Oral History Transcript — Dr. Jerry Woodall
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Jerry Woodall; November 8, 2010
ABSTRACT: In this interview Jerry Woodall discusses topics such as: his family background; undergraduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Morris Cohen; working with semiconductors; Clevite Transistor Products; Al Dulac; crystal growth; Seymour Keller; graduate work at Cornell University; International Business Machines Corporation (IBM); Peter Sorokin; Hans Rupprecht; Zhores Alferov; lasers; Les Eastman; Purdue University; Charles Ahn.
Anderson:This is Joe Anderson. I’m at Purdue University interviewing Jerry Woodall, and today is November 8, 2010. Jerry, let’s start by talking a little about your family background.
Woodall:Okay, so I was born not too far from where you work, Takoma Park, Maryland. My dad was a plastering contractor, and my mother was a homemaker. I have one brother who is deceased who was eight years older than I, and two half sisters, both of whom are deceased. I grew up in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Anderson:That’s when it was largely Seventh Day Adventist.
Woodall:That’s right. I was part of the Seventh Day Adventist community there and went to their parochial high school and grade school.
Anderson:Did you? Tell me a little more about your parents. Your father was a plastering contractor?
Anderson:And what about your parents’ education?
Woodall:Well, he I think made it through the eighth grade before he started cutting his way through life, and he started out in Archdale, North Carolina, which is right near High Point, in the western part of North Carolina. My mother came from the eastern part of the Piedmont area. She went to UNC for a while, then ended up in Washington, D. C. at one of the Adventist colleges there and got her degree there. So my dad I don't think ever finished high school; I’m pretty sure he didn't anyway.
Anderson:Did they encourage you to get an education, your brother?
Woodall:Oh yeah, yeah. My brother actually took a couple of years of college and then quit and then he started working with my dad’s plastering business, which had been expanded to also include acoustical tile and stuff like that. So it was a fairly big shop — he had about 100 people working for him. So my brother went into that business. He actually served in the Army first. Maybe he was drafted; I don't remember exactly all the details of that. So then he came back to Takoma Park and raised a family also, and lived there until he retired to Fort Meyers, Florida back in the ’70s.
Anderson:Now tell me about your schooling.
Woodall:My schooling was all done in Adventist grade schools and high school. Takoma Park is sort of the Mecca for the Adventists. Their so-called General Conference is there, and so their flagship high school was Takoma Academy. That’s where I did my high school work. They had two grade schools. One was called John Nevins Andrews and the other was called Sligo, which was right near the Washington Adventist University. It used to be called Washington Missionary College. So I never rode on a school bus in my life until later on because I was close enough where I lived to walk to school everyday.
Anderson:And what got you interested in science?
Woodall:Well, it was actually my high school physics teacher, a fellow by the name of Robert Hatt. He was a good teacher. I was kind of fascinated with all the experiments we had to do in class. It seemed like it would be an interesting profession to be in. I was a pretty good student, and so one thing led to another. I decided to apply to MIT, Stanford, and Caltech, and I was only accepted to MIT, but that was fine, so that’s where I went after I got out of high school.
Anderson:Had your physics teacher told you about what schools were the right ones to apply to?
Woodall:Actually not. I don't remember the details of this, I had found out that MIT was probably a pretty good school. I knew that Caltech was a good school. And what motivated me to look at Stanford is I had a cousin who was more like a brother who lived with us part time. He was about almost four years older than I and he went to Stanford, so I decided to apply there also.
Anderson:So you got your bachelor’s at MIT?
Woodall:Right. So I started out in physics, and my sophomore year I flunked the electricity and magnetism course, I had to take it over again, and decided to change to Metallurgy, which is now called Material Science, as you know. But it was called Metallurgy. I think Wisconsin is the only university left that calls it Metallurgy. So that’s what I got my degree in.
Anderson:And then what about grad school?
Woodall:I didn't go to grad school right away. I had minored in psychology. I wasn't so sure what I wanted to do in life. But I did a very interesting undergraduate thesis. MIT requires thesis for undergraduates, and it was an interesting story. It turns out that Morris Cohen, who was an Institute Professor, got interested in what I was doing. Well he actually had a very smart graduate student. I was his technician for one summer and I did some really good work for him; Gordon Bruggeman was the graduate student’s name. But Morris Cohen was the Professor. And to be honest, I saved Gordon a lot of heartache because I discovered that he had made a flaw in his experimental design. So Morris Cohen decided well maybe I’d be pretty good in the laboratory. I wasn't a very good student, I’ve got to admit. I graduated with a C average. But I was really good in the laboratory. So I was thinking. I figured well, maybe science is not the best thing for me to be in, or at least the physical sciences, but I couldn't get into graduate schools in psychology. So Morris told me, “Look,” he says, “why don't you go into metallurgy? Even with your grades I can get you into a really good school.” So I know about that now, being a professor. So I said, “No, I’m going to work for a while.” So when I got out of MIT, I started working for a start-up semiconductor company called Clevite Transistor Products.
Anderson:How did you do that? How did you start that?
Woodall:Well, let’s see. So my undergraduate thesis had to be a very valuable thesis. I had actually done some extensive studies of the mechanical and corrosion properties of an iron nickel carbon alloy, which turned out later on to be the basis of the stainless steel razor blade formulation. So when I graduated I hadn't really worried about a job yet, so I had applied to Gillette research, and I applied to the semiconductor start-up called Clevite Transistor Products. It was owned by the Clevite Corporation, which was a big research place in Cleveland, needless to say. So I decided to take the razor blade job, the Gillette job.
And I never went to work there because it turns out that the head of the medical dept. — you’ve got to remember this is 1960 — so the head of the medical department decided that I was an industrial risk having only one eye, and so he wouldn't sign off on the offer or complete it. So I called up the guys from Clevite, asked them if the job was still available, and they said, “Yeah,” and the rest is history. It was like providence almost for me, because I think if I had gone in the steel industry then I don't know what I’d be doing today. So, I got into the semiconductor business — if you will, very early on — in 1960 where most people were making discreet germanium diodes and power transistors and things like that. This was a little before silicon came online. So that’s the story of the job thing, for my first job, anyway.
So something very strange happened. It turns out that Clevite had been started by a bunch of engineers, who had graduated from MIT, and some were brighter than others, and it turns out the plant manager, a fellow by the name of Al Dulac, I remember him clearly. So the neat thing about the Clevite job was that the first year of employment you worked on a three-month assignment, so you rotated from say the research area to the development area, then to a device area. So I learned a whole business, if you will. It was very valuable. I look back on that very fondly. Well, I ended up with something called the germanium department. They were responsible for taking the germanium that came in from a vendor or reclaimed internally and converting it into crystals. So metallurgy, right? So that’s how I got interested in crystal growth. And they were very advanced for those days. So it was germanium crystal growth operation, and each department was set up like a little business. You would buy, if you will, the germanium, the department would, and they would sell the chips to the device department. It was a very clever accounting scheme.
