Awardee Interviews | Daniel Auerbach - 2008 Gaede-Langmuir Award - Interview

Interview: Daniel Auerbach


2008 Gaede-Langmuir Award Recipient: Daniel Auerbach

Interviewed by Paul Holloway, October 22, 2008

 
HOLLOWAY: Good afternoon, my name is Paul Holloway. I am a member of the AVS History Committee. We’re here today, Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at the 55th International Symposium of the AVS in Boston, Massachusetts. I have the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Dr. Daniel Auerbach of VLT who is the 2008 Gaede-Langmuir Award winner, and his citation reads, “For contributions to the understanding of the dynamics of gas-surface interactions using molecular beam scattering techniques.” Congratulations on your award, Dan. Welcome, and thank you for doing the interview.

AUERBACH: Thank you very much for the opportunity. I am deeply honored to be accepting this award from the AVS.

HOLLOWAY: Very well deserved. Can you please give us the date and location of your birth?

AUERBACH: I was born November 29, 1942 in New York City.

HOLLOWAY: How about giving us a little bit of background as far as your education and that sort of thing?

AUERBACH: Sure. In New York I went to a famous high school, the Bronx High School of Science, which was an excellent beginning for my scientific career. I still look back fondly on what I learned there and also the many friends with diverse backgrounds from around New York City that I met there, and some of them I still have contact with. I got both my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Chicago and . I studied physics both as a graduate and undergraduate. My thesis work was in the area of chemical physics. My thesis advisor was actually a chemist, which was an unusual feature that the University of Chicago had where you could do these kinds of cross-disciplinary PhD projects.

HOLLOWAY: So who was your chemist mentor then?

AUERBACH: Lennard Wharton. I remember working at that time on trying to develop an accelerator for molecules based upon interactions of homogenous electric fields with permanent dipole moments of the molecules. We actually never succeeded in getting the accelerator to work in a useful way as an accelerator, but we did develop a technique that allowed us to focus neutral molecular beams; this technique, alternate gradient focusing using the Stark interaction with an inhomogenous electric field, is now used for molecular “Stark” decelerators by Gerard Meyer and coworkers at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin.

HOLLOWAY: So what sort of acceleration energy were you trying to get to?

AUERBACH: We were trying to get to energies with a few electron volts with the idea that doing inelastic scattering experiments and probing chemical dynamics events by velocity-resolved measurements. Although we probably could have eventually made the accelerator work, another technique came along at the time that really enabled people to do those kinds of measurements without an accelerator, the supersonic beam technique; seeded supersonic beams that let you reach the same energy ranges.

HOLLOWAY: I’d like to back up for just a moment and ask a question. How in the world did you go from New York City and the Bronx High School to the University of Chicago? How did you make that transition?

AUERBACH: I don’t really have a very clear memory of what the deciding factors were. I was
considering several different colleges, and Chicago was attractive to me because it was a big city and I liked big cities. Also I had a few friends from high school who had gone there and came back with glowing reports. Chicago had an unusual undergraduate program. It was a small undergraduate program, about 2000 (maybe even less at the time) people embedded in a big research university. That was also attractive.

HOLLOWAY: What year did you graduate from the University of Chicago with your PhD?

AUERBACH: PhD I think was 1971 or 1970.

HOLLOWAY: And the BS was a few years earlier?

AUERBACH: ‘64.

HOLLOWAY: 1964. So you’ve been looking at gas scattering and gas-surface interactions and gas-solid interactions for quite a while then?

AUERBACH: Actually, my PhD work was with molecular beams and chemical dynamics. I wasn’t involved with gas-surface scattering. That came later.

HOLLOWAY: Gas scattering, right. I see. So where did you go after you finished your research at the University of Chicago?

