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April 2010

Talk of the Day (Monday)

The best talk of the day for me was given by David Kelley on luminescent solar concentrators. The talk itself was very well prepared but it is this technology that I find really interesting. Luminescent concentrators use dyes to absorb light and then re-radiate it inside the glass. The light is trapped in the glass due to total internal reflection and can be concentrated onto a solar panel at the edge of the glass. By utilizing the glass as a waveguide they are capable of concentrating light without any clunky mirrors, lenses, or tracking. The problems with the technology currently is that the dyes are not very efficient at absorbing light or re-radiating it. David was using composite nano-rods to control the wavelengths that light would be absorbed at, re-radiated at, and the angle at which it would be re-radiated (useful for total internal reflection). Is there any materials problem that can't be solved by nano-technology? I think not.

On another note, I'll be attending Symposium X today that specifically considers the current focus on nano-structuring in materials work.

-- Dan

Happy hour or a nightcap

One of the best parts of these conferences is the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and meet new ones (particularly after poster sessions like the one this evening at 5pm).  It's nice to do this over evening drinks or dinner.  While there are a lot of places close to the convention center to do this, I have listed some of the ones I like below including a non-alcoholic option.  I chose these because they have that special San Franciscan feel.  (Note: I tend to like the chic, swanky bars in this neighborhood.  The good dive bars are a little farther away.)

1. Press Club - It's northern California, so you have to try the wine.  This place actually has tasting bars from some of the California wineries.  The vibe is a bit swanky, and it's nice to get a wine flight with some small bites.

2. B Restaurant and Bar - Go here for the nice view of the Yerba Buena Gardens.  The interior is small, but it's better to sit outside on the patio and enjoy some drinks during happy hour right before the sun goes down.

3. Samovar Tea Lounge - With one of the most extensive tea menus I've ever seen, this place is also overlooking the Yerba Buena Gardens.  It's a bit expensive, but you get a lot of tea and can stay at your table for hours without being bothered.

4. St. Regis Hotel Lobby Bar - I really like the energy and decor of the place.  It's chic and comfortable at the same time.  However, I think this place is a bit expensive; I wasn't paying when I went. 

If you are interested in the good dive bars or more casual places, post a comment, and I'll follow up with another list.


Transparent Aluminum? Surely you must be joking, Dr. Atwater...

Good evening everyone,

My name is Jason and I am the final blog contributor to check in today.  I am a 3rd year PhD student in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Stanford University, and this is my second MRS conference.  I’m looking forward to an exciting week filled with plenty of interesting talks, thought-provoking lectures and lots of discussions with my fellow conference-goers.

Today, I took advantage of the opportunity to hear Prof. Harry Atwater of CalTech discuss some of the interesting ideas his group is working on in order to get the most out of our world’s most ubiquitous, renewable resource: the sun.  To many of those familiar with the recent groundswell in research related to renewable energy, it will not come as a surprise that the sun provides the Earth with enough usable energy in the span of less than 2 hours to provide for the world population’s current energy needs.  This makes solar photovoltaics seem like a natural fit to procure our ongoing energy supplies.  What I learned from Prof. Atwater’s lecture today is that materials-related research is ideally suited to drive research in this area.  Prof. Atwater’s lecture focused mainly on utilizing cleverly designed nanostructures such as Si nanowire arrays or patterned metal structures to absorb more and more light into smaller and smaller volumes.  The ideas that he presented drew upon both materials science as well as applied physics to describe how research now being done is attempting to, as the title of his talk described, ‘Bend Light to Our Will…’

I’m excited to return tomorrow (bright and early) to learn even more about how materials science research is critical to solving some of society’s most pressing problems.  What am I looking forward to most?  Well, I’ll definitely be checking out the symposia on organic photovoltaics (GG, HH, and II) as it is near and dear to my own research.  I also do not intend to miss the Grad Student Award Finalist talks in the afternoon.  These talks showcase the future of the MRS and really demonstrate the amazing research going on around the world.  Of course, there are also the Exhibitors and plenty of other items to discover.

See you tomorrow!

- Jason

Kavli lecture

The turnout at the Kavli lecture was great.  Harry Atwater gave a talk entitled "Bending light to our will - Nanophotonic structures for terawatt scale solar energy conversion."  I thought the talk was exciting.  It is fun to see how far scientists can push the envelope... and how much further they want to go.  Most importantly, it was refreshing to have a whole presentation with an undertone of adventure and curiosity.  At some of the talks, the "healthy skepticism" we have as scientists often ends up as negativity, and that can be a downer.  In contrast, this lecture maintained a tone of positivity and creativity even through the questions.  Maybe people were just extra nice because it was a special award and lecture, but I enjoyed it.

The one flaw was the format of the question period.  With a huge roomful of smart minds, I'm sure there were a lot of questions, and I look forward to the discussion format of the Q&A session.  However, there was just one mic in the front center of the room, so I think people didn't want to get up and ask their questions.  Of course, it was the end of a long day, so maybe everyone just wanted to go out for drinks.

I'll leave you with the final point (from my perspective) of the lecture: invisible cloaks!  For real.  In our lifetime. 

Go on, take that moment to acknowledge how cool you are to be a scientist/engineer/mathematician working on something that could significantly change society.


Third-Generation Solar Technologies Multidisciplinary Workshop

That title is a mouthful but the part of it that I'd like to focus on is "Multidisciplinary". I have been noticing more and more lately how multidisciplinary materials research is. Even though I am a student in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Stanford, I currently collaborate directly with students from the Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering departments and my project is part of the Center on Nanostructuring for Efficient Energy Conversion which houses PIs from materials science, chemical engineering, physics, mechanical engineering and plant biology. 