So it turns out one of the engineers — this is a really good story because it tells you why I left Clevite — came to me. He was from Holland. He says he’d like to try an experiment with me. So it turns out they had these automatic etching machines that determined the size of the little dies that came out and they would sell these things for I guess about a half a cent each. You know, little teeny guys, a few millimeters on a side. Then after these things were processed into diodes (they were called gold bond germanium diodes because they used gold to decrease the minority carrier lifetime), they would sell these things for 26 cents. So it turns out that the device department was able to make these things for 12¢ apiece, after going through all the putting it together and hermetically sealing it in a glass. So this guy wanted to see what happen to yields if we increased the tolerance on the chips, the little dies that went in, and we did the experiment and doubled the device yields. So it made the device costs go down by a factor of two, the chip price would have gone up to a penny apiece, but their finished product would have been only 6¢ a chip — lots of profits there. So I’m feeling pretty cocky right about now. So we go in with this guy, get our coat and tie on, you know, go and give our presentation to the management. And I’ll never forget. This is probably be one of my last thoughts on my deathbed is this guy Al Dulac said, “Well, I don't want to increase the germanium department expense.” So we walked out of the office. I looked at Peter, and I said, “Let’s review just what happened, okay? We’ve just shown that they can make these devices for 6¢ rather than 12¢, but he doesn't want to increase the germanium price of the chips going in. He didn’t give us a good reason why.” So that’s right. So the next day I started looking for a job.
Anderson:How long had you been there?
Woodall:I’d only been there about a year and a half. So I knew this couldn't be. You know, I’m not a rocket scientist really, but I could tell from that that this was a dead-end street, and it was. They finally went under. ITT bought them out and then sold them, got rid of the company.
So anyway, I looked into a Journal of Applied Physics, and on the back page it had jobs and stuff. So IBM research was looking for a crystal grower to work on gallium arsenide. So I applied for the job, had the interview, it went very well, and the next thing was a letter, and I got an offer over the phone. So I asked guy who hired me, “Well, I want to ask you point blank. My grades weren’t very good at MIT and I only have a bachelor’s degree,” why did you decide to hire me?” He said, “Well, we called up Morris Cohen.” Seymour Keller is the guy’s name. He was my mentor for life, practically, still alive. And he said, “Morris told me, ‘Forget about Woodall’s grades. They don't count. He’s got a green thumb in the laboratory.” Another buoy in my life.
Anderson:When was that?
Woodall:Oh, this is 1962.
Anderson:And you went to Yorktown Heights.
Woodall:I went to Yorktown Heights. They had a category in those days for people who didn't have Ph.D.s but were better trained academically than technicians called junior professional, and it was kind of a holding position to find out whether you could work independently and run a laboratory of your own or you would end up being a technician. So some people became technicians. I was promoted to a staff member after two years, and the rest is history from that point on. So that’s really the core of the story of how I got my career started at IBM.
Anderson:Now what happens next? You went back to school, is that right?
Woodall:Well, no. Believe it or not, I did most of the stuff that led to the National Medal of Technology before I went back to Cornell in 1980. But I did some stuff after about that. But the bulk of my career, for the good stuff, was done between the mid-’60s and before 1980. Well, I did some stuff after 1982 that turned out pretty well.
Anderson:I’m really interested in what Yorktown Heights was like in the ’60s and then through…
Woodall:Ah, there was nothing like it. I’m sure you’ve talked to guys from Bell and all that. But IBM, Yorktown at least, had enough “enlightened” management folks and influence who had decided that their metric was they were going to hire people, bring them in, and give them an empty lab and have them management what’s worth working on. Of course I didn't quite start that way. I started in a laboratory working for another Ph.D. But he said, “Do your thing.” I’m working on my stuff and he says, “We want to develop this particular crystal growth, a technique we just call horizontal bridging,” and I was very successful in that, needless to say.
But the point is IBM Yorktown Heights was better place to work than a university. You were given the opportunity to excel. The only metric was to do good stuff. Literally, I mean they didn't tell you what to work on. All they asked for was at the end of the day, are you giving invited talks and are you publishing in good journals? You didn't have to go write proposals to get funding or anything like that. There’s nothing like it in the world. I’ve got to tell you. There’s just nothing like it in the world. And Bell was run that way for a long time, too, but I’ve got to tell you, the great corporate labs like IBM and Bell and others before that were just wonderful places to work even though there was a mission for the lab. Bell was interested in replacing vacuum tubes. They wanted to invent something like a transistor and it happened. But IBM was even freer than that. So our mission early on in the ’60s, and I remember Rolf Landauer telling us this, is that we’re supposed to do our own independent research, but we should be the interface to academic life, which we did.
Anderson:How did that work, as someone with a bachelor’s?
Woodall:Well remember, right off the bat I didn't do that. I’m giving you a summary of what —
Anderson:But how soon were you accepted as…?
Woodall:Oh, it only took me two years to be promoted to staff member. But I was lucky. I was able to do good stuff and they figured I was for real. But just take an average Ph.D. there who came out of Princeton or Harvard. We had a lot of people coming in from Harvard and Chicago. The reason my life worked pretty well was that they didn't have anybody who knew much about thermodynamics and crystal growth. I mean there were a lot of physicists, core physicists. I consider myself a physicist too, but my specialty was material science and they didn't have that many folks around. So that made life a little easier.
Anderson:You filled a niche that they needed.
Woodall:Yeah, so I filled a niche. But we went to conferences. We were expected to submit papers, and if there was a colleague working in our field that was relevant, we would contact them and have them come and give us a talk. So it was a very intellectually active place.
Anderson:Who was the leader? Who provided the structure for that?
Woodall:Well, so we all had managers, but it’s like a baseball team where you have a team captain, for example as the shortstop, they’re sort of busy catching, watching for balls there, but we’re all playing together as a team. So first level managers would be responsible for some of the administrative duties, but they weren’t too onerous. You know, we had no product goals or timetables to get things done by. So the hierarchy was there were first level managers. Those guys would tend to have a group of maybe six to ten people at the most, and it was divided by discipline. There were several magnetics groups doing different things. There were the laser groups. For example, Peter Sorokin was in laser physics group along with others. There were several semiconductor groups. There was a semiconductor group working on II-VI compounds, and I was in the III-V compound semiconductor group. And of course there were several groups working on silicon for computer chips ultimately. Of course that was way premature. But that’s what life was like. We were given an immense amount of freedom. What we had to show was that we were cut out to do research, and not everybody made it. You know, people would come and go who were not doing so well. Some of them would end up within divisions where they had more product engineering skills and things like that.
