The AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Oct. 19-24

October 20, 2008

October 20, 2008 -- The AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition this month in Boston will showcase advances in technology, materials research, nanotechnology, alternative energy, and medicine. Highlights of papers from among the 1,300 talks at the meeting are described below.

  1. World's Thinnest Flexible Display Takes Scrolling to a Whole New Level
  2. Making Hydrogen a Practical Alternative Fuel for Cars
  3. Where Single Molecules go to Dance
  4. Among the Best Clocks of all Time
  5. 'Soft' Method Produces Hard-to-Make Nanostructures
  6. Buckyball Beams
  7. Tuning Tiny Magnetic Nanotubes
  8. The Secret Lives of Carbon Nanotubes


Imagine a miniature television or computer screen that scrolls out of a pen-sized carrying case. Flexible displays like this are almost on the edge of commercial reality, but several challenges still must be overcome in making high-performance thin films that bend but don't break.

There are several different flexible display technologies, but only a few can provide full-color video. LCDs, which are popular for flat screen TVs, require a back light and do not work well when flexed, so a lot of attention is now on organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). When a voltage is applied across these materials, they emit light over a wide range of colors depending on the organic compounds used. Already one can find flat screen TVs on the market that are constructed from a thin layer of OLEDs on top of a rigid glass support. These displays are faster and have higher contrast than LCDs. What's more, they don't have to be kept rigid, as a few small prototypes have shown. "The flexible display is a killer application for OLEDs," says Ruiqing Ma of Universal Display Corporation.

AVS 55th International Symposium this month in Boston, Ma will be presenting some of the challenges faced in developing the thin films that make up a flexible OLED display. In particular, he will describe the thin metal foils that his group uses to provide a substrate for the tiny transistors that feed electricity to the OLED layer. He will also talk about the preparation of thin, transparent barriers that can keep water and oxygen from rapidly degrading the OLED material.

As testament to their work, Ma and his collaborators have recently succeeded in making the world's thinnest OLED flexible display. Less than 50 microns thick (half that of normal printer paper), this rudimentary prototype works even when rolled around a five-millimeter-wide cylinder.

Ma's talk, "Thin Film Challenges for Flexible Displays and Electronics" is at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, 2008, in Room 302 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract: IMAGE AVAILABLE -- SEE BELOW.


Hydrogen is an attractive alternative fuel because it can power a fuel cell with only water and heat as by-products. In order to realize hydrogen fuel cells as a transportation future, researchers must find a light, compact, robust and cost-effective system for storing enough hydrogen in a vehicle to go as far as a full tank of gas.

Even when compressed to 10,000 psi, hydrogen gas takes up 10 times more space than gasoline for the same amount of energy. Some of this volume can be reduced by cooling the hydrogen down to negative 420 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which it becomes liquid, but keeping a tank this cold has its own difficulties.

Current research is exploring solid materials that can store hydrogen in a small volume at close to room temperature. An example is lanthanum nickel hydride, which has 50 percent more hydrogen per volume than pure liquid hydrogen. This metal hydride releases its hydrogen when the temperature rises slightly, and it can be "refilled" with new hydrogen under modest pressures. The metals, however, make it very heavy.

"We would like to have lanthanum nickel hydride without the lanthanum or the nickel," says Jan Herbst from General Motors Research and Development Center. At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Herbst will discuss the latest work toward finding other metal hydrides made of lighter elements like lithium and boron. He will also review an alternative approach that uses porous substances with large surface areas, such as activated carbon and metal organic frameworks, that capture hydrogen at low temperatures.

Herbst's talk, "Hydrogen Storage for Automotive Vehicles: Methods and Materials" is at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, October 20, 2008, in Room 203 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract: IMAGE AVAILABLE -- SEE BELOW.


