η Mn3N2-x) Thin Films from Bis[di(tert butyl)amido]manganese(II) and Ammonia," JVST-A, 31(3), 030604 (2013)
  • W. Wang, Y. Yang, A. Yanguas-Gil, N. N. Chang, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, ￿Highly conformal magnesium oxide thin films by low-temperature chemical vapor deposition from Mg(H3BNMe2BH3)(2) and water,￿ APL 102, 101605 (2013)
  • N. Tayebi, A. Yanguas-Gil, N. Kumar, Y. Zhang, J. R. Abelson, Q. Ma and V. Rao, "Hard HfB2 Tip-Coatings for Ultrahigh Density Probe-Based Storage," APL 101, 091909 (2012)
  • A. Yanguas-Gil, B. Sperling and J. R. Abelson, ￿Light Scattering From Self-Affine Surfaces: A Universal Relationship Between Morphology and Effective Medium Roughness,￿ Phys. Rev. B 84, 085402 (2011)
  • W. Ye, P. A. Pe￿artin, N. Kumar, S. R. Daly, A. A. Rockett, J. R. Abelson, G. S. Girolami and J. W. Lyding, ￿Direct Writing of Sub-5 nm Hafnium Diboride Metallic Nanostructures,￿ ACS Nano 4(11), 6818 (2010).
  • B. S. Lee, S. G. Bishop and J. R. Abelson, "Fluctuation Transmission Electron Microscopy: Detecting Nanoscale Order in Disordered Structures," ChemPhysChem 11, 2311 ￿ 2317 (2010).
  • S. N. Bogle, L. N. Nittala, R. D. Twesten, P. M. Voyles and J. R. Abelson, ￿Size Analysis of Nanoscale Order in Amorphous Materials by Variable-Resolution Fluctuation Electron Microscopy,￿ Ultramicroscopy 110, 1273￿1278 (2010).
  • A. Chatterjee, N. Kumar, J. R. Abelson, P. Bellon, A. A. Polycarpou, ￿Nanowear of hafnium diboride thin films,￿ Tribology Transactions, 53(5), 731-738 (2010).
  • S. R. Daly, D.-Y. Kim, Y. Yang, J. R. Abelson and G. S. Girolami, ￿Lanthanide N,N-Dimethylaminodiboranates: Highly Volatile Precursors for the Deposition of Lanthanide-Containing Thin Films,￿ JACS 132(7), 2106-2107 (2010).
  • Bong-Sub Lee, Geoffrey W. Burr, Robert M. Shelby Simone Raoux, Charles T. Rettner, Stephanie N. Bogle, Kristof Darmawikarta, Stephen G. Bishop, John R. Abelson, ￿Direct observation of the role of subcritical nuclei in crystallization of a glassy solid,￿ Science 326(5955), 980-984 (2009).
  • N. Kumar, A. Yanguas-Gil, S. R. Daly, G. S. Girolami and John R. Abelson, ￿Remote Plasma Treatment of Si Surfaces: Enhanced Nucleation in Low-Temperature Chemical Vapor Deposition,￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 95, 144107 (2009).
  • A. Yanguas-Gil, Y. Yang, N. Kumar and J. R. Abelson, ￿Highly Conformal Film Growth by Chemical Vapor Deposition. Part B: Conformality Enhancement Through Growth Inhibition,￿ JVST-A 27(5), 1244-48 (2009).
  • A. Yanguas-Gil, Y. Yang, N. Kumar and J. R. Abelson, ￿Highly Conformal Film Growth by Chemical Vapor Deposition. Part A: A Conformal Zone Diagram Based on Kinetics,￿ JVST-A 27(5), 1235-43 (2009).
  • N. Kumar, A. Yanguas-Gil, S. R. Daly, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, ￿Growth Inhibition to Enhance Conformal Coverage in Thin Film Chemical Vapor Deposition,￿ JACS 130, 17660 (2008).
  • A. Chatterjee, N. Kumar, J. R. Abelson, P. Bellon, A. A. Polycarpou, ￿Nanoscratch and nanofriction behavior of hafnium diboride thin films,￿ Wear 265, 921-929 (2008).
  • S. N. Bogle, P. M. Voyles, S. V. Khare, and J. R. Abelson, ￿Quantifying nanoscale order in amorphous materials: Simulating fluctuation electron microscopy,￿ Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter 19, 455204 (2007).
  • D.-Y. Kim, Y. Yang, J. R. Abelson, and G. S. Girolami, ￿Volatile Magnesium Octahydrotriborate Complexes as Potential CVD Precursors to MgB2: Synthesis and Characterization of Mg(B3H8)2 and its Etherates,￿ Inorganic Chemistry 46(22), 9060-66 (2007).
  • N. Kumar, J. A. Jensen, J. E. Gozum, Y. Yang, W. Noh, G. S. Girolami and J. R. Abelson, ￿Titanium Diboride Thin Films By Low Temperature Chemical Vapor Deposition from the Single Source Precursor Ti(BH4)3(1,2 Dimethoxyethane),￿ Chemistry of Materials 19(15), 3802-3807 (2007).
  • A. Chatterjee, S. Jayaraman, J. E. Gerbi, N. Kumar, J. R. Abelson, Bellon, A. A. Polycarpou, J.-P. Chevalier, ￿Tribological behavior of hafnium diboride thin films,￿ Surface & Coatings Technology 201, 4317-4322 (2006).