Anderson:Would they move out of Yorktown, then, if they were going to…?
Woodall:Yeah, they’d move out of Yorktown. I don't recall anyone actually getting fired. If they did it was less than a 1% rate. I know people left, and some people left and it wasn't discussed, but most of the people I knew that left were transferred to Fishkill or someplace where they were doing more advanced product development.
Anderson:How did you begin working on gallium arsenide?
Woodall:Ah, okay! I was assigned to do that.
Anderson:Why was that an assignment? Can you provide some background?
Woodall:So we’re talking about me again now, not the system that I told you about, go into an empty lab and tell us what to do. So it turns out we had a fairly intense compound semi-conductor effort. The guy who was supposed to be my supervisor, and was, a fellow by the name of Sam Blum, he was working on a particular crystal growth technique that was a modified version of the Czochralski technique where you’re pulling crystals out of a melt. But in the case of gallium arsenide, it was going to be one atmosphere of arsenic vapor flowing around and you’ve got to confine that. So he had this sealed tube with magnetic holders so you could raise and lower the seed and stuff. It was quite complicated, but he made a very good quality material. In fact, Sam had some of the world record high purity gallium arsenide. So I was hired to work on the horizontal Bridgman-Stockbarger technique. We had a guy who was a metallurgist, Norm Ainslie, who had been studying the chemistry of gallium arsenide in terms of how to make it pure, and he discovered that by putting oxygen into the apparatus he could make higher purity gallium arsenide. So we had two efforts: there was one high purity effort where we were using the Czochralski technique using aluminum nitrite crucibles, and then Norm was adding oxygen to keep the gallium from reacting with the silica vessels that contain the melt. But he didn't know how to grow crystals very well, so what happened is I teamed up with him and I started worrying about how to make his technique work for single crystals, and I did. So I made some of the world’s unbelievably great gallium arsenide that way.
Anderson:When was that?
Woodall:This was about 1963 or 1964, somewhere around there.
Anderson:Okay. So that’s when you were still —
Woodall:Well, I had already been promoted by then, actually, because I had some success. Okay, let me be more specific, so let me back up. In the early ’60s IBM had not made up its mind, the world hadn't made up its mind whether it was going to be a germanium world or a silicon world, because it was really important to keep track of this on this. So the silicon guys, you know, the integrated circuit had just barely been invented by Kilby and Noyce, but no ICs had been made. So everybody’s making discreet devices out of stuff. It turns out that germanium was going to be a faster material, faster meaning if I’m going to try to make a carrier go from point A to point B, germanium would be a Corvette and silicon would be a Mack truck. Kind of crude, but okay. Furthermore, the idea was that germanium is lattice matched to gallium arsenide, and people had made gallium arsenide that was non-conductive or semi-insulating. So the circuit guy is thinking, “Well, if I put a germanium transistor down, it’s on gallium arsenide, I can keep this guy isolated from this guy,” and the silicon guys couldn't do that. They still can't very well. They use PN junctions and stuff to block current.
So I was hired to make semi-insulating gallium arsenide. That was my job, right here, “Here’s your goal.” And I did, and that’s how I got promoted. Of course I made really good semi-insulating gallium arsenide. Well it turns out — you’ll love this — the germanium program got killed around 1965, plus or minus a couple of years, so I can't give you a perfect history on this. The reason it got killed was a guy in Armonk who was an economist started looking at the world’s supply of germanium and discovered that IBM’s business plan for say 1970, how many wafer starts they were going to need, there wasn't enough germanium on the planet to do it. This is a true story. It had nothing to do with physics.
Anderson:You said he was from Armonk?
Woodall:That was the headquarters for IBM, Armonk. So this guy shows up with data on the abundance of germanium. It had nothing to do with electrons and holes and stuff like that, and that killed the program!
Anderson:That was going to be one of my questions, what stopped it?
Woodall:That’s what did it. But remember in 1962 the injection laser was invented by IBM, GE, and Lincoln Labs. Then a few months later, Nick Holonyak invented a red laser that operated at low temperature, and so that put gallium arsenide on the map as something interesting. So it went from semi-insulating stuff for germanium circuits to optical devices. That’s the overview thing you’ll want to capture.
Okay, so it turns out that I was also growing crystals for the laser program after I got the semi-insulating stuff going, and those crystals worked out pretty well, too. We were setting all kinds of performance records in the research laboratory with these things. So that’s how I got working on that. That sort of took me from 1962 through about 1966.
Along the way, Ian Gunn had discovered the Gunn affect, which is a negative resistance effect, and you need a certain kind of purity of gallium arsenide to do that, and I was able to impact his program also. So we started out with semi-insulating substrate material, laser material, and Gunn affect material. So that takes us to 1966.
Anderson:So what happens then?
Woodall:Okay, so then my career really changed. It turns out that I hooked up with a guy by the name of Hans Rupprecht. Remember these departments are separated, so I was in a crystal growth department where other people in the department were working on crystal growth. It turns out I was supplying the laser crystals to a couple of people in the physics department working on the lasers, and one of these people was a person named Hans Rupprecht, and we became very friendly. We decided well, what should we be doing? So it turns out everybody at IBM had concluded that the laser was, although interesting, did not have much of a chance of becoming a continuous wave device at room temperature, and that was based on what they had without being able to understand what inventions might come along to change things. Of course the thing that needed to be changed was you needed to be able to get the current density way down. What happened at room temperature is the current density to get to the threshold to causing lasing was so high that the device would melt. If you did it low temperature, no problem. But there was just so much interest in — just a certain amount of interest by the government and that was about it.
So Hans and I decided, “Well, let’s try some other crystal growth techniques.” So it turns out there was a guy at RCA, his name was Herb Nelson, who invented something called liquid phase epitaxial growth. The way you understand that is very simple. I take a wafer of gallium arsenide; I stick it into a solution, mainly gallium with arsenic and a dopant up to some temperature between 700 and 800°C. I stick it in and I cool it and pull it out and I can make PN junctions that way. Well it turns out we just copied the apparatus that this guy Nelson was using at RCA. He was making germanium tunnel diodes for some reason and didn't seem to be interested in laser. So Hans and I worked on that together. So I made the apparatus that did the epitaxial growth. I’m changing fields from bulk now. I’m still doing bulk crystal growth, but I’m into epitaxial layers now. 1966.