AUERBACH: I went to the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam. I worked again on a project involving gas phase molecular beam scattering. They had developed another technique for producing high-energy beams, a sputtering technique. We used this technique to study iron paired formation, which involved non-adiabatic electronic excitations in atom molecule scattering. I had a really wonderful time there both from a professional and personal point of view. Our first child was born in Amsterdam. Professionally,I got an introduction to the molecular physics of non-adiabatic processes, which was very interesting; this subject is still very interesting to me. Also I had an opportunity to get kind of an introduction to a European slant on doing science that was very eye-opening. It helped in my development in becoming a more rounded scientist.

HOLLOWAY: Now you said that your first child was born there. Were you married while you were still at the University of Chicago?

AUERBACH: Yes. I was married in 1969, so shortly before I got my PhD.

HOLLOWAY: I see. What sort of gases were you using for your experiment? Noble gases or reactive gases or both?

AUERBACH: In those days, this was the alkali age for molecular beams, so we were very limited in our ability to detect with good sensitivity scattered particles, so the incident particles I used involved in alkali molecules and alkali atoms. My thesis work involved scattering lithium fluoride molecules from various gases, noble gases mostly. In Amsterdam we were working with sodium or potassium colliding with halogen molecules like bromine to make alkali positive ions and halogen molecular or atomic negative ions.

HOLLOWAY: So did how did you make your gas sources, with normal vaporization of the species?

AUERBACH: That’s right. For lithium fluoride we had a thermal vaporization sources, a fairly simple device. It consisted of a stainless steel tube that you passed a current through and that heated up and you had two heating zones to break up dimers so you could make a beam. But it was not a supersonic beam. In those days we used only effusive beams. We also had to have a mechanical velocity selector. It’s a high-speed rotating device. We sweated many, many hours over that gadget. It was very difficult to make something that would spin at 40,000+ RPM in a vacuum, have the bearings be vacuum compatible, and still stand up to that kind of rotational speed for a long time.

HOLLOWAY: That would be quite a challenge, all right. Did you build your own systems or did you direct the construction of the systems?

AUERBACH: No, I designed, made drawings. I did a little bit of work in the machine shop, but we’d send things to the machine shop to have them built. We didn’t have any technicians; that work was all done by students and professors in terms of the design and putting everything together.

HOLLOWAY: Mostly the students, I presume.

AUERBACH: No, Leonard Wharton was a very hands-on guy.

HOLLOWAY: What sort of vacuums were you using? Or was it atmospheric pressure?

AUERBACH: No, it was high vacuum. For gas scattering, ultimately vacuum for those systems was in the high 10 to the -8 Torr range. They were clean systems but not baked as is required for Ultra high vacuum.

HOLLOWAY: Did you use any of the diffusion pumps or...
AUERBACH: Actually, we did use diffusion pumps and also ion pumps and generally the chamber with a detector in it would be an ion pumped chamber to keep it clean and oil free.

HOLLOWAY: And the gauges you were using were…do you recall what type of gauges were you using?

AUERBACH: A variety: Bayard-Alpert ionization gauges, thermocouple gauges (Pirani), diaphragm manometers, and even a McCleod gauge.

HOLLOWAY: Is that right?

AUERBACH: Actually, one of the important aspects in some of the work, we did work determining collision cross-sections, which involved having a gas and measuring basically attenuation of a beam going through it so total cross-section measurement. Wasn’t it differential cross-section measurements? But we wanted the total cross-section measurements to be absolute. So that meant we had to make absolute measurements of the gas pressure which we did with a McLeod gauge and we had to put quite a lot of attention on that to try to get to the accuracy of that 1%, 2% in that pressure determination.

HOLLOWAY: So I was doing an interview earlier this week with Bob Langley who talked about using the McLeod gauges with 60 pounds of mercury in it. Is that bigger than the gauges you were using?

AUERBACH: I don’t recall the weight, but it was a pretty big McLeod gauge. I’d say diameter maybe around 40, 30 centimeters, something like that. I’d have to figure out how much the Mercury would have weight.

HOLLOWAY: It sounds like it was in the same ballpark actually.

