Professor Carl V. Thompson and his students carry out research on thin films and nanostructures for use in microsystems and nanosystems, especially electronic, electromechanical, and electrochemical systems. All projects focus on kinetic phenomena that control structure evolution and include both experiments and modeling. Research topics include templated solid-state dewetting of thin films and nanostructures for plasmonic and photonic devices, the reliability of GaN-based high electron mobility transistors and light emitting diodes, and interconnected reliability in both 2D and 3D integrated circuits, as well as heterogeneously integrated systems more broadly. Other recent research includes new materials and designs for integrated thin film batteries and morphological stability of single crystal nanowires.


Professor Thompson received a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from MIT and an master’s and PhD in applied physics from Harvard University. He was an IBM postdoctoral fellow in the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT and joined the DMSE faculty in 1983. He served as the president of the Materials Research Society in 1996, as the director of MIT’s Materials Processing Center from 2008 to 2017, and as the director of MIT’s Materials Research Laboratory from 2017 to 2023. Professor Thompson has also been active in MIT’s international programs and held visiting positions at Cambridge University, the Max Planck Institute for Metallurgy, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He has been a consultant for more than 30 companies, including IBM, DEC, Intel, and Motorola and other large companies, as well as a number of startups.

Key Publications

First-order amorphous-to-amorphous phase transitions during lithiation of silicon thin films

Studied the phase transitions that occur when lithium ions are introduced into silicon thin films (such “lithiation” controls the performance of silicon-based energy storage materials).

Lithiation-based phase transformations in silicon allow high levels of energy storage, but they can also cause degradation and failure of batteries. Studying how these changes occur is important to prevent failure and improve reliability and performance.

Reliable high-performance thin film batteries can be used in very small and inexpensive self-powered sensors for applications that range from monitoring human health to monitoring the health of the planet.

Awards & Honors

Bruce Chalmers Award, The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society
Innovation Award, Semiconductor Research Corporation
Fellow, Materials Research Society
Woody White Service Award, Materials Research Society
Humboldt Research Award, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation