Faculty Profile: Ioannis Chasiotis

Beckman faculty member Ioannis Chasiotis is finding new ways to understand the fundamental mechanics that underlie microscale and nanoscale devices.

Ioannis Chasiotis
Ioannis Chasiotis

Ioannis Chasiotis has been at the University of Illinois for only two years, but he's already become a key member of an important new center located at the Beckman Institute.

Chasiotis came to Illinois from the University of Virginia to continue and expand his research on thin films made for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS).

Chasiotis, a member of Beckman’s Autonomous Material Systems group, is an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, where his research looks at the mechanical behavior, failure, and reliability of films fabricated for micromachines. Chasiotis said his work is experimental and, among other topics, seeks to improve the performance and reliability of micro-electromechanical systems such as radio frequency switches and thermal sensors.

“My goal is to understand the fundamental mechanics of the materials involved in micro-machines and improve their long term performance and durability,” Chasiotis said. “So a large part of my research involves the development of tools to determine the mechanical behavior of very small components or very small volumes of materials, such as nanofibers and nanowires.”

Along with four other Beckman faculty members, Chasiotis is part of a new multiuniversity center for the development of micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS and NEMS) for very large system integration (VLSI). Chasiotis’ role in the IMPACT Center for the Advancement of MEMS/NEMS VLSI is in determining the physical mechanisms that affect the longterm electromechanical reliability of MEMS/NEMS devices at both the microscale and the nanoscale.

“An important condition for the success of MEMS/NEMS technologies is the long-term electromechanical stability of the metallic films that are used in these systems,” Chasiotis said. “We want to relate the grain structure of the thin film materials to their mechanical behavior and ultimately their failure after billions of cycles of operation. These problems have been looked at in the past but at the continuum scale, that is, several microns, often ignoring the contribution of the local microstructure.”

Work done by Chasiotis on the mechanics of structures at the microscale is novel, as evidenced by his presentation at the 6th International Symposium on MEMS and Nanotechnology last year that earned the Best Research Paper Award at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Mechanics.

“We developed a method in which we were able to measure the local mechanical strain in inhomogeneous and anisotropic materials, which wasn’t available before.” Chasiotis said.

Chasiotis said he was drawn to Illinois and Beckman for a couple of reasons. One is the expertise found here in disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, and physics.

“The large number of accomplished people who work in my area and complementary areas are very well known, which really creates an environment for innovation,” Chasiotis said. “This is probably one of a couple of public universities in the country where one finds such diversity and at the same time excellence in almost any field of modern research.”

Collaborating with researchers at Beckman is Chasiotis’ first experience working at an interdisciplinary research center.

“The Beckman Institute helps to develop synergistic research activities in quite an effortless manner,” Chasiotis said. “In micro and nanoscale research, phenomena are coupled, and one could hardly say that one discipline is sufficient. The Beckman Institute brings researchers together in one location, so one has the opportunity to meet with people with very different background in a very casual environment, without the formality of setting up meetings.”

This article is part of the Winter 2007 Synergy Issue, a publication of the Communications Office of the Beckman Institute.