AUERBACH: Yes.

HOLLOWAY: Was the vacuum system glass or metal construction?

AUERBACH: It was stainless steel.

HOLLOWAY: Stainless steel. With copper gasket flanges, or O-ring materials?

AUERBACH: Well, we had one chamber that had metal seals. This was actually a little bit before Conflat® flanges were really developed, so we had home-built metal seal systems using aluminum gaskets, actually. That was one of my first projects when I was a technician. I started working in Lennard Wharton’s lab as a technician when I was an undergraduate. One of my first projects was to figure our how to make these aluminum O-rings modifying a welder that was made for band saw blades to accomplish making the aluminum wider and making tight connections.

HOLLOWAY: Sounds like a challenge.

AUERBACH: It was a bit of a challenge, but actually Not as hard as it sounds.

HOLLOWAY: So you went to FOM in Amsterdam, and how long did you stay there?

AUERBACH: A year and a half.

HOLLOWAY: And then where did you come back to?

AUERBACH: Then I came back to the University of Chicago where I had a kind of staff job in the James Franck Institute. I can’t remember exactly what my title was. It was sort of like a post-doc but slightly more permanent position, and that’s when I got involved in working on building a surface scattering instrument, so that was my first involvement in surfaces.

HOLLOWAY: This is still working with Wharton as the professor?

AUERBACH: It was working initially jointly with Wharton and Yuan Lee. Yuan Lee left Chicago during this time but he was there for the initial phase of my work.

HOLLOWAY: Yuan Lee, the Nobel Prize Winner?

AUERBACH: That’s right.

HOLLOWAY: And how long did you stay in that position?

AUERBACH: Approximately 4 years. And then I went to Johns Hopkins University where I was an assistant professor, and I was snatched away by IBM who wanted to build up a program to do, of all things, molecular beam scattering from surfaces. The opportunity at IBM was kind of an unbelievably good opportunity in that they were offering me support for building up the laboratory and technician support. Also they had there at the time one of my most admired people, one of my heroes, who was John Barker, who had done actually arrived at the theory of gas-gas-scattering determination and inter-molecular potentials. He was interested in moving into surfaces, and they wanted to have an experimental program to complement his work, so that was an offer I certainly couldn’t turn down.

HOLLOWAY: That’s interesting. Let me back up just a moment and get the years straight that you went to Johns Hopkins and then went to IBM. Can you recall the years?

AUERBACH: I think I went to Johns Hopkins in 1975. I know I went to IBM in 1978.

HOLLOWAY: Okay. And at Johns Hopkins you continued the gas-gas interaction studies or the research projects?

AUERBACH: No, this was after I had been working on gas-surface interactions at Chicago, so my research project there was to build a second generation gas-surface machine, but I never actually got very far. I did make all the plans and designs for that and I took that to IBM when I went.

HOLLOWAY: So did you built gen one at the University of Chicago after you finished your PhD?

AUERBACH: I’m sorry?

HOLLOWAY: So you had a year as a senior operator, for example, at the University of Chicago, right?

AUERBACH: So I was at the University of Chicago more or less forever. I was an undergraduate. As a graduate student, I once again came back to Chicago as a post-doc, a senior-- as a member of the staff at the James Frank Institute.

HOLLOWAY: And did you build a generation one surface scattering instrument …

AUERBACH: Right.

HOLLOWAY: Okay. And then you planned the generation two at Johns Hopkins. Did you actually then construct the system at IBM?

AUERBACH: That’s right.

HOLLOWAY: Okay. I noticed the other day in your presentation that you acknowledged Eric Kay. Was Eric Kay your manager?

AUERBACH: Eric Kay was the guy who attracted me to IBM. He was my manager’s manager. My manager was Farid Abraham, who I had thanked as one of my research collaborators, because we actually did some joint papers. Eric did really a tremendous job at IBM at building up a surface science department. That was his department, surface and plasma science. And he created a department where wonderful science happened, where young people like me (at the time a young person) were supported. The university was very, very supportive of my work in those early days. I’m very thankful to him for that.