What we did first is we made better lasers that worked at higher temperatures with this technique. And then I don't know why I did it. I was reading a statistical mechanics article in the Journal of Applied Physics, by Longini and Greene that discussed fundamental issues of crystal growth and the doping of crystals. Then there was a guy who was I would say a chemical physicist at Lincoln Labs, Burbrick was his name. He wrote an article suggesting that it’s conceivable that a group IV dopant could be both a donor and an acceptor. Now what does that mean? That means if I can control it, I can make PN junctions with just one dopant. Well, why was I interested in that? The reason I was interested in that was all I was doing was I was taking a gallium arsenide substrate and rolling this melt over it with one type of dopant and then rolling it off. So whatever the substrate was, I had the opposite conductivity type to make a PN junction.
So I thought to myself, “Well, if I can use silicon, I can make the entire PN junction by this liquid phase epitaxy method.” So what’s so great about that? Well, to make a long story short, when you grow a crystal out of a high-purity melt solution growth, it’s called liquid phase epi, the quality of the material is exquisite — no defects, no nothing. And any kind of device that emits light or detects light or a solar cell needs to be made of very high quality material.
So I talked to Hans about it and he says, “Well, go ahead and try it.” Well, one of the things that I’ve always been really lucky in, every time I try something the first time that turns out to be important, it’s always worked.
Woodall:So I tried it. I guessed what the thermochemical conditions needed to be based on stuff I knew already, and this thing had an external quantum efficiency of 7%. That’s photons out versus current in. And the best thing out there, including the lasers and the spontaneous emission LED mode, was like a tenth of a percent. So imagine the stir it caused when you go from a tenth of a percent to 7% in one day. Well! So we certainly got a lot of press on that one. Funny, I saw Brubrick at a conference years later and told him that we reduced his idea to practice and that our technology was now the basis for all IR remote control devices. His response. He shrugged his shoulders!! That was it. Go figure.
So we put that in Applied Physics Letters. I probably published more stuff in Applied Physics Letters than anybody I know, maybe except for universities. So we published it and enjoyed that for a year — no, actually less than that. So we said, “Hey, why don't we try and make red LEDs?” So we needed a host that would emit red light. The gallium arsenide is infrared, right? So Hans said, “I tell you what. I will look at something called a gallium arsenide phosphide system,” which was something already being used by Monsanto to make red LEDs. They were very dim and had lots of defects in them because gallium arsenide phosphide is not lattice matched to anything, so there were a lot of defects. Actually HP was selling hand calculators with these LEDs in them back in the 1966 timeframe. Amazing, so Hans said that he would work on the LPE of gallium arsenide phosphide, and I said, “Well, let me work on gallium aluminum arsenide.” So he said, “Well, okay, go ahead. I can't because my boss has already talked to somebody at GTE.” His boss, Marshall Nathan, was a friend of Esther Conwell. Esther Conwell was a section head at a place called GTE. She’s at Rochester now. So she had a couple of people in her group working on trying to make gallium aluminum arsenide by a chemical vapor deposition technique, which for many reasons was doomed to failure. So she told Marshall, “This material will never work.” Then about the same time, a couple of Bell theoreticians wrote a paper saying it’s going to be impossible from fundamental principles to make gallium aluminum arsenide alloys. So this is my starting point.
So Hans had been told by his boss Marshall that he wouldn't support his working on it. Yeah, there was a lot of freedom at IBM (ha, ha), but every now and then… And Marshall meant well. He was just talking with colleagues, you know, networking. So I did the gallium aluminum arsenide, and luckily, the very first layer I made didn't emit light but it was a beautiful layer. So we forgot about doing the silicon doping thing which gave us the PN junction in GaAs. All I did was take a melt and put tellurium in it to grow for a while, and then I would counter-dope with zinc for the P type layer, and we got 7% red LEDs right off the bat.
So this was in about May 1967. Then that fall or so, Alferov published a paper on rectifiers of gallium aluminum arsenide with no comment about how he had grown or anything else like that.
Anderson:And where was Alferov?
Woodall:He was at the Ioffe Institute at the time.
Anderson:Right and where did he publish?
Woodall:He published in a Russian physics journal that he was an editor of.
So it was kind of an interesting thing because when he shared the Nobel Prize in 2000 for the heterojunctions that was a bad day for me. I mean I remember Marc Brodsky calling me up and he said, “I understand you’re probably having a bad day.” I said, “That’s an understatement, Marc. But I was glad to see that my work got a Nobel Prize,” because everything he got it for I had done earlier and it was published — it wasn't just a notebook somewhere.
Anderson:Why do you think that is, that he got the Nobel Prize?
Woodall:My view is, and I tell this to my students. I said, “If you do something important, you should control the history of it.” What Alferov did is he started writing overview articles and putting his stuff in. He didn't ignore our stuff but he sort of made it look like and then we came along and did it, too. But the truth of the matter is Hans and I did it first. But that’s the way life is. I think the other reason, now that you’re asking, is that I knew that Rolf Landauer at IBM was on the physics subcommittee for the Nobel Prize, and he had died back in 1998 and so IBM did not have a representative on that committee anymore. So it’s probably some politics that went on. But I’m still glad my work got a Nobel Prize. I have no problem with that. I got the National Medal of Technology after a while, so that was okay.
So from ’67 on up, I just worked on gallium aluminum arsenide heterojunctions. The big deal was it was the first heterojunction ever made that worked. Now Herb Kroemer rightfully deserves his part of the Nobel Prize because in 1957 he wrote a short paper, although seminal, about the role of a heterojunction in improving transistors. So that was fine. So around 1968 Hans decided he didn't want to hang around. He decided to take a job up at Fishkill to work on ion implantation of silicon. He did very well with that. In fact, Hans went on to be the Director of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany: a big deal since it was a prime minister appointment. So I continued working on LEDs to make them very bright, and then I started working on solar cells, so we made the first high efficiency solar cells. Hans had left to go to Fishkill, so I didn't have anybody to work with on lasers, so I didn't play in the laser pool because we had nobody interested in lasers.
Anderson:Jerry, why do you think that IBM didn't try to develop lasers?
Woodall:Oh, because they didn't believe it was going to work. I mean guys like Bob Keyes and the other theoreticians were using old data from the low temperature stuff and had written papers saying that the current densities were going to be too high.
Anderson:And they didn't realize that what you were doing?
Woodall:No, they just didn't make a connection for some reason. Because remember, Hans and I had this team where I would worry more about the material science and processing and he would worry more about the device physics and stuff, so he left and there was nobody to take that, nobody who wanted to work in that field because IBM management, the guys who were doing the theory and stuff like that didn't feel like it was going to be a worthwhile thing to do.
Anderson:Were the managers mostly theorists at IBM?