If realism in art is about representing form, then biology is chock full of real art. For decades, scientists have probed some of the tiniest structures of life's basic building blocks (such as DNA or proteins), rendering full-color ball-and-stick models of them that fill the pages of journals and adorn the trophy cases of biology departments everywhere. While these representations reveal some of the most intricate molecular details of life, they often fall short in depicting how a single molecule moves. Just as the perfect picture of a horse cannot convey the fluidity of it gallop, so does a frozen picture of DNA fail in describing its intricate dance. "These are wet, warm, squishy things," says Adam Cohen of Harvard University. They jiggle, they flap, they twist, they turn, and they randomly "walk" about.

Studying how a single molecule moves is hard, however, because of these very motions. Like a horse, if you set a single molecule free, it will wander away. You can tie it down, ensuring that it no longer wanders, but then you can't necessarily observe how it moves. Now, thanks to a machine built by Adam Cohen and his colleagues at Harvard, it may be possible to confine a single molecule and study its motions at the same time.

The machine basically uses a variable electric field to trap a single molecule under a microscope. It does this by tracking the molecule's motion and then rapidly applying tiny electric pulses to counter this motion and zap the molecule back into place. At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Cohen will describe how he and his colleagues can use this machine to look at things like virus particles or single pieces of DNA. Recently they made a movie by capturing 60,000 high-speed frames of a DNA molecule dancing. The studies show the nature of the molecule's internal forces, says Cohen, and these properties give information about how DNA interacts in a biological setting.

Cohen's talk, "Trapping Single Molecules in Water at Room Temperature" is at 8:20 a.m. on Monday, October 20, 2008, in Room 312 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract:


The ultra-cold, ultra-stable, and ultra-fast worlds come together at National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado, where Jun Ye and his colleagues have produced some of the best clocks anywhere. Optical clocks are the latest update on the old atomic-clock method: laser light tweaks chilled atoms held in a trap, and the frequency of the light coming back out of those atoms provides a precise clock pulse. In the old days this light was in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Now, precise counting techniques ("frequency comb") allow spectral lines in the visible range of light to be used, with a vast increase in precision. The stability of clock performance at NIST is now at the 10^-15 level over an averaging time of 1 second, while the uncertainty in timekeeping is at the 10^-16 level. At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Ye will describe the up-to-the-minute properties of his clocks (prospects for an improvement in uncertainty by a factor of 10) and will suggest how such fabulous precision can be applied to a number of research areas such as quantum computing.

Ye's talk, "Optical Atomic Clocks" is at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday October 21, 2008, in Room 312 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract: IMAGE AVAILABLE -- SEE BELOW.


Fifty years of Moore's Law-driven reductions in electronic-circuit features sizes are pushing manufacturers toward molecular and atomic dimensions of less than a few nanometers. Unfortunately, it may be impossible or uneconomic for traditional projection photolithographic techniques to create such small features for use in future circuits or newer, different nanotechnology applications.

A conceptually simple set of techniques, called soft lithography, is showing potential for creating some of those needed patterns as well as much more complex three-dimensional nanostructures that are impossible for conventional photolithography to produce. These methods use transparent, rubbery "elastomer" elements with extremely fine relief features created on their surfaces by casting and curing from master templates. These elements are used to produce corresponding relief features in photoresists for conventional photolithographic techniques or to exploit the volumetric intensity patterns that form when the elastomer is illuminated.

At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Dan Shir of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will describe two recent highlights in his group's soft lithography research: a) High-fidelity molecular-scale replication of the brushed-substrate alignment-layers typically used to make liquid-crystal displays; and b) Exquisite creation of various types of three-dimensional structures 10-100 microns thick, including quasiperiodic and photonic bandgap structures, which could lead to new types of lasers and optical-circuit elements.

Shir's talk, "Techniques for Three Dimensional and Molecular Scale Nanofabrication," will be held at 8 a.m. on Thursday, October 23, 2008, in Room 309 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract: IMAGE AVAILABLE -- SEE BELOW.


Once computer chip manufacturers have made their multi-layered structures, it is also necessary for them to verify precisely that the layers are composed in the proper way. One way of doing this is to shoot beams of ions which, like meteorites striking the Moon, eject material that can be characterized using mass spectrometry, providing information about subsurface layering. Just as large meteorites make bigger dust clouds, large molecules or clusters of atoms are better at ejecting materials than single-atom ions since the clusters excavate more cleanly and provide more unambiguous signs of deep structure in the sample being imaged.

