Rapid Fire
Carbon and thermoelectricity

The Biggest Materials Party

After missing a flight on Monday morning and almost missing a second flight on Monday evening, I arrived at SF late at night, exhausted. Today is my first day at MRS, and the title of the post suggests I am overwhelmed by the number of people, number of talks and the amount of information that one needs to digest.  With a four-hundred page meeting guide in hand, I started the day with amorphous and crystalline silicon thin film solar cell, and then move to chemical mechanical planarization, and then optical properties of silicon nanocrystal, and then organic transistor sensor, and finally to directed block-copolymer patterning. Not all topics are related what I am doing in the lab, but I found I often learn something new and surprising.

During the session on silicon based thin film solar cells, Dr. Guha from United Solar Ovonic, presented a progression of manufacturing lines that move the module size from 2'' to 4'' to 16'' and then to roll-to-roll. Scaling-up is crucial in this industry to reduce cost. Compared to the talks I have heard before by researchers in university labs, where the focus is often on having the highest efficiency in a hero cell, the focus in industry is slightly different, and as a result, the issues that they worry about are completely different.

This interplay between industry and university came up again in the session on directed self-assembly of block copolymers. Dr. Ross from MIT showed how they can create different nanometer-sized patterns, such as hexagonal, lamellar, even zigzag meandering, and how they can make patterns smaller and smaller, by doing all sorts of tricks, to a limit of 17nm. And then afterward, Dr. Ruiz from Hitachi, who works on using these patterns as data-storage media, gave a list of requirements that a nanoscale pattern needs to satisfy in order to make device fabrication possible. And on that list, pattern size and pattern shape are only two figure of merit, others include the size distribution, methods to confirm large area uniformity and so on.

I guess this type of university-industry back-and-forth interplay, among many other things, makes MRS meeting a very rewarding experience for both sides.


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