Woodall:Not all of them. They were just thinking there were other important things to do. They just weren’t focused on where this was going to go. I think it was just a sin of omission rather than commission. I don't put anything other than that to it, because you have to have — and this is a message from an industrial lab for your article, archives — is that you really need to have champions in a field to keep it moving. So Bell had Panish and Hayashi working together. Alferov knew a lot about lasers and he was a Division Director by then. He was also chairman of the Communist Party for St. Petersburg; it was still Leningrad in those days. So you needed teams of people. And like Kressel and his group at RCA. So these guys were still focused on seeing this thing through as a laser. But we didn't have any laser experimentalists once Hans had left to carry on that work. That’s the simple and straightforward explanation of that. So your response could be, well why wasn't I smart enough to carry it on? I just wasn't into the laser business from a device physics and design point of view. But Hayashi was. We talked about this later on. I imagine Hayashi felt pretty put upon when Bell didn't share in that 2000 Nobel Prize. I never asked him about it, though. So Panish was like me. He was a thermochemist kind of guy, so we always had dinner together at a conference and stuff. He said if it hadn't been for Hayashi, he wouldn't have even come in, either tied with Alferov or not. So it turns out there were always teams of people who make all that happen, and you need both the epitaxial guy and the processing guy and the guy who knows devices and how to design them.
Anderson:And you lost part of your team.
Woodall:So then I went ahead. We did the solar cell. We did the heterojunction bipolar transistor. We were first with that; there was no argument about that. Then the pseudomorphic HEMT, that’s the stained-layer high electron mobility transistor. And the list goes on.
Anderson:And how was your position changing over that period of time in 1980?
Woodall:Oh, in the ’80s was fine. I was finally elected IBM fellow. When was it, 1988? Somewhere around there; so the ’80s were good for me.
Anderson:Now you went back to school when?
Woodall:I went back to Cornell in 1979, was there for two years. I got my Ph.D. in electrical engineering.
Anderson:What was that like after spending all that time in advanced work going back to school?
Woodall:It was very refreshing, actually. It gave me the opportunity to learn on a more formal basis about semiconductors. What I mean by that is at MIT they were only offering one semiconductor course while I was an undergraduate. I’m not sure what department it was in. But semiconductors really weren’t fully appreciated yet in the academic environment. In fact, some of the insights I got from guys like Adler at MIT when he was head of the EE Department there, he said, “Well, we were out of it,” as far as developing compound semiconductors, because we would have a faculty meeting, he says, “The industry has got it covered. Bell has got it covered; IBM has got it covered. What are we going to do?” And they felt the same way about silicon. So you look at the universities, they got into the stuff very late in the game. The only guys who still worked on that kind of stuff, you take Gerald Pearson who invented the solar cell back in 1954, he went off to Stanford and had a good career. So did Shockley. But all that stuff, all the pioneering and seminal stuff, was done in industry.
Anderson:Who was your advisor at Cornell?
Woodall:Oh, Les Eastman.
Anderson:How did you decide on electrical engineering within physics?
Woodall:That’s a good story, too. I really didn't see any need to go to — I figured I was going to be a cradle to graver with IBM in the late ’70s. Things were going well for me. So it turns out on the weekends, what I would do on Saturday morning is I would watch cartoons, like the Roadrunner and stuff like that. So I’m watching the Roadrunner one morning and the phone rings and it’s Les Eastman. He and I had been friendly ever since the Gunn affect was discovered. He was interested in microwave devices, and he had a fairly big group at Cornell. So he said, “Well, I’ve been trying to get you to come up here and take an adjunct professor’s job, but you won't do that. So why don't you come back up and pick up your Ph.D. here?” So I’m sort of trying to listen and watch the coyote fall off a cliff or something. So I sort of internalized it. After we hung up I’m thinking, “Geez, I think I just agreed to go to Cornell!” I told my wife.
So then sure enough, I started in the fall of ’79, and then got my degree in August of ’82 as I recall. That was a very exhilarating experience, though. What it was, I had a group of about eight people that reported to me back at IBM, so I would drive up Sunday afternoon, do research, and I took the quantum mechanics course during the week, and I was able arrange whatever the Friday lecture stuff was with George Wolga, who was teaching the course. So Thursday and Friday I would manage my group, have group meetings and find out if everything was going okay, and then on Saturday I’d do my homework and I’d drive back on Sunday. So I did this for a couple of years.
Anderson:So you were working at IBM all the time?
Woodall:Yeah, I was working at IBM, and Les paid the whole boat. I mean IBM let me off and paid for my time while I was there, so I didn't take any change in salary. It was great!
Anderson:Did you think about going into physics instead of electrical engineering, or were you doing physics work and…?
Well, I’m looking at what I’m doing and what universities are. It turns out that historically speaking — remember I said that most of the early seminal work was being done at the corporate research laboratories, and people that left there to become professors all went into EE. So you if you took a snapshot in the ’70s of who was where, they were all in the EE department. So it turns out the material science guys just did not get into semiconductors. So they were doing metals, polymers, and ceramics, and somehow because of the way it worked out, all the compound semiconductor device and material science got done in the EE departments. Now there was some stuff done outside, like microscopy and stuff like that, but the core of what I would call it semiconductor physics was always done in electrical engineering. Just go over to Mark Lundstrom, he’s an EE. He’s a good Physicist… Supriyo Datta... They’re all Physicists.
Anderson:Right, interesting. And that’s because the initial research was done in industry?
Woodall:It was all done in corporate laboratories. As I said, I can't tell you what the history was about Shockley or anybody or Pearson leaving to go to Stanford. What made them decide what department to end up? It’s just the way it happened.
Anderson:Okay. Now I’ve done a few interviews with people at IBM, people who stayed there and people who left, and I know that things began changing at some point and I think probably in the late ’80s. Can you talk about that a little bit and what was going on?
Woodall:Oh, the changing of the flavor of stuff? Well, yeah, I can talk about that. From my perspective, you know I came to Purdue in ’93. I was an IBM fellow, so pretty comfortable. But I had decided that the way things were going in the Pacific Rim, that IBM was going to have to start focusing on doing things in the research division that were going to be more profitable or more relevant to the business plan.
Anderson:When you say Pacific Rim, can you be a little more specific?
Woodall:Well, you know in Japan, Japan was a big competitor, and Asia and China. They were all starting to compete. Semiconductor fabs were already being put over in Kuala Lumpur and stuff like that. So IBM had already gotten burned with Gates and the software business, and so they had hung their hat pretty much on hardware. So they needed to be able to do research and development that they could recover the investment of it without having follow-on producers eating their lunch, and that got harder and harder to do. So those of us who were working in semiconductors and not just compound semiconductors, but other areas, they started drifting out to universities. I wasn't the first to go. There were others that went.
Anderson:When did that drift begin?
Woodall:I would say in the late ’80s.
