Welcome to TEALab @ UC Santa Barbara

Transport for Energy Applications Laboratory (TEALab) is a research group led by Prof. Bolin Liao at UCSB Mechanical Engineering. We develop computational and experimental tools to "see" the details of energy transport and conversion processes at the smallest time and length scales. We are also passionate about translating knowledge from these fundamental studies into more efficient and cost-effective sustainable energy technologies that help reduce carbon emission and secure our energy needs in the future. 



  • Postdoc: We have an immediate postdoc opening in first-principles simulation of magnon and phonon dynamics. Potential candidates with strong hands-on experience in first-principles simulations of materials can send a CV and contact information of three references to bliao@ucsb.edu.

  • Graduate students with a background in mechanical engineering, materials science, electrical engineering, physics or related fields are welcome to get in touch. Students already admitted into graduate programs at UCSB are particularly encouraged to contact Prof. Liao to discuss potential projects, including self-funded master students.

  • Highly motivated undergraduate students are welcome to participate in our research. Being an interdisciplinary group, we have projects for students with different background and interests. Undergraduate students are encouraged to publish their research results.


  • Visiting scholars are welcome to contact Prof. Liao to discuss projects of mutual interest.



Visualizing spontaneous electron-hole separation

July 03, 2017

Dynamics of photo-excited electrons and holes on the surface of hydrogenated amorphous silicon - an important material for thin-film solar cells - is visualized with scanning ultrafast electron microscopy in space and time with high resolutions. Due to the large mismatch of the mobilities of electrons and holes and the low electrical conductivity of the material, the Coulombic interaction between electrons and holes cannot bind them together and maintain charge neutrality. As a result, spontaneous spatial separation of electrons and holes was observed and explained via a Monte Carlo simulation. Published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Quantifying phonon damping due to electron-phonon interaction

October 12, 2016

Ultrafast photoacoustic spectroscopy uses a short pump laser pulse to initiate coherent acoustic pulses and another probe laser pulse to monitor their decay, from which the phonon-damping rates can be quantified. In a modified version, a third laser pulse is introduced to generate electrons and holes uniformly within a thin sample (silicon). By carefully designing the temporal sequence of the three laser pulses, the phonon-damping effect due to interaction with photo-generated electrons and holes can be separately measured. The experimental results agree well with the first-principles simulation, and indicate the important effect of electron-phonon interaction on phonon transport in heavily-doped semiconductors. Published in Nature Communications.

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Ultrafast Optical/Electron Spectroscopy and Microscopy


We use ultrafast lasers and electron microscopes to probe photophysical processes that happen at nanometer length scale and subpicosecond time scale. The techniques we use include SUEM (scanning ultrafast electron microscopy), TDTR (time-domain thermoreflectance) and ultrafast photoacoustic spectroscopy.

First-principles and Multiscale Transport Simulation


We use supercomputers to simulate the motion of microscopic energy carriers in nano and mesoscale devices, especially how they interact with other carriers, defects and interfaces, and how they behave in structures with characteristic sizes smaller than their own mean free path or coherent length. 

Applied Clean Energy Technologies and Systems

In addition to fundamental studies of nanoscale energy transport, we are equally passionate about converting new understandings and new materials into practical devices with real-world impact through engineering efforts. The current focus is on thermal and solar energy harvesting devices and systems.