MRS Debrief

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It is hard to believe MRS was just last week and I was a bit sad for the week to end. It was quite the SPM reunion – people compared it to an old high school reunion with so many key players in the SPM community milling the exhibit floor or camped out in room 208, our home for the technical symposium.   The total conference had over 6500 attendees!

The 4-day SPM symposium, organized by Jason Killgore (NIST), Santiago Solares (George Washington Univ), Ricardo Garcia (CSIC) and Laura Fumagalli (Univ of Manchester) did not disappoint and provided a very nice review of new developments in the SPM field.  I especially enjoyed hearing from some players who were new or had taken a bit of a break from the field and are now back.  Elisa Riedo of CUNY gave an excellent talk on measuring mechanical properties of 2D materials at incredibly low (a few angstroms!) deformations.  Malgorzata Kopycinskia-Mueller (Fraunhofer IKTS) also presented an interesting work on using atomic force acoustic microscopy to determine the indentation modulus of thin porous films.  And Hanna Cho (Ohio State) presented novel AFM probes that consist of a base cantilever incorporating an inner paddle.  This lever enables utilization of the cantilever’s harmonics to improve sensitivity to mechanical properties and functional material properties over traditional cantilevers.  Although in my MRS preview I bemoaned a bit the tutorial for this symposium being on machine learning, that buzzword came up in quite a few talks, so I better get more acquainted with the field and its growing relevance for SPM data analysis and integration!

The exhibit floor was a lot of fun too. Out of 241 exhibitors, I counted at least 21 SPM related including AFM instrument vendors for both traditional AFM equipment and hybrid AFM equipment such as AFM-IR, probe manufacturers, and software companies specializing in image processing software for AFM images.  There were two new AFM related booths.  The first was Anton-Parr, which has now released its Tosca 400 AFM aimed at industrial customers.  The instrument was on the show floor showing some of the standard imaging capabilities such as tapping mode and contact mode. They also developed a handy stapler like device to install cantilevers into the cantilever holder which I am sure customers who struggle with tweezers to insert this small cantilevers will enjoy.  The other new AFM was from Angstrom Science based out of Santa Barbara (the hub of commercial AFM in the US), which has now entered the beta testing phase and is expected to be available at some point in 2018.  They have developed a new AFM scanner head that is very compact and designed to easily go with optical or electron microscopes.  An interesting design feature of this instrument replaces the traditional laser/mirror/photodiode detector with a fiber to guide the laser light directly to the tip of the cantilever.  An image of this new scanner head is shown here. 

And of course the MRS meeting is so much beyond the SPM symposium. I took a break and went to some talks on new materials for 3D printing of flexible electronics and new capabilities being developed for soft robotics, a field that is developing soft, pliable materials for automated handling and processing of materials that require a soft touch, such as…..a cupcake.  For example, Ryan Truby from Jennifer Lewis’s group at Harvard discussed the development of embedded 3D printing of sensors into soft robotic grippers for somatosensory feedback.  There was even a dedicated symposium for new materials for neural interfacing which was sitting- in-the-aisles room only.  Charlie Lieber from Harvard was one of the invited speakers in this symposium and spoke about breakthroughs with injectable mesh electronics neural probes delivered to specific areas of the brain.…

It felt like MRS could go on for a month…so many different talks to go to. And apologies to our electron microscopy audience as I did not have a chance to go to the in situ electron microscopy symposium.  But there is always next year!

Dalia Yablon, Ph.D.


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