Anderson:Were there push factors? IBM was downsizing at that point, right, or Yorktown Heights was downsizing?
Woodall:Not a lot. I think it’s just that people who wanted to keep their careers going realized that there was no longer a light at the end of the tunnel. I mean it’s not as though IBM says, “You guys are screwed.” It’s just that the way the business evolved. But there was an event (and I may not be able to get the timing exactly correct) where when Jim McGroddy was director, he claimed that the people who were doing research when Gerstner got there were going to have to be more relevant to divisional needs. That expression kind of scared a lot of people who were doing what I would call working in the chasm.
Let me show you what the chasm is. You really need to understand it. I’ll write it on a piece of paper. The chasm, I can describe it. It’s well known. It’s even talked about in modern presentations. So there’s a disconnect between what the government wants to fund and research laboratories were funding and what is out in the marketplace. Death Valley.
Anderson:Right, valley of death.
Woodall:You know about that. That’s what I’m talking about. So there were a lot of us who were working in Death Valley. Consequently, I have a terrible time getting funding because I like working on next generation stuff, and if there’s no pull on a product for it, those guys aren’t interested. Besides, most companies don't want you inventing next generation family jewels. It’s okay to do experiments or quantify how it works or stuff like that, but they don't want universities inventing new products for them. The IP gets real messy. The Bayh-Dole really contaminates company interest in university research. Now everybody thinks the Bayh-Dole is really great stuff. Well, it isn’t so great, and the reason it’s not great is that if I were to do anything here with IBM in this room that has been funded by the government, they would get a royalty-free license to do it. So IBM funds me for something they want to make, but they are now vulnerable for the fact that the government could turn around and do it themselves through a subcontractor. That’s why the Bayh-Dole Act is no good.
Anderson:And Bayh-Dole was passed in 1980, so that —
Woodall:Oh, it was okay for its time, but it’s a big barrier to do next generation research and development, and that’s what I like to do. I like to make things work. I’m not a big upstream kind of guy. So I call this the chasm in my notations. So here’s the government, the agency stuff funding. Even DARPA, they will fund military needs and stuff like that, and they don't care too much about per se the actual property, but they do have to worry about it one way or the other. But their model of funding is, “You give me something in six months or else.” That doesn't work so well either.
Anderson:So tell me about the transition to academic work. What’s that transition been like for you as a researcher?
Woodall:Okay, for me it’s been fine, but it’s not for everybody. One of the things I have discovered with my colleagues is that those people that I’ve known who were closer to ad-tech, advanced technology, say Fishkill or some other place, even Redding for Bell, those guys don't do so well coming into the university. I want to tell you why. Those guys are used to managing. They’re in an environment where they have deadlines, targets, milestones. So they come to university, and managing at university is like herding cats. You’ve heard that expression. It’s really true. So here are these guys. They show up at university thinking they can control stuff. There is no control. It’s all seduction. The reason IBM was good and Bell Labs is that I had to seduce people to work, too. I never wanted to own anymore than I had to to get my job done. So I was always going up and down the halls trying to get somebody interested to collaborate with me. In fact even after Hans had left, I couldn't find anybody that was interested in working on lasers. They said, “Geez, there’s no future in lasers,” right? So to be honest with you, for me, and I was sort of tongue-in-cheek, I said my working at IBM for 31 years was my training ground to become a university professor. But that’s not true for everybody, especially if they’ve been in a management environment.
Anderson:What you said about seduction is very interesting. It’s one of the best descriptions I’ve heard of what it was like to work at IBM or Bell Labs in the old days. So tell me about the work you’ve been doing since then.
Woodall:Oh, I’m having a ball.
Anderson:Okay. What’s your current project? So “Professor turns water into fuel.” I would guess the professor is you? Yes.
Woodall:So I have learned how to take bulk aluminum with a small amount of gallium indium and tin and split both fresh water and salt water. So what do I get? I get hydrogen, aluminum hydroxide, and heat. Aluminum is the third most abundant element on the planet. There are 400 billion kilograms of it lying around as metallic aluminum that’s just waiting to be used or reclaimed, and this is going to enable a hydrogen economy. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I may not be around to see it happen, but it’s going to happen.
Anderson:So what’s happening with that now?
Woodall:Well I’m doing research on it, and the government is not interested in it because Steve Chu believes in the solar cells; he doesn’t believe in hydrogen or fuel cells, and I don’t believe in fuel cells either. But the point is hydrogen can be used in internal combustion engines just as well, and they’re being made more efficient all along. So it’s going to happen.
Anderson:Who is funding this research?
Woodall:Nobody. I’m funding it out of my own pocket. I kid you not. All my children are out gainfully employed, and so I can’t get any government funding, I can’t get industrial funding for it. The chasm!
Anderson:When did you begin working on this?
Woodall:I began working on this back in 1968 when I started working on gallium aluminum arsenide liquid phase epitaxy, and the melts were made out of gallium and aluminum. So I used to try to clean out the crucibles that I was using, they were mostly made of aluminum oxide. And when I washed them in the ionized water, I got a nice big explosion with heat and hydrogen coming off, so I figured out what it was due to. I submitted a patent at the time because I didn’t think it was that interesting to publish it somewhere because people were going to say, “Well, gallium is expensive, so you can’t go around using that,” and I realized that. So when I came back here (I was at Yale for six years from 1999 through 2004), I started working on it again, and I started making alloys, and that worked just as well. So we got the composition all the way up to 95% aluminum and 5% with this compound called galinstan.
So the original work is easy to understand. If I put a chunk of aluminum in water, nothing happens, and of course the reason is that the aluminum oxide hydroxide mixture is totally impervious to water, so nothing can diffuse in or out very easily; it’s a tenacious oxide. What happens is if you take aluminum now and dissolve it in gallium, now there is no way to passivate the aluminum, so it is floating like sugar in coffee, so it is in solution. You bring some water in contact with it, so any aluminum atom that is at the surface or the interface between the gallium melts and will split the water into hydrogen and aluminum hydroxide and heat. So we did that; patent was issued in 1980, and it stayed there. You know, I haven’t done anything with it.
So in 2003 under Bush, he got all excited about hydrogen again, and I didn’t think much about it until Paul Fleury, who was the Dean of Engineering at Yale, thought I should take a look at it again. By that time I’d already decided to come back to Purdue, so I did. So here is the result.
Anderson:Wasn’t the government funding hydrogen research?
Woodall:Not this way. I applied to two different DOE programs. One was the basic science, and they said it wasn’t basic enough for them to fund. The other was the onboard hydrogen program, and my energy density (energy density being the weight of the hydrogen compared to the weight of the fuel, the gravimetric energy density) wasn’t high enough for the program.
