2023 Innovation in Materials Characterization Award

Franz J GiessiblFranz Giessibl, University of Regensburg, Germany
Atomic Force Microscopy 3.0

Written by Sophia Chen

Franz Giessibl is the 2023 recipient of the Innovation in Materials Characterization Award. Over more than three decades, the physicist at University of Regensberg in Germany has worked to develop and popularize the technology known as the atomic force microscope (AFM), which has allowed materials scientists to characterize subatomic such as the shape of electron clouds. “As far as I know, it [has] the best spatial resolution of any microscopy,” Giessibl says.

But it took just about Giessibl’s entire career so far for the field to achieve subatomic resolution. He delivered a virtual presentation tracing the evolution of the technology. Giessibl began working on AFM as a graduate student at ETH Zürich under Nobel laureate Gerd Binnig, who won the prize for co-inventing the scanning tunneling microscope. (Giessibl chose atomic force microscopy over Binnig’s other two suggested research topics, gravitational waves or sequencing DNA using the scanning tunneling microscope. “What project would you have chosen?” he asked the audience.)

Binnig had co-invented the AFM in 1986, just prior to Giessibl joining his team. The microscope images a material by scanning the surface with an extremely fine tip on the end of a cantilever. Early models of the microscope used silicon as a cantilever material and could not achieve atomic resolution, Giessibl said. It also used a piezoresistive material that required significant electric current, and thus produced heat, to sense motion in the tip. This presented a technical challenge, as researchers were interested in studying materials in a cryogenic setting.

The field grew in the 1990s, with Seizo Morita of University of Osaka starting the International Conference on Non-contact Atomic Force Microscopy, which is still held today. Still, Giessibl noted that atomic force microscopes didn’t sell, with only about 80 sold worldwide at the time. During that time, he pivoted to management consulting at McKinsey in Germany to try to understand the business aspects.

During his time at McKinsey, Giessibl began to develop what is now the QPlus sensor, a new type of force sensor for the AFM. Instead of a silicon cantilever, the QPlus uses a quartz one. Instead of piezoresistive material, they use piezoelectric material, which doesn’t heat up as prior models. In addition, the QPlus sensor converts the surface of the material into a vibration.

In the early 2000s, more groups began to develop this new type of microscope with a stiffer probe. Giessibl noted that it was easier to convince scientists from the scanning electron microscopy field than from atomic force microscopy. In 2008, Giessibl and his colleagues measured the force it took to push a single atom. In 2009, Leo Gross of IBM and his team discovered that adding a carbon monoxide molecule of the tip improved the resolution.

At the end of the talk, Giessibl showed the progression in the AFM’s imaging capability with a series of photos from 1995 to 2015. There are now more than 400 atomic force microscopes with QPlus sensors worldwide, he said. He noted that the field has finally demonstrated subatomic imaging in 2015 and 2019, and that he is now working on achieving ultrafast time resolution with atomic force microscopy.

The Innovation in Materials Characterization Award has been endowed by Gwo-Ching Wang and Toh-Ming Lu.

Congratulations to the 2023 MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit Best Poster Award Winners!

The following posters were selected by the Meeting Chairs on the basis of the poster’s technical content, appearance, graphic excellence, and presentation quality (not necessarily equally weighted).

Tuesday Poster winners are Sungjun Choi (EL03.04.07), Rand Kingsford (EL17.03.01), Laud Anim Adofo (EN04.03.01), Arit Patra (QM04.04.04), Tanvi Kaku (SB05.04.24), and Simok Lee (SF04.03.12).


Wednesday Poster winners are Sreya Paladugu (CH03.05.02), Yong-Jin Park (EL08.08.10), MinWoo Jeong (EL18.09.45), Jiwoo Kim (EL19.07.13), Jingxuan Ding (EN06.05.07), and Young Hyun Noh (SB06.07.02).


Thursday Poster winners are Junia Shelomi Solomon Shelomi Solomon Sathiaraj (EL04.09.07), Daesol Kong (EL08.12.06), Natpaphat Jarulertwathana (EL19.10.22), Kihyun Lee (MD02.07.02), Jinmin Kim (SB06.12.07), and Katerina Rose DeOlivares (SF05.10.11).