HOLLOWAY: It may be of interest to you to know that I interviewed him last year, and his interview should be posted soon on the website as we discussed earlier. It could be of interest for you to see that interview.

AUERBACH: Absolutely.

HOLLOWAY: I’m amazed that gas surface solid scattering was so strong of an interest to IBM. Do you have any reason other than it was interesting and fundamental research about gas solid surface interactions?

AUERBACH: I was surprised by that also when I went to IBM. I asked Eric why in the world was IBM interested in doing this kind of thing, and his answer was, “Well, as IBM is making smaller and smaller devices, the surface becomes more important, and it’s very important for us to have a fundamental understanding of what happens with surfaces.” That was kind of the big picture of why they were interested.

HOLLOWAY: It was very far looking for them to have that attitude and to support fundamental research. There have been a lot of good things that have come out of IBM research because of that attitude.

AUERBACH: A lot of wonderful things came out of IBM research. One of the things which that attitude did was to attract really top people into IBM, and when IBM had problems with various aspects of its technology, it could call on these people with very deep knowledge and they would see things with a fresh light, and that helped them out many times.

HOLLOWAY: Right. So did you work with anybody in particular? I noticed that you listed a half a dozen names. You have many names of course with your—

AUERBACH: The people who I worked with most closely…well, the two that worked with most closely at IBM were John Barker, who unfortunately passed away not long after I got there; Alan Luntz and Charlie Rettner , who were my experimental collaborators. Charlie and I worked together closely for many years did many, many studies together.

HOLLOWAY: What do you consider to be your most innovative accomplishment during those years working in that capacity?

AUERBACH: It’s hard to single out a single experiment. It was more of the overall nature of the program with which we could really address and test some of the fundamental paradigms of how reactions occur on surfaces and make many, God knows, surprises and many unexpected things along the way as well. It was providing some good benchmarks for theories. So I hesitate to choose a single study. It’s always the thing you’re doing right now that seems the most interesting. [Chuckles] There’s a saying about scientists: If you tap scientists on the back and said hello, they’ll start telling me what they’re working on. If you asked them, “How’s the weather?” they’ll tell you what they’re working on.

HOLLOWAY: I understand. You remained a part of the organization at Almaden when it was transferred from IBM to Hitachi, I believe. Is that correct?

AUERBACH: Actually, I was sold to Hitachi, so I left IBM in 2003 and worked for Hitachi for a few years.

HOLLOWAY: So you should be on a baseball trading card or something like that.

AUERBACH: That’s right. I like to joke that IBM sold their disk drive business to Hitachi for three billion dollars and change and I was the change.

HOLLOWAY: So why did they send you with the operation?

AUERBACH: Well what I did at IBM in many instances was to go work on practical problems that they were having with the technology in kind of a task force mode. At the time, I was working on a difficult problem that they were having with their disk drive technology that was actually more of a software or firmware problem than a physics problem; in addition to physics I have a strong interest in computers and computer programming. We were able actually to solve this problem, but it was very difficult and it took a couple years work. When they sold the disk drive business, they sold the research that was along with it, which was the first time IBM had done that. They had sold many hardware businesses before, but never had sold the research as part of it. Hitachi apparently thought the research was a key part of the value that IBM had, and anybody who was working more than 50% on disk drives was divvied as part of that research effort, so I fell into that category.

HOLLOWAY: So were you a manager at that time then or were you still, for a lack of a better term, a bench scientist?

AUERBACH: Both. I was a senior manager. Actually before that, I had been for ten years head of the Physical Science Department at IBM, so I had gone to high-level management and then stepped out of that and went back to doing more advanced science kind of work.

HOLLOWAY: So just to get a perspective, the Hitachi sale was in what year?

AUERBACH: 2003. I think it was January 1, 2003.