Anderson:This is a pretty controversial sort of approach. What kind of reaction are you getting?
Woodall:Everybody who sees it loves it. DOE says, “You just didn’t meet the criteria, so we can’t fund you.” They said, “You should be able to have a lock on the lithium battery business though, if you use it, because our energy density is 8.8 kilowatt hours per kilogram, whereas lithium ion is about 160 watt hours per kilogram.
Anderson:You mentioned that you were knowledgeable about startups when we first sat down. Have you thought about creating a startup?
Woodall:We have one, I didn’t create it, but a guy came by in 2005, he wanted to talk about fuel cells, and we convinced him that they weren’t really ready for what he wanted to do. So this guy started a little company called AlGalCo, and his name is Kurt Koehler. His mission is to develop this technology for standby power for medically fragile patients in Indiana, and there are about 65,000 of them roughly who are under contract with Duke Energy and the other regional electric companies. The whole idea is if the grid goes down, five people have to show up with a portable generator to keep the refrigerators going and the oxygen generators going, and since that’s a costly thing, we could compete in that market. The only problem with that company right now is that his business model is to make one to get a purchase order to make another, so it is going very slow right now.
Anderson:What is your involvement in the business?
Woodall:I’m not involved with the company. My day job is to continue working on the fuels.
So I’ve been somewhat frustrated about trying to get VCs interested in this, but it’s going to happen sooner or later.
Anderson:Have you worked with the technology licensing office here?
Anderson:What has that been like?
Woodall:What they do is they file the patents, or manage filing the patents, and then they look for possible people that might be interested in licensing this. One of the problems of being in Indiana is that all the VC money is in Boston and California, at least 90% of it, so there is very little local stuff. So what I have been doing is a guy contacted me about a year ago who is trying to put together a consortia, we’re going to do diesel enrichment. By that I mean if you take diesel fuel and add hydrogen to it, you could cut back the soot, get rid of it completely, so you don’t need this little technology called Blue Tech that was invented by Mercedes to keep the soot down, and it lowers the nitrous oxides coming out of the exhaust. There is a $20-billion-dollar trucking market out there. The biggest flaw in this thing is it is not very useful for the automobile market because there is no infrastructure for it — there are no mobile aluminum stations out there yet, and that’s not going to happen immediately. But the nice thing about the trucking business is they have depots, so you could actually deliver all the reaction vessels with the fuel to the depot and they can install these things, and all you have to be responsible for is recharging them when they come back to the depot.
Anderson:Have you secured patents?
Woodall:Oh yes, we have four or five patents on this already.
Anderson:That have gone through the Purdue Technology?
Woodall:They are done through Purdue Research Foundation
Anderson:So has Purdue been pretty cooperative in advancing the patent?
Woodall:Absolutely. I would say to the extent that most universities try to do something in this field, Purdue is exemplary in this area. They may not be as aggressive as MIT, but they are doing pretty well. Their biggest problem is they don’t have any VC money in the area. You need VCs floating around to make it.
Anderson:David Nolte was saying this morning that this area is poor in VCs, but it does well with angels, with individual investors.
Woodall:Right. David, as you know, is in the bio business, and there is actually a lot more money in bio than there is in semiconductors and stuff like that or energy right now. But having said all that, I’m very pleased with how well Purdue is trying to make all this happen. The guy who is handling my account, his name is Hilton Turner out at PRF, and he is doing a very diligent job trying to get the stuff marketed and patented, so I’m very pleased with that.
Anderson:But it’s because of the area that you’re in that you’re having trouble, you think?
Woodall:Well, it is because it is a disruptive technology, unlike heterojunctions. You know, ever since the planet started circling the sun we’ve had energy, so there is plenty of fossil fuel out there. I run a course called Physics for Future Presidents, and it turns out if you’re willing to pay $100 buck a barrel, which we have done, there is enough oil through shale and everything else to last the United States for 350 years. 350 years — that’s a long time, man!
So what is the incentive? If I can’t beat the cost, which you can’t — you know coal costs four-tenths of a cent to dig out of the ground. I can do all this for ten cents a kilowatt hour, if I do it by just going to recycling centers and putting it in a truck and taking it to where I’m going to melt the aluminum. So there is no added value from a cost point of view. The only added value is environmental, and you and I know that that’s a religion now, and it is going to change in January.
So you’re asking me why it is not out there, and that’s why, but sooner or later it will be because the point is there is enough of it. What the Obama administration and the boys in DOE don’t realize is that I have solved the two major problems for the hydrogen economy: I don’t have to store it and I don’t have to transport it anymore; I make it on demand. And that word is going to get out sooner or later, so I’m not concerned about the current lack of interest.
Anderson:Let me ask you a couple questions, again comparing industry with working in an academic institution. How does the networking compare that you did at IBM versus the networking that you do now?
Woodall:IBM and Bell were golden era things, and the reason is I could walk down a hall and find anybody I wanted and do something within a half a day. That doesn’t happen here. Everybody has got their own thing that they’re doing, they’ve got their own contract, they form their own club and stuff. The neat thing about IBM and Bell was the fact that it was a virtual machine. You could take your expertise and walk down the hall, find somebody else, come up with an idea, and by god by the end of the week you might have an Applied Physics Letters. That doesn’t happen here.
Anderson:What about networking outside of the institution you’re at, whether it is IBM or…?
Woodall:IBM has been difficult, as I said. The Bayh-Dole has been a barrier to do serious high impact collaborations with industry. So it depends on what you want to work on. If you are willing to confine your proposals to taking data on a technique they don’t want to do the data themselves on, you know, understand, there is plenty of funding for that, but I’m not interested in that. I rest my case.
Anderson:I want to ask you some questions about your records and record keeping, but before we do that, I want to ask you what else you’d like to talk about, what other subjects we should be covering here?
Woodall:The only other subject I’d like for you to stress is for those of us who are university anywhere and they happen on doing something important, if they care, they need to control the history of it.
Anderson:How can scientists do that?
Woodall:Writing overview articles quite regularly. There is a colleague of mine at Yale University, he is in his late 30s, he has done some really good work on ferroelectrics, and I think he is ahead of the curve. His name is Charles Ahn, I said, “Charles, this looks like it is going to be a winner. You’ve got to start writing overview articles every five years so that if it really does take off, there won’t be any revisionist historians around that will dilute your accomplishment.” And that’s really my message to young scientists, is that if you are lucky enough to come across something, be sure you control the history. You know Purdue just got another Nobel Prize after 50 years or so with this guy Negishi. He said he dreamed that it might happen for the last 50 years because he did something important. I don't know, I haven’t talked to him about it, which I would like to do, about how did he control the history so that he ended up on the group of three that actually got the recognition for what was done.
