B.S. ​St. Petersburg State Technical University, Russia, 1987Ph.D. St. Petersburg State University and Tomsk State University, Russia, 1991Post-Doc ​Pennsylvania State University, 1995-2000

Leonid Zhigilei is a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia. He studied materials science at Leningrad Polytechnic Institute and did his PhD dissertation work at Tomsk State University and St. Petersburg State University, Russia. Before joining the faculty of the University of Virginia, he was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry at the Pennsylvania State University. His research interests include multiscale modeling of materials behavior far from equilibrium, mechanisms of phase transformations, nanomaterials, and surface processes.


  • The National Science Foundation CAREER award 2004
  • The American Society for Mass Spectrometry Research Award for the year 2002

Research Interests

  • Microscale Heat Transfer
  • Surface and Interface Science and Engineering
  • Computation Materials Science
  • Laser-materials interactions
  • Nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing
  • Catalysis

In the News

Selected Publications

  • Fundamentals of ultrafast laser-material interaction, MRS Bull. 41 (12), 960-968, 2016. ABS M. V. Shugaev, C. Wu, O. Armbruster, A. Naghilou, N. Brouwer, D. S. Ivanov, T. J.-Y. Derrien, N. M. Bulgakova, W. Kautek, B. Rethfeld, and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Growth twinning and generation of high-frequency surface nanostructures in ultrafast laser-induced transient melting and resolidification, ACS Nano 10, 6995-7007, 2016. ABS X. Sedao, M. V. Shugaev, C. Wu, T. Douillard, C. Esnouf, C. Maurice, S. Reynaud, F. Pigeon, F. Garrelie, L. V. Zhigilei, and J.-P. Colombier
  • Thermal conductance of carbon nanotube contacts: Molecular dynamics simulations and general description of the contact conductance, Phys. Rev. B 94, 014308, 2016. ABS R. N. Salaway and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Strong enhancement of surface diffusion by nonlinear surface acoustic waves, Phys. Rev. B 91, 235450, 2015. ABS M. V. Shugaev, A. J. Manzo, C. Wu, V. Yu. Zaitsev, H. Helvajian, and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Generation of sub-surface voids and a nanocrystalline surface layer in femtosecond laser irradiation of a single crystal Ag target, Phys. Rev. B 91, 035413, 2015. ABS C. Wu, M. S. Christensen, J.-M. Savolainen, P. Balling, and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Scaling laws and mesoscopic modeling of thermal conductivity in carbon nanotube materials, Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 215902, 2010. ABS A. N. Volkov and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Molecular dynamics simulation study of the ejection and transport of polymer molecules in matrix-assisted pulsed laser evaporation, J. Appl. Phys. 102, 074914, 2007. ABS E. Leveugle and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Combined atomistic-continuum modeling of short-pulse laser melting and disintegration of metal films, Phys. Rev. B 68, 064114, 2003. ABS D. S. Ivanov and L. V. Zhigilei
  • Dynamics of the plume formation and parameters of the ejected clusters in short-pulse laser ablation, Appl. Phys. A 76, 339-350, 2003. ABS L. V. Zhigilei

Courses Taught

  • MSE 3050: Thermodynamics and Kinetics of Materials
  • MSE 4592/6270: Introduction to Atomistic Simulations
  • MSE 6020: Defects and Microstructure in Materials
  • MSE 2090: Introduction to the Science and Engineering of Materials

Featured Grants & Projects

  • Atomistic modeling of the generation of metastable nanoparticles and surface structures in pulsed laser ablation in liquids

    National Science Foundation, Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Program

    The generation of chemically clean and environmentally friendly nanoparticles through pulsed laser ablation in liquids has a number of advantages over conventional chemical synthesis methods and has evolved into a thriving research field attracting laboratory and industrial applications. Moreover, the interaction of metal surfaces rapidly heated by short pulse laser irradiation with liquid environment can result in a rapid quenching of transient molten surface structures, thus creating conditions for the formation of highly nonequilibrium surface morphology and microstructure. This project aims at revealing, through advanced computer modeling and theoretical analysis, the mechanisms and kinetics of structural and phase transformations occurring in pulsed laser ablation in liquids. The emerging physical understanding of the laser-induced processes will facilitate the development of new laser processing techniques capable of controlled generation of nanoparticles and surface structures with properties fine-tuned for biomedical, optical, photovoltaic, and sensing applications.

