Kyriakos Komvopoulos

Professor Kyriakos Komvopoulos has been a faculty member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley since 1989. He is internationally known for pioneering research in surface nanosciences and nanoengineering with important implications in several emerging technologies including communications, microelectronics, information storage, and biotechnology.

Professor Komvopoulos’ research has been at the interfaces of mechanical and electrical engineering, surface physics and chemistry, and bioengineering, and is characterized by the interdisciplinary nature and combination of analytical and experimental techniques used to obtain insight into complex surface interaction phenomena. His research relies on the integration of fundamentals from mechanics, materials science, surface physical chemistry, bioengineering, and biology, spanning a broad range of length scales, from the mesoscopic down to the atomic and the molecular levels.

Early research accomplishments of Professor Komvopoulos include contact deformation at submicron scales, new friction theories of surfaces interacting in the presence of physicochemically adsorbed monolayers, surface plasticity and fracture of contacting bodies, acoustic emission analysis in surface sliding and machining, synthesis and characterization of ultrathin diamond and amorphous carbon films, adhesion forces in miniaturized electromechanical systems, and rheological behavior of boundary films.

Over the past two decades, Professor Komvopoulos has broadened his research activities, branching into the exploration of various surface microprobe techniques for atomic and molecular level surface analysis, deposition of nanometer-thin and smooth diamond films, self-assembled organic monolayers for reducing adhesion between silicon devices, ultrathin (a few atomic layers) and ultrasmooth amorphous carbon films synthesized by cathodic vacuum arc deposition (with applications in lenses, hard disks for magnetic recording, and stents), plasma-assisted surface treatment of biopolymers used in total joint replacements and catheters for minimally invasive treatment of diseased arteries, shape-memory thin films for retina disks and artery stents, a new spectroscopy technique (infrared-visible sum frequency generation vibrational spectroscopy) for in-situ studies of entropically driven molecular rearrangement at various biopolymer surfaces due to in-plane and out-of-plane stretching and aging effects, and, more recently, plasma-assisted polymer surface functionalization for controlled adhesion and growth of cells, and protein secretion due to mechanotransduction in articular cartilage. In his current and near-term research emphasis is on nanostructure material synthesis, nanoscale contact electromechanics, multi-functional nanoprobes and surface templates, self-adapting surfaces and interfaces, bioassays and biomimetic surfaces, nanomanufacturing, mechanics of biological surfaces, and biomimetic materials and scaffolds.

Professor Komvopoulos is the author of a text book titled Mechanical Testing of Engineering Materials and co-editor of two books. His research is documented in more than 250 archival journal publications and papers published in peer-reviewed conference proceedings. His laboratory research findings have resulted in 11 US patents. Professor Komvopoulos has offered more than 190 presentations at conferences, universities, national laboratories, and industry, and has supervised the research and dissertations of 21 PhD and 22 MS graduate students. He is Fellow of both ASME and STLE and recipient of several prestigious awards, including NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award (1989-1996), IBM Faculty Development Award (1990-1992), Berkeley Engineering Fund Award (1989-1990), ASME B. L. Newkirk Award (1988), and NSF Engineering Initiation Award (1987).

Professor Komvopoulos is the founder and director of the Surface Mechanics and Tribology Laboratory (1989), which in 2008 was split into two laboratories, the Surface Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (SSEL) and the Computational Surface Mechanics Laboratory (CSML), in response to the needs of his research programs in different interdisciplinary fields. He is the research advisor of more than a dozen PhD students in the Colleges of Engineering and Chemistry at UC Berkeley.

Professor Komvopoulos is also a Visiting Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, a Faculty Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Principal Investigator at the Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), and participant faculty in the Nanosciences and Nanoengineering Graduate Program at UC Berkeley.

In addition to his research and teaching duties, Professor Komvopoulos devotes significant portion of his time to administration duties at the Department, College, and University system-wide levels. His most recent system-wide committee service includes University-wide Committee of Faculty Welfare, Assembly Representative for the Berkeley Campus, Divisional Council, Educational Technology, Courses of Instruction, and Graduate Study.

Research Thrusts