HOLLOWAY: So you had been roughly since 1993 manager at--

AUERBACH: I was hired as a research staff member. That was 1978. I became a manager, I’d say, for the first time in 1982 or 1983. That was what was called a first level manager so I had a few people working for me at that time and I reported to Eric Kay. And then in something like 1985 or 1986, I became head of the Physical Science Department, so that was a big promotion for which I was not at all ready [laughter]. The guy who was the lab director, When I talked to the guy who was the director of the Almaden Research Center at first I said, “No, no I just don’t think I can do this job. I don’t have that level of administrative experience.” He reassured me that what he really needed in this job was someone who was a good scientist because he was concerned with filling up with scientists, and he could help me with the administrative things. Of course, that was a complete lie. He couldn’t help me at all.

HOLLOWAY: He helped you by sticking you in the—

AUERBACH: By throwing me off the deep end, yes.

HOLLOWAY: How did things change for you in the Almaden Research Center when you went through the transition to Hitachi?

AUERBACH: Of course I was working for a different company, and so I think things changed quite dramatically. The nature of the work didn’t change actually at all. That is, I was already working on disk drives and I continued doing those sorts of things. I was then in a group called Advanced Technology, so actually not in research at that point. I reported to a Japanese manager, and I had a group in Japan that reported to me, so it was quite an interesting time from the point of view of learning something about Japanese business culture. I spent a lot of time in Japan, which was very enjoyable. Eventually, I decided I wasn’t really a disk drive person. That wasn’t how I wanted to spend my whole life, so I left and joined GRT in 2007.

HOLLOWAY: I don’t understand what would be better, but you started off as a research person with gas-surface interactions. You continued to do that through that time period.

AUERBACH: I still continue to this day. I continued at IBM up until 2003 as we still have a machine there and we would make some measurements. I also struck up a collaboration with Alec Wodtke from the University of California in Santa Barbara, and continued activities in research through that collaboration. Hitachi had no interest in supporting that work.

HOLLOWAY: I see. I’m interested in how this supervision of a Japanese group worked. Did you make monthly trips to Japan or did you—?

AUERBACH: Exactly.

HOLLOWAY: You communicated by telephone in addition to that? Email didn’t exist at the time.

AUERBACH: No, that was 2003.

HOLLOWAY: 2003. It certainly would have existed then.

AUERBACH: Yes sure; we used email extensively. Because of reasons of language it was actually
often easier to communicate by email than over the telephone. Face-to-face contact was very important; email was second. We would have telephone conference calls. We would go through material and go through presentations.

HOLLOWAY: And the group back then was focused on hard disk drives?

AUERBACH: Yes.

HOLLOWAY: So you were doing a research on aspects of the disk drive?

AUERBACH: The work that I was involved with in connection to the Japanese group had to do with new features on disk drives that had value-added functions, so it was hardware and firmware features that were trying to make the disk drives less of a commodity—not something that anyone has really succeeded at.

HOLLOWAY: So then when did you leave Hitachi and where did you go?

AUERBACH: I left in 2007. I believe it was April or May 2007, and I went to a company called GRT. GRT is involved with trying to develop new chemical technology to take natural gas, which is currently burned or vented, that is its in small gas fields where it is isolated where natural gases cannot be transported easily to a market, and there’s no existing technology to economically transform into liquid fuels or liquid chemicals which could be easily transported. So what we’re trying to develop—There are technologies to do this, but they are not cost effective, so we’re working on a new approach which is based upon using bromine and trying to develop that technology into something useful. That involves heavily catalysis, very practical catalysis, and actually getting to do work that is on the practical side of catalysis as opposed to the very fundamental side.

HOLLOWAY: So that is GRT, Incorporated. [Right.] and you are a principal in that company?

AUERBACH: I’m the Chief Technology Officer in that company. It’s a very small company, though, so it’s 20 people all together. It’s basically a research and development company at this stage.

