Susan Trolier-McKinstry

Susan Trolier-McKinstry
  • Steward S. Flaschen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical Engineering
  • Director, W.M. Keck Smart Materials Integration Laboratory
  • Director, Nanofabrication Facility
  • Lead, Piezoelectrics, Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics (CDP)
N-227 Millennium Science Complex
(814) 863-8348


Susan Trolier-McKinstry is a professor of ceramic science and engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, where she also serves as the director of the W. M. Keck Smart Materials Integration Laboratory and co-director of the Nanofab. She obtained B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Ceramic Science and Engineering, all from Penn State. On graduation she joined the faculty there.  She is a fellow of IEEE and the American Ceramic Society, and is an academician of the World Academy of Ceramics.  She was also the recipient of National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship, the IEEE Ferroelectrics Achievement Award, and the Ceramic Education Council Outstanding Educator Award, among others.

Her main research interests include thin films for dielectric and piezoelectric applications.  Her group studies the fundamental mechanisms that contribute to the measured properties, processing studies for electroceramic films, and integration of functional materials into microelectromechanical systems.  She has co-authored >320 papers in these areas, and has several patents.  Twenty former members of her group are now faculty members around the world; others have taken jobs with companies and national laboratories.

She is currently an associate editor for Applied Physics Letters, the Journal of the American Ceramic Society, and the IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control.  She has also served as the President of the Ceramics Education Council and the IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society; she recently completed a term on the Board of Directors for the Materials Research Society.

Academic Training

Ph.D. in Ceramic Science, The Pennsylvania State University
M.S. in Ceramic Science and Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University
B.S. in Ceramic Science and Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University

Awards and Accomplishments

Outstanding Educator Award, Ceramic Educational Council
Fellow of IEEE, American Ceramic Society, and the Materials Research Society
National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow
2015-2016 IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society Distinguished Lecturer
Robert L. Coble Award for Young Scholars (given by the American Ceramic Society), 2000
Outstanding Service Award, IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control Society


Professor Trolier-McKinstry’s research interests are centered around structure-processing-property relationships in electroceramics. This includes work on dielectric and piezoelectric thin films, texture development in piezoelectric ceramics, and spectroscopic ellipsometry.

In the piezoelectric films area, Prof. Trolier-McKinstry is developing sensors and actuators that are compatible with CMOS electronics (and hence low driving voltages). Her group has approached this by trying to maximize the figure of merit for the material response through control of composition, crystallographic orientation, grain size, and changes in boundary conditions. The work includes fundamental studies on the factors that control domain wall contributions to the properties and the role of octahedral tilt in influencing response. Her group also does work on damage-free patterning of complex oxides, and fabrication of piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems, including accelerometers, pumps, switches, adaptive optics components for the next generation X-ray telescope, energy harvesters, and ultrasound systems with close-coupled electronics.  They are also working on preparing high strain actuator films at low processing temperatures (< 400oC) via pulsed laser crystallization.

Bulk and thin film dielectrics are of interest for on and off-chip decoupling capacitors, as well as tunable components. Prof. Trolier-McKinstry’s group emphasizes the development of a wide range of dielectrics covering the permittivity range from 30 to 3000. Recent work has focused on using Rayleigh and Preisach methods to quantify the properties over a wide range of ac and dc electric fields. The same tools are also being used to study reliability and the relative roles of various defect types in controlling the properties.  In addition, her group is exploring development of new dielectrics for energy storage applications.

Ferroelectric Materials

Piezoelectric and dielectric films

Microelectromechanical systems

Spectroscopic ellipsometry

Templated grain growth


Technology Impacted By Research: 

Technologies affected by her research include on and off-chip decoupling capacitors, tunable filters and antennae, miniaturized sensors, micromachined analytical instrumentation, high frequency biomedical ultrasound, and piezoelectric actuators.