Professor of Physics
Department of Physics, 201 Physics Building
(315) 443-3901; FAX: (315) 443-9103
e-mail username: easchiff (at syr.edu)
I’ve been at Syracuse University as a professor since 1981.
I attended Caltech, in
From 1997-2003 I served as chair of the Department of Physics, and from 2003-2008 I served as the Associate Dean of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, & Psychology for The College of Arts & Sciences. I’ve spent research leaves visiting Innovalight, Inc. (2007), the Palo Alto Research Center (1995), and Brown University (1988).
I was brought up in Los Angeles, California. Although for some
years I lived within walking distance of the beach, I never learned to surf. I
did learn Alpine skiing, and now I live a short distance from several small ski
resorts. I am married to Nancy R. Mudrick, who is a professor of social work at
I'm very interested in some work going on with a number of other faculty members on our physics undergraduate degree programs. One of these is the Bachelor of Arts (B. A.) degree program; the idea has been to emphasize communications, computer networking, and writing skills along with a broad knowledge of science and technology. Graduates with this degree would normally be interested in entering the business world directly after getting their bachelor's degrees, or entering non-science graduate programs such as law or business administration. I'm particularly excited about several innovative, upper-division physics courses which several professors have developed to accompany our new ideas about physics degrees. These courses include introductory ones requiring calculus only (PHY 305-"Solar Energy Science and Architectures", PHY 307-"Science and Computers", PHY 312-"Relativity and Cosmology") and slightly more advanced ones requiring both calculus and calculus-based physics (PHY 315-"Biological and Medical Physics", PHY 317-"Stellar and Interstellar Astrophysics", and PHY 351-"Instrumentation in Modern Physics").
In 2004, the biology and physics departments created a new bachelor's degree, the B. A. in Biophysical Science, which should appeal to students with strong interests in both physics and the life sciences. The curriculum has been designed to provide very good preparation for medical school or other health professions. I've also taught PHY 315, Biological Physics, twice, which gave me a chance to think more deeply about the connections between my own research (in semiconductor physics) and biology. You can find out more about the degree programs and courses at the web-site Undergraduate physics degree programs at Syracuse University.
I've also worked with several other professors in our Department on an
NSF-funded project that built a cosmology exhibit for Syracuse's Museum of Science & Technology (the MOST);
Carl Rosenzweig was the principal investigator. One of the goals of this grant
is to inform the public about ongoing research in this area. In addition to
members of the physics department, the project team included staff members from
the MOST, students and faculty from
Several years ago I collaborated with David McNamara and
For most of my career as a physicist I have done research on a particular material called amorphous silicon. Crystalline silicon has its atoms arranged in beautiful, regular arrays, and it's the stuff of computer chips and most modern electronics. Amorphous silicon is a non-crystalline version of silicon which is made as a thin-film coating on a substrate; a small variation in the conditions of preparation permit one to make nanocrystalline silicon as well. These thin film semiconductors are very useful for making flat panel displays (used in LCD television sets and laptop computers), solar cells (seen often on rooftops), and sensor arrays (used in modern, digital X-ray machines in hospitals).
Physicists are especially interested in non-crystalline materials because most theories for electrical properties are valid only for crystals; understanding the electrical properties of non-crystalline materials is proving to be very challenging. Electrons in crystalline semiconductors move as if they have mass, and are similar in this regard to ordinary particles moving in a vacuum. This isn't so in non-crystalline semiconductors; one can't find anything analogous to a mass, and instead electron motion often seems to be governed by carriers jumping into and out of slightly defective regions (bandtail traps). There are also many fascinating puzzles associated with the fact that amorphous silicon must be married with hydrogen to make it of much use.
An important aspect of our research has involved the device physics of amorphous silicon and nanocrystalline silicon based solar cells; many of us working in this field fully expect to live long enough to see solar cells providing a significant fraction of the world's electrical power. For many years our research was supported by subcontracts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, and we subsequently worked as a partner on the Solar America Initiative project led by United Solar Ovonic.
I have also done some work with two porous electronic materials: porous silicon and porous titania (TiO2). Porous silicon is prepared by etching crystalline silicon. Leigh Canham's 1991 discovery that certain porous silicons luminescence far more efficiently than crystalline silicon spawned a new research specialty on related types of silicon-based optoelectronics which continues to be interest. Our own research explored the fundamental mechanism of electrical transport in porous silicon.
At about the same time as Canham's discovery, Michael Grätzel's group in Switzerland discovered how to make remarkably efficient solar cells based on porous TiO2 (titania). The TiO2 is formed by heating ("sintering") a powder of the TiO2 nanoparticles, somewhat as one fires clay to make pottery. The resulting porous matrix is stained by a dye, and then filled with a electrolyte. We have published some papers on how electrons move in this type of solar cell. In collaboration with Tewodros Asefa, a professor of chemistry at Rutgers University, we have been working on a more orderly type of porous titania that is more like a woven fabric than like clay. We think this material could lead to an improvement in the solar conversion efficiency of this type of solar cell, which is presently about 11% at best. It will also be fascinating to find out how diffusion of charge carriers in this form of porous titania compares to diffusion in the sintered material.