HOLLOWAY: So your intent is to develop the technology and then sell off the intellectual property or license it or something like that?

AUERBACH: The business model, that we’re currently following anyway, is to license the technology. We're at the stage now of being ready, we feel, to demonstrate this technology on a larger scale. We just made a deal with Marathon Oil Company, which is also pursuing this. It's the only other company in the world that's pursuing this bromine-based approach. They made an investment in GRT and we'll be working together with them on the further development of the technology.

HOLLOWAY: That certainly is an important area for energy efficiency and self-supported, self-sustaining energy production in the United States. Did you enter that with that goal in mind? Or how did you actually wind up going from gas-phase scattering and surface scattering to practical catalysis in other words?

AUERBACH: I was interested in two things. One was to do something that was in the energy field, because I think that the energy field has the biggest, most important challenges for anyone working in technology. And second I was interested in working for a small company just to have a different experience because I had always worked for giant companies. Actually, over the Christmas holiday I made a decision that I really should start looking around for a new job because I just wasn't really happy doing what I was doing at Hitachi, and two weeks later I got a call from Eric McFarland, who was a professor a UCSB that I had worked with in collaboration on some gas-surface scattering projects. He's a CEO at GRT and asked if he could convince me to join. Of course, he didn't have a very hard time.

HOLLOWAY: His timing was impeccable!

AUERBACH: It was just unbelievable.

HOLLOWAY: What do you see as the main challenges besides energy in the world today, thinking on a global scale and a lot of science can be applied towards those problems?

AUERBACH: Energy, I think is one of the chief challenges. In particular, if you agree that we need to have energy sources which don't involve continuing to put CO2 in the atmosphere, so renewable sources of energy. One of the things that in the longer range GRT would like to do is use the technology that we're developing on biofeedstocks, like biomethane. If I just look at the challenges in the world, clearly health is a tremendous challenge. Production of food on an adequate scale is a tremendous challenge. A lot of these things are not something which scientific problems are foremost, but more questions of politics and how you distribute things that we already have developed.

HOLLOWAY: There's a number a problems like that, and it's hard to rate them in terms of priority and other issues. Coming back to the subject of your life history here, I was wondering if you could tell us about some of these students you may have mentored while you were a professor or while you were working with post-docs at IBM, for example. I was wondering if maybe those stood out in your mind and would you care to say anything about some of them?

AUERBACH: First off, I would say that mentoring students in post-docs is something that I really enjoyed. Actually, it's the one regret I have. In going to IBM, I diminished my opportunity to do that. We had a few students, a few post-docs at IBM, but it was not the same kind of opportunity you have at a university. One of the things I really enjoyed working with Alec Wodtke as UCSB is the ability to interact with and mentor graduate students and post-docs in his group. In fact, he has kind of made it our joint group that is very gracious of him. My first post-doc that we had at IBM probably stands out most in my mind in that he made such a strong contribution to the first work we did there on arc measuring, rotational, excitation, and collisions. So that was the first set of experiments we did. He helped build up that apparatus. He's Art Kline. He is from the Netherlands. He had been at the Institute as a student when I was there as a post-doc, so it was great to have him join us. He made some very important discoveries in that work, including first recognizing the idea that what we were seeing could be described as a kind of rainbow phenomena, which was a great intellectual leap. Now he's director of a plasma physics institute in Holland. He's done many other things in electronics. He's really done very well in his career.

HOLLOWAY: Now, I understand that mentoring students and post-docs is different from administrative supervision and mentoring of staff members at IBM, but isn't there some similarities as well?

AUERBACH: Yes, certainly mentoring of staff members and providing support in the early phases of people who work at IBM has some similarities. I think particularly at the level of people who are doing it at their PhD, you see such a tremendous growth and transformation that it's particularly gratifying to be involved at that stage.

HOLLOWAY: I agree on that. Maybe it would contribute to that answer to say that students and post-docs are more like sponges, and anything you put them in they sort of absorb and transform it into other solutions sometimes. But I agree that it's similar, but not the same thing.