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  • Computational design of carbon nanotube network materials and polymer matrix nanocomposites

    NASA, Early Stage Innovations program

    Carbon nanotube (CNT) network materials constitute a broad class of multifunctional materials that possess a unique combination of structural, mechanical and transport properties, making them attractive for various aerospace applications. The complexity of the hierarchical multiscale organization of the CNT materials, wide diversity of material structures and variability of physical properties present a challenge for theoretical evaluation of the structure-properties relationships and define the critical role the computational modeling can play in designing the advanced CNT materials. In this project, we work on the development of a robust mesoscopic model capable of bridging the gap between the behavior and properties of nanoscale structural features of CNT-based materials revealed in atomistic simulations and the effective macroscopic properties defined by the collective behavior of multiple nanotubes and their interaction with a polymer matrix. The model is applied for analysis of the structural, mechanical, and transport properties of the CNT materials and nanocomposites. The ultimate goal of this project is to facilitate the development of multifunctional low-density materials with unique combination of mechanical and transport properties tailored for aerospace applications.

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  • Multiscale modeling of laser-induced surface nanostructuring of metals

    National Science Foundation, Division of Materials Research

    The ability of short (picosecond and femtosecond) laser pulses to confine energy deposition in small regions of irradiated targets makes it possible to perform very selective material modification and produce unique surface morphologies, metastable phases and unusual microstructure (arrangement of crystal defects). At the same time, short laser pulses provide unique opportunities for investigation of material behavior under extreme conditions of strong electronic excitation, rapid heating and cooling, and ultrafast mechanical deformation. The objective of this research project is to develop an advanced multiscale computational model capable of realistic representation of short pulse laser interactions with metal targets and to apply this model for investigation of the main factors that control the surface morphology and microstructure in laser-modified targets. Besides the practical importance, at the fundamental level, the investigation of the material response to short-pulse laser irradiation provide insights into the peculiarities of material behavior far from equilibrium, under extreme conditions of ultrafast heating, cooling, and deformation rates.

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  • Atomistic simulations of acoustic activation of surface processes

    National Science Foundation, Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Program

    Surface acoustic waves are elastic waves that propagate along the surfaces of solid materials. Their ability to transfer energy long distances with little losses are actively used in many practical applications, ranging from nondestructive evaluation of mechanical properties to micro-scale manipulation of fluid flow in microfluidics devices. The ability of surface acoustic waves to influence atomic-level surfaces processes, however, remains largely unexplored. This project aims at providing insights into the fundamental mechanisms and channels of the energy transfer from strong acoustic waves to the atomic-scale surface features and adsorbates. The results of this research may facilitate the development of new applications in the areas of chemical catalysis, low temperature thin film growth, and mass spectrometry of heat sensitive molecules.

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  • Ultrafast laser-driven phase transitions in nanoparticles near their melting

    National Science Foundation, Division of Materials Research

    Although the melting of solids is the most ubiquitous of phase transitions, its atomistic mechanism is still not well understood. Experimental observations suggest that melting nucleates at surfaces and extended defects. Metal nanoparticles supported by a substrate or embedded into a film provide interesting opportunities to study the melting phase transition since their properties can be dominated by their surfaces or interfaces with surrounding material. In this project we use atomistic modeling of laser-induced phase transformations in metal nanoparticles to provide computational support to the ultrafast electron diffraction studies conducted in the group of Professor Hani E. Elsayed-Ali and the Old Dominion University.

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  • Computational study of laser processing of silicon

    National Science Foundation, Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Program

    Silicon based solar cells continue to dominate the solar-energy market, accounting for over 85% of all solar cell products in the world. The decrease in manufacturing cost of Si solar cells is extremely important in order for solar-energy technology to be a viable alternative energy source. High-power lasers provide an attractive method to lower the cost of solar cell manufacturing. However, further research is required in order to make high-power laser-based processing viable for solar cell manufacturing and to be adapted by industry. In this project, we perform atomistic and continuum-level modeling in support of experimental studies in the group of Professor Mool Gupta.

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