The lab of Nick Winograd of Pennsylvania State University has pioneered the use of beams of carbon-60 molecules (buckyballs). At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Winograd will describe how he and his students have greatly improved the sensitivity of detection of the ejected material by using an infrared laser for photoionization prior to analysis by the mass spectrometer. The infrared laser is effective since electrons can be removed from molecules with high efficiency via tunneling and without significant photofragmentation. For pictures illustrating the difference between single atom probes and C60 beams, see:

Winograd's talk, "Strong Field Laser Postionization Imaging and Depth Profiling Using C60 Cluster Ion Beams" is at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday October 21, 2008, in Room 207 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract:


One basic tenet of nanotechnology is that on the sub-microscopic scale, size matters. Magnetic nanostructures are no exception. German researchers have shown how the dimensions of tiny magnetic tubes affect their properties and could impact future data storage applications.

The "ones" and "zeros" on a computer hard drive are currently encoded by aligning tiny magnetic grains in the material over regions as small as a few 100 nanometers across. These regions cannot get much smaller, as the grains need a certain number of neighbors to maintain their alignment. The lower size limit, which defines the data storage performance, might be overcome by switching from grains to tubes. A tube's narrow geometry, which can be as little as 20 nanometers across, keeps the magnetic alignment relatively fixed, so a single tube could hold a single bit of data. When stacked side-by-side in an array, "the tubes have a very small footprint," says Julien Bachmann of Hamburg University.

Bachmann and his colleagues can make magnetic nanotubes of varying size using a technique called atomic layer deposition. Inside a pre-formed template, layers of magnetic material are added one at a time to make walls as thin as 4 nanometers. Among other results, the scientists found that the magnet moments within a tube interact with each other in different ways depending on the wall thickness. At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Bachmann will discuss how this kind of information, although still in the research stage, could one day help engineers design nanotube geometries that are optimum for data storage, or for other possible applications in microelectronics and medicine.

Bachmann's talk "Ferromagnetic Nanostructures by Atomic Layer Deposition: From Thin Films to Ferrofluids and Core-Shell Nanotubes" is at 10:20 a.m. on Monday, October 20, 2008, in Room 302 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract: IMAGE AVAILABLE -- SEE BELOW.


The recent advent of transmission electron microscopes with integrated scanning probe microscope sample stages is permitting unprecedented nanoscale observation and analysis of materials. Jianyu Huang of Sandia National Laboratories, for example, uses this technology to study simultaneously the electrical and mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes. He anchors a multiwall carbon nanotube between the stage base and probe tip and then runs an electrical current through the tube to heat it to a particular temperature -- and may also use the tip to stretch the tube -- all while continuously recording electrical and force measurements and taking a transmission electron microscope snapshot every few seconds.

At the AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition, Huang will describe how he stitched together the transmission electron microscope images of a single-wall nanotube growing within the core cavity of a multiwall nanotubes. The resulting short time-lapse video clearly reveals the answer to a long-standing carbon nanotube question: During their formation, the free end of a growing nanotube is a closed cap, not an open tube. (Nanotube pioneer Sumio Iijima in Japan has also recently achieved a similar result.) Understanding the growth mechanism is essential in creating nanotubes with the desired structure, or chirality, required for devices such as field-effect transistors.

In earlier work, Huang has used the same technology to observe unexpected plastic deformation of stretched carbon nanotubes and the creation of closed-shell buckyballs within multiwall carbon nanotubes. His collaborators at Rice University have modeled the data and explained how conventional dislocation principles can be modified to explain the observed behavior in nanotubes.

Huang's talk, "In-Situ Electron Microscopy Enabled by a TEM-SPM Platform" will be held at 2:40 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, 2008, in Room 310 of the Hynes Convention Center. Abstract: IMAGE AVAILABLE -- SEE BELOW.


Listed below are email contacts for the researchers named in all the stories above as well as information on obtaining associated graphics.

