Faculty Profile

Robert S Averback

Materials Research Lab
Robert S Averback
Robert S Averback
Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Research Groups
1007 Seitz Materials Research Lab MC 230
104 S. Goodwin
Urbana Illinois 61801


  • Research Groups

Professional Highlights

  • Professor Averback received his PhD for work in low-temperature, solid-state physics at Michigan State University in 1972. He became interested in materials science and ion-solid interactions while a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. Before coming to the University of Illinois as professor in 1987, he was a staff physicist at Argonne National Laboratory for 13 years. Professor Averback spent one year as a guest scientist at the Julich Research Center in Germany. He was a co-recipient of the Department of Energy award for sustained outstanding research in 1985 for his work on radiation-induced segregation and is an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow. He is a member of the American Physical Society, Materials Research Society, TMS and Bohmische Physicalishe Society. He was named the Donald Burnett Teacher of the Year (2002) and holds the Donald W. Hamer Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering (2002-present).

Research Statement

Advanced materials for energy applications are currently being developed with ultrafine, highly non-equilibrium microstructures, which can be tailored for specific applications, and they are often exposed to extreme environments.  My research program investigates the fundamental aspects of materials processes in such far from equilibrium conditions. It includes irradiation effects in metals and oxide ceramics, forced atomic mixing and phase formation during severe plastic deformation, the mechanical properties of nanocrystalline materials, and ultrafast dynamics in materials subjected to femtosecond laser irradiation. These various topics are studied using a combination of computer modeling and experimental methods.

The research on irradiation effects employs molecular dynamics and kinetic Monte Carlo methods at the atomic level and phase field modeling over longer length scales. The work on metals explores self-organization of nonequilibrium phases during high temperature irradiation in attempts to stabilize microstructures at the nanometer length scale, and under the extreme conditions expected for advanced future reactors. Specimens are irradiated in our laboratory using a 3.0 MeV Van de Graaff accelerator and characterized using a variety of advanced techniques: x-ray diffraction, atom probe tomography, and transmission electron microscopy. Our work on irradiated oxide ceramics has been examining the kinetic behavior of fission gas bubbles in UO2 fuels, their nucleation, growth and resolution in the matrix during irradiation. The research on metals subjected to severe plastic deformations examines predominantly phase formation and self-organization during ball milling, high pressure torsion or equal channel angular processing, and all at elevated temperatures. The aim is to develop new materials that are structured at the nanometer length scale, but which are stable at high temperatures. The mechanical properties of these new materials are studied as well. Again, we use both computer simulation and experiments to advance our research.  Lastly this research program examines the kinetics of melting and solidification in metals irradiated with femtosecond lasers in order to understand the basic mechanisms of phase transformations at far from equilibrium conditions.

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Nhon Q. Vo, Robert S. Averback, Pellon Bellon, and Alfredo Caro, ￿Limits of Hardness at the Nanoscale: Molecular dynamics simulations,￿ Phys. Rev. B (Rapid Communications) 78 241402 (2008)
  • W. L. Chan, K. Zhou, V. Nhon, Y. Ashkenazy, D. G. Cahill, and R. S. Averback, "Stress induced in platinum thin films by low energy ion irradiation," Phys. Rev. B 77, 205405 (2008).
  • N.Q. Vo, R.S. Averback, P. Bellon, S. Odunuga, and A. Caro, ￿Quantitative description of plastic deformation in nanocrystalline Cu: Dislocation glide versus grain boundary sliding,￿ Phys. Rev. B, 77, 134108 (2008).
  • 222. P. Bellon, R.S. Averback S. Odunuga, Y. Li, P. Krasnochtchekov, A. Caro, ￿Crossover from superdiffusive to diffusive mixing in plastically deformed solids￿ Phys. Rev. Lett. 99, 110602 (2007).
  • Y. Ashkenazy and R.S. Averback, ￿Atomic mechanisms controlling crystallization behavior in metals at deep undercoolings,￿ EPL, Vol. 79(2), 26005 (2007).
  • P. Krasnochtchekov, R.S. Averback, and P. Bellon, Phase separation and dynamic patterning in Cu1-xCox films under ion irradiation Phys. Rev. B 72, 174102 (2005).
  • Mayr SG. Ashkenazy Y. Albe K. Averback RS. Mechanisms of radiation-induced viscous flow: Role of point defects, Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 055505, 2003.
  • T. Diaz de la Rubia, R. S. Averback, R. Benedek and W. E. King, ￿Role of thermal spikes in energetic displacement cascades,￿ Physical Rev. Lett., Vol. 59, No. 17, p. 1930-3, 1987.

Research Honors

  • Board of Directors, Materials Research Society (2004-2007)
  • Donald Hamer Professorship (2003-)
  • Fellow of the APS (2001)
  • American Vacuum Society, Distinguished Lecturer (1997)
  • Alexander Von Humboldt Award for U.S. Senior Scientists (1993)
  • Co-recipient of the 1984 DOE Basic Energy Sciences Award for sustained outstanding research in materials science (1984)