Pawsey Medal for Nano-Fabrication Pioneer

Nanostructures, viewed with a scanning electron microscope

Associate Professor Kostya Ostrikov, a pioneer in the field of plasma nano-science at the University of Sydney, has been awarded the 2008 Pawsey Medal by the Australian Academy of Science.

Associate Professor Ostrikov earned the medal, awarded to early career scientists for outstanding physics research, for both theoretical and experimental work, which, in the words of one of his colleagues, Professor Iver Cairns “has created the field of deterministic plasma nano-fabrication, which was inconceivable just a few years ago”.

While most manufacturing of nano-scale devices involves painstaking methods that build structures atom by atom, plasmas – ionized gases – have the ability to deposit atoms in a highly controlled fashion by the millions in just millionths of a second. Until recently it was thought that the inherent randomness of plasma would limit any attempts at high-precision control of the deposition process. However the research of Associate Professor Ostrikov and his colleagues has developed methods of controlling the plasma’s characteristics, such as pressure, temperature or voltage, in such a way that the plasma organizes itself, forming intricate nano-structures such as cylinders, or the pyramids shown in the picture – a very different result to the deposition by neutral gases.

Computer model of nanostructures

As well as developing mathematical models for the formation of these self-organised complex systems and the surfaces to which they attach, Associate Professor Ostrikov is a leader in a team which has developed innovative plasma sources that can create the nano-structures predicted by his models.

Understandably the ability to create such precisely controlled nanostructures in such fast timeframes has many industries pricking up their ears, with the prospect of applications in nano-electronics, nano-optics and biomedicine looming large, as well as more exotic applications such as quantum dots for nano-lasers, ultra-thin solar cells or quantum computing.

Beyond the lab, Associate Professor Ostrikov has looked at nano-fabrication in nature: in his soon-to-be-published book “Plasma Nanoscience: From Nature’s Mastery to Deterministic Nanofabrication” he also looks at nano-particles around red-giant stars, and discusses the creation of the first building blocks of life on primordial earth.

Associate Professor Kostya Ostrikov

Associate Professor Ostrikov was educated in the Ukraine, and was awarded a Doctor of Science by Kharkov University at age 29, at the time the youngest ever recipient of the prestigious award. He also won the Best Young Scientist of Ukraine Award of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Since then he has continued with his prodigious output of work, despite having to weather the collapse of the Soviet Union, and has won six highly-prestigious research fellowships in the UK, Germany, Japan and Singapore before moving to Australia in 1999. He currently holds a QEII research fellowship at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics.

His award is another feather in the cap for the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, which counts among its staff six previous Pawsey medallists, including last year’s winner, Professor Ben Eggleton.

For more information contact:

Dr Phil Dooley, 0414 94 55 77,

Kostya Ostrikov is on leave this week, but can be contacted at From Tuesday 28th Jan, he will be back in the office: 9351 3167