It might just be that the study of materials is just a ridiculously broad field. Our materials department studies everything from basic metallurgy to cancer drug delivery to dark matter detectors. While an entirely different skillset/theoretical background may be required to study each of the sub-fields of materials science, there is usually enough overlap in these fields to warrant collaboration. Collaborating with researchers who have an entirely different way of thinking about problems can yield unusual solutions to difficult problems. 

What do you think makes materials research so different that multidisciplinary collaborations are almost a necessity in this field? 

Good Afternoon MRS-ers

Hi All,

My name is Dan and I'm a 4th year Ph.D. student at Stanford University in the Materials Science Department. This is my third year at MRS and the first year that I'll be giving a talk so I'm very excited about it. 

I'm currently on my way up to the Moscone Center from Palo Alto on Caltrain for the "Third-Generation Solar Technologies Multidisciplinary Workshop". This isn't specifically what I work on in my research but it is what is probably going to make my work obsolete one day. (I work on second generation thin film solar technology). 

Stay tuned for more updates once I have a few talks under my belt...
-- Dan

DD1: Thermoelectric Materials, all things nano

My morning got off to an early start since I attended Symposium DD.  The first talk was at 8am.  It was by David Cahill and entitled "Nanostructures and the Lattice Thermal Conductivity of Thermoelectric Materials."  I'm not sure I like that the key/invited talks start off the morning.  People inevitably run late, and there's the concern about how long registration will take.  I registered on-site, and my line looked much shorter than the preregistration line.  Luckily, I registered just in time to make it to Prof. Cahill's talk. 


Regarding logistics, it took a while for the session details to get sorted.  Not all of the morning speakers wore a microphone, so it was hard to hear them.  It's fairly impossible to hear the questions at the end of the talk.  These issues got resolved by the second half of the morning when the session chair repeated the questions and ensured that all speakers were wearing a mic.  The presentation projection is slightly imperfect.  The edges of the slides are cut off, so some of the slide titles are hard to read.  For future presenters and audience members, please make your fonts large enough to read (especially on figures), and ask your questions loudly.  I'm fairly sure I'm not as blind and deaf as I feel during the sessions.


Generally, the talks in this session were quite good and covered most aspects of the "nano" discourse in thermoelectrics right now.  The highlight for me was Chris Dames's talk on the thermal conductivity of bulk silicon with nanoscale grains.  I'm ever-impressed by his talks.  He combines just the right amount of theory and experimental work (previous and new).  The oral and visual presentations are clear, concise, and thorough all at the same time.  Nathan Crane's talk on self-assembled thermoelectrics was good but seemed a bit out of place in this session.  However, it was great to hear something manufacturing-/device-oriented.  (I am a mechanical engineer, after all.)

As general note, I'm missing some perspective on materials integration.  A few more talks focusing on sample or device integration issues would emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of the research required to create viable solutions.

I'm switching gears for the afternoon and attending a tutorial.  Back to the Moscone Center! (I had to leave and get online elsewhere; it's been too hard for me to get a good connection at the Moscone Center.)


Hello MRS


Hi, this is Wendong Wang, from the chemistry department at University of Toronto. I am part of a team that will be providing news and views on the 2010 MRS meeting here on this website, a.k.a, blogging. Being a first-time meeting attendee myself, I am looking for every bit of information to help me prepare for the coming event, and here are a few things I think will be particularly useful to most novices.

So, first, where is Moscone West, the meeting center? Google map somehow does not label the Moscone West building, so I search the web a bit, and find a page on Moscone Center website that gives detailed directions. And Here are the floor plan of Moscone West and the locations of all symposia

Also, a tool that I find very useful is the Online Itinerary Planner on MRS 2010 meeting page. You will need an email address to create an itinerary. You can browse over all the symposia and all presentation abstracts there. Once you create your own itinerary, you may print them out, with all the abstracts of the talks you want to attend, particularly useful if your itinerary is filled with too many talks at the same time.

For those who are going to give a poster or oral presentation, here is the guideline.

Meet you all next week! And check out those places Saniya recommended during the weekend! 

Welcome and get to know San Francisco

Hello, and welcome to San Francisco!  I am a PhD candidate at Stanford University, and I will be blogging from the MRS spring meeting.  I also happen to live three blocks away from the Moscone Convention Center, so I know the surrounding neighborhoods quite well. 

In case you have come to town early, I've put together a list of some suggested activities:

1. The Ferry Building Farmers' Market (Saturday morning and early afternoon, - This is a great place to enjoy the water and grab a tasty breakfast or lunch.

2. SFMOMA ( - Our modern art museum is located within walking distance of the convention center.  Both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions are excellent, and the rooftop sculpture collection and cafe are a lovely experience on a sunny day.

3. California Academy of Sciences ( and de Young museum ( - Located in the center of Golden Gate Park, these provide fun forays into the arts and sciences. 

4. Union Square ( - Shopaholics, this is the place for you.  There are also a number of good restaurants in the area.

5. Bike tour of San Francisco ( - This is a great way to see the city.  I recommend doing a coastal route that takes you along the Emarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf and on to the Golden Gate Bridge.  The link is to one company that offers bike rentals and tours, but there are several others, as well.

I hope this is enough to get you started.  I look forward to the start of the conference next week. 

Saniya LeBlanc