  • Y. Yang, S. Jayaraman, D.-Y. Kim, G. S. Girolami, and J. R. Abelson, ￿CVD Growth Kinetics of HfB2 Thin Films from the Single Source Precursor Hf(BH4)4,￿ Chem. Mat. 18, 5088-96 (2006).
  • S. Jayaraman, J. E. Gerbi, Y. Yang, D. Y. Kim, A. Chatterjee, P. Bellon, G. S. Girolami, J.-P. Chevalier, J. R. Abelson, ￿HfB2 and Hf-B-N Hard Coatings by Chemical Vapor Deposition,￿ Surface and Coatings Technology 200(22-23), 6629-6633 (2006).
  • S. Jayaraman, Y. Yang, D.-Y. Kim, G. S. Girolami, and J. R. Abelson, ￿Hafnium Diboride Thin Films by Chemical Vapor Deposition from a Single Source Precursor,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. A 23, 1619 (2005).
  • B. A. Sperling and J. R. Abelson, ￿Simultaneous short-range smoothening and global roughening during growth of hydrogenated amorphous silicon films,￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 85(16), 3456-3458 (2004)
  • A. von Keudell and J. R. Abelson, ￿Advantages of the ￿Optical Cavity Substrate￿ for Real Time Infrared Spectroscopy of Plasma-Surface Interactions,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 91(8), 4840 (2002).
  • J. H. Sung, D. M. Goedde, G. S. Girolami, and J. R. Abelson, ￿Remote Plasma CVD of Conformal ZrB2 Films at Low Temperature: A Promising Diffusion Barrier for ULSI Electronics,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 91(6), 3904 (2002).
  • P. M. Voyles, J. E. Gerbi, M. M. J. Treacy, J. M. Gibson and J. R. Abelson, ￿Absence of an Abrupt Phase Change in Silicon with Deposition Temperature,￿ Phys. Rev. Lett. 86(24), 5514-17 (2001).
  • A. von Keudell, J.R. Abelson, ￿Direct Insertion of SiH3 Radicals Into Strained Si-Si Surface Bonds During Plasma Deposition of Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon Films,￿ Physical Review B 59(8), 5791-8 (1998).
  • C. Weber and J. R. Abelson, ￿Amorphous Silicon Buried Channel Thin Film Transistors,￿ IEEE Trans. on Electron Devices 45(2), 447-52 (1998).
  • A. von Keudell and J. R. Abelson, ￿The Interaction of Atomic Hydrogen with Very Thin Amorphous Hydrogenated Silicon Films Analyzed Using in situ Real Time Infrared Spectroscopy: Reaction Rates and the Formation of Hydrogen Platelets,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 84(1), (1998).
  • H. Kim, N. Taylor, T. Spila, G. Glass, S. Y. Park, J. E. Greene, and J. R. Abelson, ￿Structure of the Si(011) 162 Surface and Hydrogen Desorption Kinetics Investigated Using TPD,￿ Surface Science 380(2-3), L496-500 (1997).
  • C. S. McCormick, C. E. Weber, J. R. Abelson, and S. M. Gates, ￿An Amorphous Silicon Thin Film Transistor Fabricated at 125￿C by DC Reactive Magnetron Sputtering,￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 70(2), 226-7 (1997).
  • A. Nuruddin and J. R. Abelson, ￿Does a Dipole Layer at the p-i Interface Reduce the Built-in Voltage of Amorphous Silicon p-i-n Solar Cells?￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 71(19), 2797-9 (1997).
  • A. von Keudell and J. R. Abelson, ￿Evidence for Atomic Hydrogen Insertion into Strained Si-Si Bonds in the a-Si:H Sub-surface From in-situ IR Spectroscopy￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 71(26), 3832-3 (1997).
  • H. Kim, G. Glass, S. Y. Park, T. Spila, N. Taylor, J. R. Abelson and J. E. Greene, ￿Effects of B Doping on Hydrogen Desorption from Si(001) During Gas-Source Molecular Beam Epitaxy from Si2H6 and B2H6,￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 69(25), 3869-71 (1996).
  • Y. H. Yang and J. R. Abelson, ￿Spectroscopic Ellipsometry of Thin Films on Transparent Substrates: A Formalism for Data Interpretation,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. A13(3), 1145-9 (1995).
  • M. Katiyar, Y. H. Yang, and J. R. Abelson, ￿Hydrogen Surface Reactions During a-Si:H Growth by Reactive Magnetron Sputtering: a Real-Time Kinetic Study by In-situ IR Absorption,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 77(12), 6247-56 (1995).
