Cong Su: Engineering Atomic Structures Usable in Air and Room Temperature

Yale Engineering is proud to welcome its newest faculty for the 2023-24 academic year. These six new faculty members – with more to be announced soon – mark the continued growth of the School and investment in the research areas illustrated in the SEAS Strategic Vision.

The latest faculty arrivals are valuable additions to the applied physics, biomedical, and mechanical engineering and materials science departments. Their expertise includes machine learning, artificial intelligence, atomic engineering, quantum computing, photon physics, neuroscience, and biological networks.

Upon their arrival, we asked these new faculty members questions about their work, their motivations, potential collaborations, and much more:

Cong Su, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science


Beijing, China

Prior academic history?

I was a postdoc fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and a Heising-Simon Junior Fellow at the Physics Department of UC Berkeley before coming to Yale. I obtained my Ph.D. degree from MIT, and a bachelor’s from Peking University.

How would you summarize your research?

Atomic Engineering. We create and engineer atomic structures usable in air and room temperature. The most interesting part of this project is that we are attempting to use high-energy electron beams to modify the crystal lattice in an atom-by-atom fashion. There are better descriptions and a graphical structure of my research on my webpage. Feel free to take a peek there!

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

Because Atomic Engineering is both essential and timely. 1. Quantum: Many quantum technologies rely on specific atomic structures for qubits, emitters, repeaters, etc. 2. Chemistry: Single-atom catalysis relies on specific atomic structures for catalyzing chemical reactions that potentially solve climate and energy issues. 3. Semiconductor: Transistor size is now approaching atomic limit which makes it deviate from the original trend of Moore's Law. Atomic Engineering helps better engineer devices. 4. Human nature: Isn’t it super cool to explore a new method to make the smallest devices?

Where do you see the field 10 years from now?

I hope our group, together with other colleagues, will be able to demonstrate what I call “Atom Supremacy” where problems can only be addressed from atomic level (here I borrowed the concept of “Quantum Supremacy”). The different applications I mentioned in the last question is only a tip of the iceberg. Apart from demonstrating “proof-of-concept” atomic devices, we also hope to develop methods for their mass production.

What brought you to Yale?

Yale established a new electron microscopy shared facility at the West Campus where a one-of-a-kind transmission electron microscope (TEM) is going to be hosted in the summer of 2024. This state-of-the-art TEM has the capability to directly address problems in Atomic Engineering, where optical spectroscopy, laser injection, variable electron voltage, powerful detectors for atomic spectroscopies, holography, Lorentz TEM for magnetic materials, and 4D-STEM are all integrated into this machine. Such significant infrastructure investment is for sure going to open up many new fields.

And another very important reason why I’m here: Come on, it’s Yale!

What areas outside of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science do you seek to create impactful research collaborations or partnerships?

Outside of MEMS, I expect my collaborators will mostly be in physics, chemistry, and EE.

Are there any courses that you look forward to teaching/creating?

I will teach Thermodynamics for Mechanical Engineers (MENG 211) this coming semester, but I’m also looking forward to designing a new course for senior undergraduates and graduate students on “Materials Characterization and Principles”. I hope the lectures and hands-on experiences will help students make full use of the powerful shared faculties in Yale campuses.

What are your interests outside of the lab?

Being with my family, driving, workout, and visiting national parks (NP). My top NP choices are: Mount Rainier, Yellowstone, White Sands, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon.

What is the best New Haven Pizza?

Still haven’t tried them yet. I had one attempt to go to Frank Pepe for lunch, but the line was too long so I had to leave. I guess that long line itself justifies the quality and taste.

Learn more about Cong Su's work at his website.

Back to the 2023-2024 New Faculty Profiles