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Nicola Ferralis
Alumnus - Postdoctoral Researcher

Ph.D. Physics, Penn State University, PA, USA
Laurea in Fisica, University of Padova, Padua, Italy


ferralis (at)

Current Position:

Research Scientist
Department of Materials Science and and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bldg. 13-4069
MIT - 77 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Selected Research Interests
Mechanical, vibrational and structural investigations of epitaxial graphene layers on SiC crystals and films.

Graphene is considered by many as the "holy grail" as a material for the next generation of electronic and sensing devices. Graphene layers grown epitaxially on SiC substrate have shown to possess attractive and innovative properties, not all of them fully understood. In our effort, we are interested in relating the novel electronic properties of epitaxial graphene (high carrier mobility, possible engineering of a band-gap) to its mechanical and vibrational properties. We recently discovered that epitaxial graphene possesses a tunable surface strain, with important consequences on the surface morphology. Surface stress might be responsible for some of the aforementioned properties.

The role of gold as a metal catalyst during nanowire growth: Alloying, temperature self-induced pinning, nanolayering and diffusion.

Gold is the most commonly used catalyst in the growth of Si nanowires. Recent research has focused on the interaction of Au with Si surfaces at high temperature, and on the initial stages of growth of Si nanowires under tightly controlled ultrahigh vacuum conditions. Gold diffusion during growth and the size and distribution of the catalyst droplets determine the length, shape, and sidewall properties of the nanowires. Gold from the catalyst droplets wets the nanowire sidewalls, eventually consuming the droplets and terminating VLS growth.In my current research, I am interested in the structural and chemical evolution of the gold catalyst and gold silicide formation at annealing temperatures typical of nanowire growth. The outcomes of this research are currently used in understanding how the diffusion of gold from the catalyst on top of the silicon wires affects the growth and the structure of Si nanowires.

I am very interested in the development of outreach programs that bring the science we currently develop in our lab to different levels of audiences. In this effort I frequently give talk to local nanotechnology clubs, and at special events (such as the NanoDay and NanoEnergy Forums) at science museums, such as the Exploratorium, or for the local community (NanoDay at the San Mateo public library). I am also interested in the technological impact of nanoscience and in the use of basic and applied science to solve global challenges.

Software Development
I develop and maintain scientific software for data analysis. The software is open-source and freely available here:

Recent Publications
N. Ferralis, R. Maboudian, C. Carraro, "Determination of substrate pinning in epitaxial and supported graphene layers via Raman spectroscopy", Phys. Rev. B 83 (2011), 081410. Preprint.

B. Hsia, N. Ferralis, D. Sensky, A. P. Pisano, C. Carraro, and R. Maboudian, "Epitaxial Graphene Growth on 3C–SiC(111)/AlN(0001)/Si(100)", Electrochem. Solid-State Lett., 14 (2011) K13-K15.

N. Ferralis, "Probing Mechanical Properties of Graphene With Raman Spectroscopy", Journal of Materials Science 45 (2010), 5135; preprint.

W.-C. Lien, N. Ferralis, C. Carraro, R. Maboudian, "Growth of Epitaxial 3C-SiC Films on Si(100) via Low Temperature SiC Buffer Layer", Crystal Growth and Design 10 (2010), 36.

N. Ferralis, F. El Gabaly, A.K Schmid, R. Maboudian, C. Carraro, "Real-time Observation of Reactive Spreading of Gold on Silicon", Phys. Rev. Lett. 103 (2009), 256102.

W.-C. Lien, N. Ferralis, A. Pisano, C. Carraro, R. Maboudian, "Tunable in-situ growth of porous 3C-SiC thin films by high temperature hydrochloride etching", Applied Physics Letters 95, 101901 (2009).

R. Kant, N. Ferralis, J Provine, R.T. Howe, R. Maboudian, "Micro-scale silicon migration in high temperature, low pressure, inert ambient", Electrochemical and Solid-State Letters 12 (2009), H437-H440.

L. Muray, J. Spallas , C. Silver, S. Indermuehle,  N. Ferralis, C. Carraro, R. Maboudian, "Resolving sub-nm steps with a low-voltage miniature scanning electron microscope", Microelectronic Engineering 86, 1004  (2009).

N. Ferralis, J. Kawasaki, R. Maboudian, C. Carraro, "Evolution in Surface Morphology of Epitaxial Graphene Layers on SiC Induced by Controlled Structural Strain", Applied Physics Letters 93, 191916 (2008). ArXiv

N. Ferralis, R. Maboudian, C. Carraro, "Evidence of Structural Strain on Epitaxial Graphene Layers on 6H-SiC(0001)", Physical Review Letters 101, 156801 (2008). ArXiv

G.S. Doerk, N. Ferralis, C. Carraro, R. Maboudian, "Growth of Branching Si Nanowires Seeded by Au-Si Surface Migration", Journal of Materials Chemistry 18, 5376-5381 (2008).  Featured on Journal Cover.

N. Ferralis, K. Pussi, R.D. Diehl, "Debye temperature of the 10-fold surface of the decagonal Al-Ni-Co quasicrystal", Surface Science 602 (2008), 1223.

N. Ferralis, R. Maboudian, C. Carraro, "Temperature-Induced Self-Pinning and Nanolayering of AuSi Eutectic Droplets", J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130 (8)  (2008), 2681 -2685.

N. Ferralis, R. Maboudian, C. Carraro, , "Structure and Morphology of Annealed Gold Films Galvanically Displaced on the Si(111) Surface", J. Phys. Chem. C, 111, 20, 7508 - 7513 (2007).