40 years of research earns UH physicist national recognition

November 20, 2001

Simon C. Moss to receive Von Hippel award for outstanding contributions to materials science

HOUSTON, Nov. 20, 2001 - Atomic-scale defects and imperfections can lead to incredible opportunities, especially if you're a materials scientist.

For nearly 40 years, Simon C. Moss, the M.D Anderson Chair of Physics at the University of Houston, has been interested in how the defects or disorder within solid materials affect the properties of those materials, such as how they conduct electricity and what phases they form. Defects purposefully introduced into silicon, for example, led to semiconductors, the tiny electrical switches used to control nearly all modern-day electrical and optical devices.

"At the heart of materials research is the relationship between the structure and its properties," Moss says. "There is very little that is perfect in this world, and crystals are often far from perfect in their atomic arrangements. Exploring and exploiting these defects is very interesting work."

On Nov. 28, Moss will receive the Von Hippel Award from the Materials Research Society at the organization's annual meeting in Boston. The award, named for its inaugural recipient Arthur Von Hippel, recognizes a lifetime of research accomplishments in physics and materials science. The award is the society's highest honor, and includes $10,000 and a mounted ruby laser crystal symbolizing the many-faceted nature of materials research.

The Von Hippel Award is given annually to an individual in recognition of the recipient's outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary research on materials. Moss is the 25th winner of the award, and the second recipient from a Texas institution. His citation reads: "For consistently timely and essential contributions to identifying and understanding the atomic-level structure of almost every new type of material discovered in the last thirty years." Moss's 30 years of research at UH has spanned a variety of fields in physics, including studies of surface and thin film phenomena, and defects in crystalline and glassy materials, including semiconductors, metallic alloys, superconductors and fullerenes. In his research, Moss uses techniques such as X-ray and neutron scattering to study the atomic structure of materials. One example of Moss's research is his work on the surfaces of materials, which can be considered to be a special form of defect, he says. The structure of the surface differs from the rest of the bulk material and so it has unique properties and behaves differently. Also, compound semiconductors used in computers and optoelectronic devices can be made to do many things by playing with the disorder and controlling the atomic structure of their component materials, Moss says. In addition, he has initiated a broad program of research on thin films of materials used in many areas of technology.

Moss began his research career nearly 40 years ago by looking at alloys such as steel, which is made of iron with a small amount of carbon added to it. "Alloys are materials that have been modified for specific purposes," Moss says. "Adding carbon to iron enormously increased its strength, making it broadly useful, where pure iron is as soft as butter. The question is, what is happening within the material on an atomic level to produce these altered properties." Moss said that today there is a very active field of research aimed at understanding the electronic properties and resultant behavior of alloys. Aluminum, nickel, and titanium alloys, for example, are used in airplanes and aircraft engines, which must be able to withstand certain temperatures and be lightweight.
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Moss, a native of New York City, received his bachelor's and master's degrees in metallurgy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956 and 1959, respectively. He earned his doctorate in metallurgy and materials science from MIT in 1962.

Moss has served in a number of editorial and advisory positions both on professional journals and on panels for the Department of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences and several national neutron scattering centers. His many honors include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1968-69); Fellow of the American Physical Society (1975); Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior Scientist Award (1979; 2000); Department of Energy Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment (1988); Research Excellence Award, University of Houston (1990); David Adler Lectureship Award of the Division of Materials Physics, American Physical Society (1993); Max Planck Research Award, Max Planck Gesellschaft/Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (1994-96); and the Esther Farfel Award, University of Houston (1994). About the University of Houston

The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 32,000 students.

For more information about UH visit the university's 'Newsroom' at http://www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom.

For more information about the Materials Research Society and the Von Hippel Award: http://www.mrs.org/awards.

University of Houston

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