The physics of growthΒΆ

One of my central topics of interest is growth, understood as the formation of large-scale structures based on building blocks in a way that is dominated mainly by local interactions and external fields. The role that these interactions have on determining the resulting structure is something that I have always found fascinating.

Not surprisingly, growth is a central concept in materials science, so ubiquitous that many times it becomes almost invisible. Everything around us has been created at some point in time, and many technological advances have been enabled by our ability to control the way atoms are arranged to form materials with unique properties.

Understanding the way in which materials grow is crucial to many different applications that are well aligned with my interest in electronic materials, but it is also an fascinating field in itself at the intersection of materials science, surface science, and chemistry.

My interest in atomic layer deposition stems from the fact that, as a growth technique, ALD provides a extremely reproducible way of growing materials. Consequently, it is an ideal sandbox to develop our understanding on how surface kinetics can control the microstructure and the electronic properties of materials. It also allows us to design nanomaterials with unique properties and an exquisite degree of control.

However, beyond ALD there is a lot of stuff going on: the physics of self-assembly, the early stages of the solar system, or the process of morphogenesis in biological systems are areas that I find fascinating. There is also beauty in growth, from the shapes of crystals and the landscapes sculpted by erosion, to the underlying models that help us connect the morphologies observed in vastly different systems.

aerogels

The structure of silica aerogels as seen through an scanning electron microscope.