Frans Spaepen

Frans Spaepen

  • John C. and Helen F. Franklin Professor of Applied Physics


Spaepen conducts research in the following areas:

  • Amorphous materials (metals, semiconductors, polymers): structure, formation, stability, mechanical properties, atomic transport (viscosity, diffusivity, structural relaxation, crystallization)

  • Polytetrahedral structure of liquids and quasicrystals

  • Thin films and multilayers: preparation, stability, mechanical properties.  General effects of size scale on mechanical properties

  • Properties of interfaces: crystal/melt, amorphous/crystalline semiconductor, grain boundaries, grain growth, interface tension, interface stress. 

  • Colloidal systems as analog computers for the study of defects and deformation of crystals and glasses (with D. Weitz)

  • Determination of Avogadro's number with an accuracy or better than 10 ppb.  Collaboration with metrology laboratories worldwide that are using the silicon single crystal approach.  Developing methods to certify the perfection of the silicon to 10 ppb

Contact Information

Office:207 Pierce Hall
Office Phone:(617) 495-3760
Office Fax(617) 495-9837
Lab Location:402 McKay
Lab Phone:(617) 495-4469
Assistant:Joel Veak
Assistant Office:Pierce Hall 225
Assistant Phone:(617) 495-2677
Research Mgr: Alex Man

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

Rowland Institute, Director 2002-2013

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

  • Present: John C. and Helen F. Franklin Professor
  • 2008-2009: Interim Dean
Harvard Center for Nanoscale Systems
  • 2009-2010: Interim Director
Harvard Materials Research Laboratory/Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
  • 1990-1998: Director
Harvard Division of Applied Sciences
  • 1983: Professor
  • 1981: Associate Professor
  • 1977: Assistant Professor

Other Experience & Professional Membership

  • Co-editor, Solid State Physics, 1994-2009


  • Member, National Academy of Engineering, 2008
  • Fellow, American Physical Society (chairman of the Division of Materials Physics in 1992)
  • Fellow, Metallurgical Society of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers
  • Member, Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten
  • Fellow, Materials Research Society