Virtual Poster winner is Seong-Yong Cho (EL17.10.06).

2023 MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit - Graduate Student Awards

Congratulations to this year's students!

The MRS Graduate Student Awards are intended to honor and encourage graduate students whose academic achievements and current materials research display a high level of excellence and distinction. In addition to the MRS Graduate Student Gold and Silver Awards, the Arthur Nowick Graduate Student Award, which honors the late Dr. Arthur Nowick and his lifelong commitment to teaching and mentoring students in materials science, is presented to a GSA finalist who shows particular promise as a future teacher and mentor.


MRS Award Recipients – Lightning Talks and Panel Discussion

Written by Cullen Walsh

At this year’s MRS conference, five materials researchers who were named for prestigious MRS awards were invited to give flash talks about their research. This was followed by Q&A with the audience during a panel discussion.

George Malliaras, the Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge, was awarded the MRS Mid-Career Researcher Award for his contributions to organic electronic materials. He discussed how his research group takes cells from a patient and reprograms them to treat diseases. Specifically, he highlighted his work on biohybrid implants that contain both electronics and tissue. Through this combination, he showed that we can both maintain the health of a system and sustainably interface with the local biology while also inducing and guiding tissue repair.

Anne Lynn Gillian-Daniel, the Director of Education and Outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, received the MRS Impact Award. She discussed engaging public audiences with educational activities inspired by research being performed at her university. Gillian-Daniel’s goal is to create educational opportunities and content for people of all backgrounds and ages. She highlighted her current project, called Science Outreach at the Pantry, which involves engaging with people in the waiting area of a local food pantry and distributing science activity kits.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, an associate professor at the University of Utah, was awarded the Outstanding Early Career Investigator Award for her work on electronic transfer between organic-inorganic interfaces. In her flash talk, Whittaker-Brooks first discussed her work on improving the electrical properties of organic electronics. For instance, she showed that by bonding dopants to organic electronics we can prevent dopant aggregation. She also discussed her research into point defects in transition metal dichalcogenides and showed how we can tune the capacitance of these materials using the defect density.

Awards Lightning Talks_800 wide

Qi Qian, a postdoc at the University of California-Los Angeles, and Yeonsik Choi, a former postdoc at Northwestern University, both received the MRS Postdoctoral Award. Qian talked about her research into high-quality van der Waals heterojunctions and superlattices for use in quantum transport. Her research extends to systems beyond two-dimensional materials by exploring three-dimensional organic and inorganic systems that also experience van der Waals forces. She highlighted her work on creating high-quality van der Waals contacts for lead halide perovskites as well as her research into intercalating organic molecules between van der Waals layers to tune their electronic properties.

Choi talked about his research into transient electronics that can be integrated into the human body. Specifically, he discussed his research into temporary cardiac pacemakers. Current cardiac pacemakers require invasive connections between the device and the heart and risky removal surgery after use. In contrast, Choi wants to make pacemakers that are both wireless and transient, meaning they dissolve within the body after use. To achieve this, he designed a stimuli-responsive polymer-based device that can survive in a rat’s body for over a month then degrade without compromising the health of the patient. 

During the panel discussion, the researchers working on bioelectronics were asked what possible impact artificial intelligence could have on their technologies. Malliaras discussed how artificial intelligence could help them fine-tune the stimulation in their bioregenerative implants. The award recipients were also asked about the challenges they faced over the course of their careers. Whittaker-Brooks talked about her experience as a Fulbright scholar from Panama and how that shaped her career as a scientist, while Gillian-Daniel talked about her experience transitioning from being a PhD researcher to an education outreach specialist.

Suveen Mathaudhu of Colorado School of Mines, chair of the MRS Awards Committee, moderated the Lightning Talks.

2023 MRS Communications Lecture

1_Communications Lecture_270X180_3Blair Brettmann, Georgia Institute of Technology

Rheology and Formulation in Material Extrusion Additive Manufacturing of Dense Pastes

Written by Cullen Walsh

When developing products, we can now easily customize and alter their shape using 3D printing. However, we still have a limited ability to customize the materials that make up 3D-printed products. To address this limitation, Professor Blair Brettmann at the Georgia Institute of Technology researches the benefits and limitations of an emerging technique known as direct-ink-writing (DIW). This is a form of additive manufacturing in which a filament of paste is extruded by a nozzle, layer-by-layer, to form a 3D-printed structure.