AUERBACH: The scientific growth that people make during their time as PhDs is often the strongest period of scientific growth that they ever have in their career.

HOLLOWAY: Right. The professional societies, you interacted with a number of them. Can you tell me about these societies that you interacted with?

AUERBACH: I've been a member of the AVS for a long time. Actually, I was asked when I joined and I don't recall, but it certainly was at least in the early days of IBM because Eric Kay was heavily involved in it. I remember I was going to meetings of AVS in the early '70s. I was involved in the American Chemical Society. I was involved a little bit in the governance of the physical chemistry division of the American Chemical Society. Of course, they have a three-year rotation where you become, I forget what the exact titles are, but something like program chair, vice chair, and then chair. And in the American Physical Society, I was also involved in governance, serving on the council in various committees of the APS. Oddly, I have not been involved in any way in the governance of the AVS, although I would regard the AVS as the society I spend the most time with. I hardly even now go to any other large meetings than the AVS meeting. I'm interested in the society much more along with, I think you know, the best surface science program in the country, maybe in the world.

HOLLOWAY: I think in the world, but…

AUERBACH: I just don't know enough about what happens in other countries, but certainly in the US, the AVS just has an outstanding program coming to this meeting. And of course, the society has broadened and grown over the years and in many ways prior to the interests of people like myself in industry. The only thing I could fault you for is getting rid of the name plaque from the society.

HOLLOWAY: [Laughs] It was a long and sometimes contentious debate about whether that should happen or not. What advice would you have for young people relative to networking and interactions through the professional societies?

AUERBACH: Actually, I actively encourage young people to come to the AVS national meeting because that would give us a tremendous opportunity to learn things, but also to network and meet people. I don't find the American Chemical Society nearly so valuable in that regard. It tends to be too spread out, just too large. It doesn't have the same friendly atmosphere as the AVS meeting has. Post-docs can come here. They can participate in the discussions. They can easily grab people. It's a much more fertile atmosphere for making contacts than in some of the other societies.

HOLLOWAY: Dan, we covered a number of questions and territory. I wondered if there was anything else you would like to add to this interview?

AUERBACH: I guess one of the things, preparing for my lectures and reflecting back on all the things that happened, you get the idea when you look at this work, that it's kind of easy, and somehow that the difficulties of getting experiments to work gets glossed over too much. I was thinking about some of those things, and I'll just give you one story when we were building that first beam surface apparatus in Chicago. One of the innovations in that was using large rotating platform with differentially pumped Teflon seals, one of them spring-loaded so to deal with the cold flow problem. This was the first time anyone had made that kind of seal work on it for a platform 12 inches in diameter. We were very unsure that would work, and we had very tight tolerances on how we made this thing. When we first assembled it, it was very hard to insert the seal. It got scratched and actually seized up and cold welded. A lesser individual would just have given up at that point, but Arn Warden thought about this for about 20 minutes, and he said, “Okay, let's get some dry ice.” And we got some dry ice and put it on the inner thing, and it kind of shrunk it away from the outer part, pulled it out, and sent it back to the shop. We realized that didn't have to have the close tolerances that we were asking for because this was basically like an O-ring seal. The compression of the seal was important, but the other dimensions were not so important, so we opened up the tolerances, put it back together, and it worked perfectly. Perseverance and being able to recover from those kinds of disasters is very important to success in doing experiments.

HOLLOWAY: It's like Monday morning quarterbacking—it's awful easy to see what to do after events are well planned or well documented. I tell my students that looking forward is not so easy as looking backwards, but looking forward is the only way to go. That's where you have to go. So I understand what you're saying.

AUERBACH: Okay. Thank you very much for the opportunity to do this interview.

HOLLOWAY: It's been our pleasure. We're grateful for you being willing to do that and, again, congratulations on the Gaede-Langmuir Award.

AUERBACH: Thank you.


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