In addition to this semiconductor work, some years ago I did some research on nematic liquid crystals from the point of view that their "phase transitions" are analogous to the "Kibble mechanism" proposed to explain the large-scale (ie. bigger than galaxies) structure observed in the universe. This work, which was published in 1994 in Science, was a remarkably successful collaboration of an experimenter (myself) with several very creative theorists (Mark Bowick, L. Chandar, and Ajit Srivastava). Both the experimental and theoretical work was carried on very fruitfully by Srivastava (Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar).
My complete list of publications, as well as links to electronic reprints, is accessible at http://physics.syr.edu/~schiff/Publications/ . Here's a selection of some of these papers:
“Entropy-enthalpy Compensation of Biomolecular Systems in Aqueous Phase: a Dry Perspective”, L. Movileanu and E. A. Schiff, Monatshefte für Chemie - Chemical Monthly: 144, 59-65 (2013).
"Electron drift-mobility measurements in polycrystalline CuIn1−xGaxSe2 solar cells”, S. A. Dinca, E. A. Schiff, W. N. Shafarman, B. Egaas, R. Noufi, and D. L. Young, Appl. Phys. Lett. 100, 103901-1..3 (2012).
"Thermodynamic limit to photonic-plasmonic light-trapping in thin films on metals”, E. A. Schiff, J. Appl. Phys. 110, 104501-1..9 (2011).
"Amorphous Silicon-Based Solar Cells", E. A. Schiff, S. Hegedus, and X. Deng, in Handbook of Photovoltaic Science and Engineering, edited by Antonio Luque and Steven Hegedus (J. W. Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011), pp. 487-545.
"Polyaniline on crystalline silicon heterojunction solar cells", Weining Wang and E. A. Schiff, Appl. Phys. Lett. 91 133504 (2007).
"Hole mobility limit of amorphous silicon solar cells," Jianjun Liang, E. A. Schiff, S. Guha, Baojie Yan, and J. Yang, Appl. Phys. Lett. 88 063512 (2006).
"Hole Drift Mobility Measurements in Microcrystalline Silicon," T. Dylla, F. Finger, and E. A. Schiff, Appl. Phys. Lett. 87, 032103 (2005).
"Low-mobility Solar Cells: A Device Physics Primer with Application to Amorphous Silicon", E. A. Schiff, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 78, 567-595 (2003).
"Photocarrier drift-mobility measurements and electron localization in nanoporous silicon", P. N. Rao, E. A. Schiff, L. Tsybeskov, and P. M. Fauchet, Chemical Physics 284, 129-138 (2002).
"Ambipolar Diffusion of Photocarriers in Electrolyte-Filled, Nanoporous TiO2," N. Kopidakis, E. A. Schiff, N-G. Park, J. van de Lagemaat, and A. J. Frank, J. Phys. Chem B104, 3930--3936 (2000).
"Non-Gaussian Transport Measurements and the Einstein Relation in Amorphous Silicon," Qing Gu, E. A. Schiff, S. Grebner, F. Wang, and R. Schwarz, Phys. Rev. Lett. 76, 3196 (1996).
"The Cosmological Kibble Mechanism in the Laboratory: String Formation in Liquid Crystals," M. J. Bowick, L. Chandar, E. A. Schiff, and A. M. Srivastava, Science 263, 943 (1994).
"Modulated Electron-Spin-Resonance Measurements and Defect Correlation Energies in Amorphous Silicon," J.-K. Lee and E. A. Schiff, Phys. Rev. Lett. 68, 2972 (1992).
"Hydrogen and Defects in Amorphous Silicon," Sufi Zafar and E. A. Schiff, Phys. Rev. Lett. 66, 1493 (1991).
Steluta Dinca, Ph.D. 2010, Syracuse University, NY.
Birol Ozturk, 2008-2010, Northeastern University, MA.
Richard E. Mishler, II, M.S. 2009. Deceased.
Weining Wang, Ph.D. 2008, Seton Hall University, NJ.
Jianjun Liang, Ph.D. 2006, Solexel, Inc., Milpitas, CA.
Siddeshwar Rane, M.S. 2005, Luminus Devices, Inc., Woburn, MA.
Kai Zhu, Ph.D. 2003, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO.
Jonghun Lyou, 1998-99, 2002-2003, Korea University, Seoul, S. Korea.
Thorsten Dylla, 2002-2003, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants,
Prasanna Rao, Ph.D. 1999, InnovTech, Inc., Herndon, VA.
Nikos Kopidakis, 1998-99, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO.
Reinhard Schwarz, 1994-95, Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal.
Qi Wang, Ph. D. 1994, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO.
Steven P. Hotaling, M.S. 1992..
Melcher, B. S. 1992, Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton and
Sufi Zafar, Ph. D. 1991, IBM Research Laboratories, Yorktown Heights, NY.
Jung-Keun Lee, Ph. D. 1991, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, Korea.
Michael A. Parker, Ph. D. 1988, Rutgers University, Piscataway.
A. Conrad, Ph.D. 1988,
Pandya, Ph.D. 1985, New
Ferrario, M.S. 1984, IBM Research Laboratories,
Last updated January 28, 2014.