Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dana D. Dlott

William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor of Chemistry

Professor Dana D. Dlott received his undergraduate degree from Columbia in 1974 and his Ph.D. from Stanford in 1979. He joined the faculty at Illinois in 1979. Professor Dlott's research interests are in chemical physics, and physical and materials chemistry. His research is focused on understanding the dynamical behavior of molecules in condensed matter, including crystalline solids, glasses, polymers, biopolymers, surfaces and liquids.


We study fast processes in molecules, materials, surfaces and interfaces with a focus on energy transfer and chemical energy generation and storage, using femtosecond (10-15 s) spectroscopic techniques that incorporate the latest developments in ultrafast infrared generation and coherent and nonlinear optics.

Multidimensional vibrational spectroscopy with high time and space resolution. In this project we develop new techniques that combine infrared and Raman interactions to study how vibrational energy flows through molecules. These IR-Raman and vibrational sum-frequency generation techniques are unique probes of molecular energy transfer on fundamental molecular time (femtosecond) and length (angstrom) scales. We study both molecules in liquids and molecules at interfaces. In our experiments, vibrational energy is input at a specific location in the molecules and then we detect its arrival at other locations. Energy flow in molecules is a central feature of all chemical processes. We will characterize and eventually control molecular energy flow. Molecular energy transfer is a central feature of all chemical processes, and a fundamental understanding is an enabling technology for practical applications such as heat dissipation in nanomachines or molecular electronic circuits. 

Chemical energy generation and storage. In these projects we create and study materials that can store and release large amounts of energy using ultrafast spectroscopy. The focus is on understanding the molecular level processes that underly the dynamics of energetic materials that can be used as propellants and explosives, nanotechnology materials that exhibit multifunctionality, for instance the ability to act as both structural and energy storage components, fuel cells and batteries. 

Shock compression science. We developed methods for using intense laser pulses to drive shock waves into materials in order to understand the molecular basis of mechanically-induced chemical reactions, for instance high-speed impact chemistry, fracture chemistry or behavior of lubricant molecules at rapidly moving metal surfaces.


"Thinking big (and small) about energetic materials", Dana D. Dlott, Mat. Sci. Tech. 22, pp. 463-473 (2006).

"Ultrafast flash thermal conductance of molecular chains", Zhaohui Wang, Jeffrey A. Carter, Alexei Lagutchev, Yee Kan Koh, Nak-Hyung Seong, David G. Cahill, and Dana D. Dlott, Science 317, pp. 787-790 (2007).

"Hydrogen-bond disruption by vibrational excitations in water", Zhaohui Wang, Yoonsoo Pang, and Dana D. Dlott, J. Phys. Chem. A 111, pp. 3196-3208 (2007).

"Measurement of the distribution of site enhancements in surface-enhanced Raman scattering", Ying Fang, Nak-Hyun Seong, and Dana D. Dlott, Science 321, pp. 388-391 (2008).


  • Beckman Research Award
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship
  • Fellow American Physical Society
  • Fellow, Optical Society of America
  • 1993 Journal Award (Science) from the Society for Imaging Science and Technology
  • Associate, Center for Advanced Study, 1999
  • 2001 Charles E. Ives Award from the Society for Imaging Science and Technology
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2005


In 2007, our group made the first real time measurements of heat flow along molecular wires.  We found that heat could flow ballistically along alkane chains at a speed of 1 km/s. Science 317, p. 787.

In 2008 our group showed that in surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, most of the Raman signal comes from a small fraction of the molecules. In fact 94% of the molecules are below average so the remaining 6% generate half the signal. Sixty-three in one million generate Raman spectra more than one billion times more intense than unenhanced molecules. Science 321, p. 388.


Photo of Dana D. Dlott