I told you I was fairly sensitive about that because when I was at IBM, my game plan was to have fun. You know, you go in the lab and have fun — something new every day. I had a good group of smart guys. The laboratory was just an incredible place. But if I had it to do over again, I would have thought more about, especially during the ’70s and early ’80s, about writing articles for Physics Today or stuff like that.
Anderson:Why do you think some people do that and some people don’t? Some people think about it early on and others don’t?
Woodall:It’s motivation, I guess. So it is very strange, because Alferov and I are great friends. He came by in the ’70s and we formed a mutual admiration society back then. He actually came to a festschrift for Leo Osaki back in mid-’90s. It was held at a hotel near IBM research in Yorktown Heights. So Alferov was invited. There were a lot of important people from around the world. And Alferov was asked to give a talk. Alferov is quite an imposing person both physically and verbally, so he gives this nice talk about, “Congratulations, Leo, you’ve had a great career,” and all this. “But I want everybody in the room to know that if it hadn’t been for my work and that of Jerry Woodall’s, your subsequent work on super lattices would not have been recognized.” A lot of the prizes that were given out about compound semiconductor would not exist; he didn’t say Leo in particular, because Leo had already gotten it for the tunnel lab, which had nothing to do with hetero junctions. So there was a gasp in the room, and I turned red, because I’m sitting there. But it pointed out to me that he was busy worrying about it, and I haven’t thought about it, you know. It turns out when I asked Paul Horn, who was the Director of Research in that period of time, I said, “Weren’t you aware of any of this stuff going on? I mean Hans and I were players in this thing.” And he says, “To be honest, Jerry, I was shocked that the work got a Nobel Prize.” [Laughter] I said, “Well thank you, Paul. At least you’re candid about it!” I said, “You were shocked that something that had such a big impact on physics got a Nobel Prize? Oh, okay.”
So anyway, I really have no other ax to grind. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I would not trade one minute of my IBM career for anything else. That’s the take-home message.
Anderson:It sounds like that really was the highpoint for you.
Woodall:Oh it was unreal. And you can only tell that after the fact. I mean you’re living through all this, it’s exciting, and there are daily run-ins you have, you know, geez that guy did that, I don't know… But in retrospect, it was an amazing time, and I don’t think anybody will ever get there again — I don’t see how you can duplicate that.
Anderson:Now I’d like to ask you some questions about records and record keeping. You have probably one of the neatest offices for a physicist that I’ve ever been in.
Woodall:Oh, this is my ceremonial office — you haven’t seen my other one. I did this so I’d impress you, that's all. Sorry about that. [Laughter] I have a grungy office over in EE.
Anderson:Well with all the prizes, I am impressed just how organized everything is. But what happened to your records from IBM? Did you take your lab notebooks with you, or do you have them today?
Woodall:No, they’re all there. I have nothing from IBM. I turned them in when I left.
Anderson:Was there any kind of program to preserve those when you were there? Was there a system for turning in lab notebooks?
Woodall:I don't know what the mechanism is that’s available now, but I didn’t keep any records particularly because all the stuff that you see on the wall is published. I mean there are patents that are records. This stuff is published, this is congressional record, it’s never going to die. So I figured once you have it out there, I didn’t really worry about the records because I left a paper trail that’s very extensive, you know 354 publications.
Anderson:You know, Richard Feynman in his Nobel address said that there was no place for physicists to tell the whole story. You don’t write up articles on the things that didn’t work, on the process of getting to where you finally got to — that’s what lab notebooks and sometimes correspondence can give you.
Woodall:I understand what you’re driving at. I didn’t keep a fastidious notebook, and the reason is when we did stuff, we kept data in the notebook and then we would write a paper on it. Very little time would go… So this is what I meant about writing overview articles. Most of the stuff I did, I published it in Applied Physics Letters. I would get at least four or five Applied Physics Letters a year, maybe even more. So these are sort of my little notebook things that I would do it that way. The notebooks exist and there’s stuff in there, but I don’t think they’re terribly exciting. Sure there are a lot of things that didn’t work. In fact a colleague of mine, Rodney Hodgson, who is retired now, he was very concerned that I was planning to go to university. He said, “You’re going to have to find people who are going to argue with you, because you know 90% of your ideas are just bullshit.” He said, “You need people that will stop you and tell you that, so that the 10% that are good you’ll know what to work on.” He was right — professors don’t like to argue with other professors.
Anderson:What about your papers here? Is there anyone who has talked to you about preserving your papers? Are there papers to be preserved?
Woodall:No, no one at Purdue has really talked about it. I have students that keep their notebooks, so they’re available. I’m very student-centric. My view of my career now is to think outside the box and think for themselves. I do not treat my students as technicians. In order to get a Ph.D they need to figure what do to get. I had an IBM patent attorney who once said, “I like your style. You teach your employees how to become inventors.” I said, “Yeah, I like doing that because this is my legacy.” So I try to do the same thing with my students. I’ve been very successful with my latest student, too. I’ve taught him how to be very critical of the stuff that gets published. I said, “Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it is worth reading.” So he takes it upon himself to track these things down. I have four undergraduate interns that I have been trying to show them that yeah you have a textbook, and you’re so used to saying this is like the King James Version of the Bible. It isn’t! There are mistakes in these books, and there is a lot of stuff in the published literature that isn’t worth doing. Just last week there was something in a science magazine about some guy with this idea of solar generation where you take and do multi exciton generation, you take something that will absorb low-energy photons, and then you get two for the price of one with a higher-energy photon, so you still get the current, maybe not the voltage that you wouldn’t have gotten if you just thermalized the carrier back down to a bandage. And somebody published something in a science magazine that was useless. Was it novel? But they used the word photovoltaic in there. If they had just stuck to the physics of carrier recombination and transport, I wouldn’t have objected. But they used the word photovoltaic like this is going to work? Of course they would not have gotten agency funding without promising better photovoltaic devices. This stuff turns my stomach! So I’m trying to teach my students: people are trying to oversell what they’re doing for science as practical stuff.
Anderson:That’s always a problem with undergraduates, to look at things critically.
Jerry, we’re winding down here, and what I’d like to do now is explain what we’re going to do with this recording. I’ll take it back to AIP and it will go into the queue for transcribing. When it is transcribed I’ll then check it quickly myself, and then I’ll send it to you for editing. You can make any changes and certainly corrections, and you can add or subject or anything you want. Then you can decide, after you’ve had a chance to make any edits and changes you’d like, whether you will let us put it up on the web or whether you’d like us to keep it in the archives.
Woodall:I’m amenable to your desire.
Anderson:Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Woodall:No, I think that’s it. I think we covered the whole shooting match.