Report from Spring ACS National Meeting

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I attended the spring ACS meeting in San Francisco in April.  ACS is always chock-full of things to do between the technical program and exhibit.  This year, the spring meeting had a record 19,000 attendees!  Of course the beautiful weather and San Francisco location is always a draw.   While spending most of my time in the polymer division between two symposia I organized – one on Polymers under Deformation and the other on Nanoscale Spectroscopy of Catalysts an Polymers, I also had the privilege of participating in an award symposium for Jane Frommer, who won the 2017 ACS Award in Industrial Chemistry

Jane is a well-known industrial chemist who spent her career at IBM Almaden.   She has worked in many different areas over her long career, reflected in her award citation was for “pioneering the use of STM/AFM in organic materials, for fundamental studies of the solution state of electronically conducting polymers, and for extensive community involvement”.   In honor of her award, Jane assembled an exciting who’s who cast of characters who have been influential in developing the SPM technology over the past 30 years (Excluding yours truly.  As I was sitting through the symposium I kept wondering “why am I included in this list? I don’t belong here!”)  Nonetheless, the symposium was a wonderful survey of the state of the art of the technology from the perspective of leaders in the field in which I was privileged to participate. 

Many AFM vendors were represented with excellent talks by Bruker, Molecular Vista, Anasys Instruments, and Oxford Instruments.  We were also treated to a talk by Gang-Yu Liu from UC Davis.  Gang-yu is known for her pioneering work on nanolithography with SPM probes.    These days she has extended that work by a dimension and working on 3-D nanoprinting using SPM, achieving nanometer level precision in all 3 dimensions.  See example her recent publication on this topic in ACS Nano.

A 3D printing image.

Continuing on the theme on advanced applications of SPM probes, veteran SPMer Armin Knoll of IBM in Zurich gave a fascinating talk on heatable probes.  He is also doing nanolithography by evaporating polymer layers with heated probes, resulting in the ability to precisely remove materials to a depth of 1 nm. You can see Armin explain his research himself in this video.

Finally we heard from one of the world’s first students to work on AFM, Ernst Meyer of University of Basel.  He showed exquisite videos of pulling on graphene nanoribbons across a gold surface and found in this case superlubricity conditions.  

A picture of many of the speakers at Jane’s symposium, with Jane in the middle

It was quite a lovely and well-deserved fete of Jane.   All speakers spoke of her incredibly collaborative nature and fundamental honesty and integrity in pursuit of scientific research. On a personal level, I can attest to her mentorship to younger scientists, especially women, and what a wonderfully supportive role she has played to me personally.  Roger Proksch of Oxford Instruments (one of the speakers) commented that in the olden days people were honored with either a sculpture or portrait.   Oxford Instruments made the SPM version for Jane – a sculpture using anodic oxidation to grow a thin film of silicon oxide on Si.  Small is the operative word – only 2nm high.  Don’t worry, not only was the tiny sculpture on silicon presented to her, but also an image of the sculpture shown below.  Although I’m sure she could find the sculpture using her AFMs in the lab if she ever wanted to look at the “real” thing.

A sculpture using anodic oxidation to grow a thin film of silicon oxide on Si, presented by Oxford Instruments

Dalia Yablon, Ph.D.

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