  • M. Katiyar and J. R. Abelson, ￿Methods to Enhance Absorption Signals in IR Reflectance Spectroscopy: A Comparison of Methods,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. A 13(4), 2005-12 (1995).
  • I. Petrov, A. Myers, J. E. Greene and J. R. Abelson, ￿Mass and Energy Resolved Detection of Ions and Neutral Species Incident at the Substrate During Reactive Magnetron Sputtering of Ti in Mixed Ar + N2 Mixtures,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. A12(5), 2846-54 (1994).
  • J. R. Abelson, L. Mandrell and J. R. Doyle, ￿Hydrogen Release Kinetics from the a-Si:H Surface During Reactive Magnetron Sputter Deposition: an Isotope Labelling Study,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 76(3), 1856-70 (1994).
  • A. Nuruddin, J. R. Doyle and J. R. Abelson, ￿Macro-Trench Studies of Step Coverage in a-Si:H Film Growth,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 76(5), 3123-9 (1994).
  • J. R. Abelson, ￿Plasma Deposition of Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon: Studies of the Growth Surface,￿ Applied Physics A56, 493-512 (1993).
  • A. Myers, J. R. Doyle, J. R. Abelson and D. N. Ruzic, ￿Monte-Carlo Simulations of Magnetron Sputtering Particle Transport,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. A9 (3), 614-18 (1991).
  • A. M. Myers, J. R. Doyle, G. J. Feng, N. Maley, D. N. Ruzic and J. R. Abelson, ￿Energetic Particle Fluxes in Magnetron Sputter Deposition of a-Si:H,￿ J. Non-Crystalline Solids 137/8, 783-6 (1991).
  • A. M. Myers, D. N. Ruzic, R. Powell, N. Maley, D. Pratt, J. E. Greene and J. R. Abelson, ￿Energy and Mass- Resolved Detection of Neutral and Ion Species Using Modulated Pole Bias Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. A8 (3) 1668-72 (1990).
  • B. S. Krusor, D. K. Biegelsen, R. D. Yingling and J. R. Abelson, ￿UV-Ozone Cleaning of Silicon Surfaces Studied by Auger Spectroscopy,￿ J. Vac. Sci. Tech. B7 (1), 129 (1989).
  • N. Maley, I. Szafranek, L. Mandrell, J. R. Abelson and J. A. Thornton, ￿Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy of Very Thin Films of a-Si:H,￿ J. Non-Crystalline Solids 114, 163-5 (1989).
  • J. R. Abelson, K.-B. Kim, D. E. Mercer, C. R. Helms, R. Sinclair and T. W. Sigmon, ￿Disordered Intermixing at the Platinum-Silicon Interface Demonstrated by HRXTEM, Auger Spectroscopy and MeV Ion Channeling,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 63 (3), 689 (1988).
  • J. R. Abelson, K. H. Weiner, K.-B. Kim and T. W. Sigmon, ￿Epitaxial GexSi1-x/Si(100) Structures Produced by Pulsed Laser Mixing of Evaporated Ge on Si(100) Substrates,￿ Appl. Phys. Lett. 52 (3), 230 (1988).
  • C. Y. Fu, J. C. Mikkelsen, Jr., J. Schmitt, J. Abelson, J. C. Knights, N. Johnson, A. Barker and M. J. Thompson, ￿Microwave Plasma Oxidation of Silicon,￿ J. Elect. Mats. 14 (6), 685 (1985).
  • G. deRosny, E. R. Mosburg, Jr, J. R. Abelson, G. Devaud and R. C. Kerns, ￿Evidence for a Time Dependent Excitation Process in Silane RF Glow Discharges,￿ J. Appl. Phys. 54 (5), 2272 (1983).
  • J. Abelson and G. deRosny, ￿The Relation Between Planar Conduction and Contact Potential as a-Si:H Films Undergo Gas Adsorption or Temperature Changes,￿ J. de Physique 44, 993 (1983).

Articles in Conference Proceedings

  • E. R. Mosburg, Jr. , R. C. Kerns and J. R. Abelson, ￿Measurement and Use of the Plasma Current Waveform in an RF Silane Discharge,￿ Proc. 160th Electro-Chemical Society Meeting (1981); SERI Technical Report TP/212-1469 (1982).

Conferences Organized or Chaired

  • Organizing committee, MRS Symposium EE15, "Materials for Sustainable Development-Integrated Approaches" (Phoenix, AZ), April 2016

Teaching Honors

  • UIUC List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (2000,2002,2006,2008)
  • UIUC Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising (1997)

Research Honors

  • Fellow, AVS￿Science and Technology Society (2004)
  • Xerox Senior Faculty Award (1996)
  • IBM University Partnership Award (1995-1997)
  • Fakultetsopponent (External Examiner), U. Linkoping, Sweden (1995)
  • Young Investigator in the IBM Materials program at UIUC (1988-1990)