Ruiqing Ma, Universal Display Corporation
A cool photo of one of the flexible displays can be obtained by emailing

Jan Herbst, General Motors R&D Center
Angele Shaw, GM R&D Communications
For a photograph of a hydrogen fuel vehicle, email

Adam Cohen, Harvard University

Jun Ye, National Institute of Science and Technology and University of Colorado
Colorful images of this technology can be obtained by emailing

Dan Shir (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
John Rogers (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) (217-244-4979)
Wonderfully patterned images can be obtained by emailing

Nick Winograd (Pennsylvania State University)

Julien Bachmann, Hamburg University
An image of the champagne flute-like nanotubes can be obtained by emailing

Jianyu Huang (Sandia National Laboratories), 505-284-5963, office; 505-217-4877, cell
Mark Lee (Sandia National Laboratories)
Neal Singer (Sandia National Laboratories Public Information)
A detailed electron microscope image of the nanotubes can be obtained by emailing


The AVS 55th International Symposium & Exhibition lasts from October 19-24 in Boston, Massachusetts. All meeting information, including directions to the Hynes Convention Center is at:


The AVS Pressroom will be located in Room 313 of the Hynes Convention Center. Pressroom hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:00-5:00 pm. The phone number there is (617) 954-2937. Press Kits containing exhibiting companies' new product announcements and other news will be available on CD-ROM in the pressroom.


Searchable meeting program:
Main meeting page:
Journalist registration:
Online press room:


The proliferation of tiny electronic and other gadgets sometimes overwhelms meeting attendees (and journalists). Consequently there will be an "ask-the-experts" booth in the exhibit area. So save up your questions (Exhibit Hall Booth 607).



This year's plenary talk will be delivered by Jackie Ying, the Executive Director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Singapore. Ying's laboratory has been responsible for the development of several novel approaches that create nanocomposites, nanoporous materials and nanodevices with unique size-dependent characteristics. Her talk, "Nanostructure Processing of Advanced Catalysts and Biomaterials" will be at noon on Monday, October 20, 2008 in Ballroom B of the Hynes Convention Center. For full details, see:


Fert, of Université Paris-Sud and Unité Mixte de Physique CNRS/THALES in Orsay, France, won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics with Peter Grünberg for the discovery of giant magnetoresistance. In Boston, Fert will describe the potential of carbon nanotubes, graphene and other molecules for spintronics-a developing field that seeks to achieve new forms of data storage by exploiting electron spin along with charge. Fert's talk "Spin Transport between Spin-Polarized Sources and Drains: Advantage of Carbon Nanotubes on Semiconductors" will be at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 in Room 206 of the Hynes Convention Center. For full details, see:


A meeting within a meeting, the Industrial Physics Forum (IPF, is a multifaceted science meeting that presents industrial, academic, and governmental views on significant issues in physics and related fields. Held in conjunction with the AVS meeting this year, the 2008 Industrial Physics Forum has a research theme of Frontiers in Imaging, from Cosmos to Nano. Sessions include: FRONTIERS OF PHYSICS

The Industrial Physics Forum (IPF) also hosts the Frontiers in Physics Symposium, showcasing some of the top speakers on some of the hottest topics in physics. This year's symposium speakers are as follows: The session will be from 1:40 to 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday, October 21, 2008 in Room 312 of the Hynes Convention Center. See:


AVS promotes communication, dissemination of knowledge, recommended practices, research, and education in a broad range of technologically relevant topics. One way that it does this is by offering short courses in areas such as: In Boston, AVS will offer short courses on everything from engineering solar cells to the latest technologies for analyzing biological molecules. To access the complete short course schedule, see:

AVS is a nonprofit organization that promotes communication, education, networking, recommended practices, research, and the dissemination of knowledge on an international scale, in the application of vacuum and other controlled environments to understand and develop interfaces, new materials, processes, and devices through the interaction of science and technology.


The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is a not-for-profit organization chartered in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare. It is the mission of the Institute to serve physics, astronomy, and related fields of science and technology by serving its ten Member Societies and their associates, individual scientists, educators, R&D leaders, and the general public with programs, services and publications.

American Institute of Physics

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