As part of her MRS Communications lecture, Brettmann discussed her group’s research into the extrusion of dense pastes in which particle loading exceeds 50 percent. These dense formulations are desirable in many applications in which the particle, and not the binder, provides functionality, such as in pharmaceutical pills. The problem is, these mixtures are viscous and often inhomogeneous, making them difficult to process. To better optimize this technique, Brettmann’s group has implemented a quality-by-design framework in which the quality of a product is optimized by systematically analyzing both the design and performance of the final product along with the processes that go into making that product. Using this approach, the researchers are creating printed products made from dense pastes that are of high quality, which they define as having good shape fidelity, solidity, and homogeneity of voids and particle dispersion.

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The researchers split their research across four different areas of the DIW process—particle characteristics, suspension stability, mixing procedure, and printing via direct-ink-writing. Brettmann first discussed how the particle characteristics affect the printing process by comparing spherical glass beads to simulated lunar soil, as this aligns with their goal of extending the use of direct-ink-writing to lunar and Martian soils for 3D printing on the lunar surface. What they found was that the maximum number of particles that can be added to the suspension, while still achieving flowability, decreased drastically going from glass beads to simulated lunar regolith due to an increase in particle roughness. The research team also looked at the curing process and found that the simulated lunar soil had a lower cure depth and degree of curability in comparison to the glass bead suspension. Beyond particle characteristics, Brettmann discussed the suspension stability of their formulations via their shear stability, settling, and aging. For instance, the research team found that in the aging process there were differences in the particle-to-binder ratio at the start versus the end of the print due to stresses during the printing process.

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Overall, Prof. Brettmann’s work demonstrates how numerous steps in the design and implementation of DIW can be optimized to achieve high-quality printed products with high shape fidelity, solidity, and homogeneity. Additionally, by using a quality-by-design framework to understand how materials affect the 3D printing process, the research team increased the likelihood of a product being production-ready when implemented at scale. This could result in the 3D printing of suspensions, especially those with a high active particle loading, becoming a more versatile platform that could revolutionize the production of products from energetic materials to in-space waste products and pharmaceuticals.

The 2023 MRS Communications Lecture recognizes excellence in the field of materials research through work published in MRS Communications.  It is intended to honor the authors of an outstanding paper published in the journal during the preceding year.

2022 MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit - Graduate Student Awards

The MRS Graduate Student Awards are intended to honor and encourage graduate students whose academic achievements and current materials research display a high level of excellence and distinction. In addition to the MRS Graduate Student Gold and Silver Awards, the Arthur Nowick Graduate Student Award, which honors the late Dr. Arthur Nowick and his lifelong commitment to teaching and mentoring students in materials science, is presented to a GSA finalist who shows particular promise as a future teacher and mentor.

Gold Winners

  • Kai Oliver Brinkmann, University of Wuppertal
  • Fernando Gómez-Ortiz, Universidad de Cantabria
  • Asir Intisar Khan, Stanford University
  • Stephanie M. Ribet, Northwestern University
  • Sarah J. Wu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Xiang Wu, Stanford University

Silver Winners

  • Giovanni Bovone, ETH Zürich
  • Priscila Cavassin, University of Bern
  • Tina J. Chen, University of California, Berkeley
  • Yahao Dai, University of Chicago
  • Donggun Eum, Seoul National University
  • Abigail K. Grosskopf, Stanford University
  • KyuJung Jun, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jimin Kim, University of California, Berkeley
  • Yuanwei Li, Northwestern University
  • Zhenwei Ma, McGill University
  • Solomon T. Oyakhire, Stanford University
  • Sarah H. Park, Rutgers University
  • Thomas G. Parton, University of Cambridge
  • William M. Strickland, New York University
  • Lu Yin, University of California, San Diego
  • Boyu Zhang, Rice University
  • Fangyu Zhang, University of California, San Diego
  • Huanyu Zhou, Seoul National University
  • Yirui Zhang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Arthur Nowick Graduate Student Award Recipient

  • Solomon T. Oyakhire, Stanford University