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AVS turns 50  
Charles B. Duke  

artwork by jacdepczyk.comOn June 18, 2003, AVS turned an energetic 50—an international society whose focus has grown beyond vacuum science, production, and measurement to embrace some of industry’s most advanced technologies. Born at the Commodore Hotel in New York City in 1953 as the Committee on Vacuum Techniques, the society’s first symposium, held in 1954 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, drew an attendance of 295. AVS has held national and international symposia annually ever since, some with attendances 10 times that of the initial event. At the 1957 symposium, the Committee on Vacuum Techniques was rechristened the American Vacuum Society, which came to be known by its initials. In 2001, it renamed itself using its initials alone. At that moment, AVS adopted a new logo that identified its scope as all of science and technology and established a new Web domain.

Today, AVS is a full-service global professional society that publishes three journals, holds two annual symposia and an array of topical conferences, provides an educational curriculum that includes a vibrant program of short courses, presents a wide array of awards, and has an active stable of local chapters. It became an affiliate member of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in 1963 and a full member in 1976. Its major journals— the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A–Vacuum, Surfaces, and Films and Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B–Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures: Processing, Measurement, and Phenomena—are prepared by a four-person editorial office in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and published for AVS by AIP. AVS also publishes Surface Science Spectra, a reference journal of spectra of surface species, and the quarterly AVS Newsletter.

AVS was founded as a technical society focused on the production and measurement of vacuum. Its divisional structure began in 1961, when Ron Bunshah brought the vacuum metallurgy community into the society with the formation of the Vacuum Metallurgy Division, which evolved in 1999 into the Advanced Surface Engineering Division. In 1964, the formation of the Thin Film Division, under the leadership of Klaus Behrndt, created a spurt of growth that raised AVS membership to more than 3,000 members and further broadened its portfolio.

AVS 50th anniversaryThe society’s next major boost came with the growth of surface science in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Surface Science Division was formed in 1968 under the leadership of Peter Hobson, and it sponsored the First International Conference on Surface Science (ICSS-1) in 1972. With the formation of the Vacuum Technology Division in 1970, AVS’s youth drew to a close.

The next major outreach of AVS occurred in the 1980s, when it joined forces with the emerging microelectronics revolution to become home to the science and technology underlying the ever-shrinking transistor. The creation of the Electronic Materials and Processing Division in 1979, under the leadership of Bill Spicer and Charlie Duke, was followed shortly by the founding of the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B in 1983. The Fusion Technology Division began in 1980 under the leadership of Manfred Kaminsky, and, spurred by a proposal by Fred Dylla, it evolved into the Plasma Science and Technology Division in 1986 in order to emphasize its key role in microelectronics processing.

As surface analysis became essential to the semiconductor industry, AVS formed the Applied Surface Science Division in 1986. Cedric Powell played a major role in its formation as an outgrowth of the activities of the E42 Committee on Surface Analysis of the American Society for Testing and Materials. Thus, in the 1980s, AVS became one of the key international scientific and technological societies supporting the growth of the global microelectronics industry. Its evolution in this direction continued well into the 1990s with the formation in 1994 of the Manufacturing Science and Technology technical group, which is devoted to solving the practical manufacturing problems of the semiconductor industry.

AVS has continually evolved to maintain its place at the leading edge of the science and technology of surfaces and of the small. When nanoscience and technology came into their own in the 1990s, AVS quickly incorporated these frontiers into its portfolio with the formation of the Nanometer- Scale Science and Technology Division in 1992 and the Magnetic Interfaces and Nanostructures Division in 1999. Microelectronics was augmented by micromechanics with the formation of the Science of Microelectromechanical Systems technical group in 1999.

The new millennium saw another expansion of AVS. The formation of the Biomaterial Interfaces Division in 2003 marked the entrance of AVS into biological materials, the next frontier of surface and interface science. AVS entered the ecological debate with the formation of the technical group on Technology for Sustainability in 2003. Thus, the technical portfolio of AVS now runs the gamut from its historical roots in vacuum technology to the new frontiers of biological and ecological systems.

Global influence
AVS also plays an important role in the International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique, and Applications (IUVSTA), a union of national professional societies in whose 1962 formation AVS had a seminal role. IUVSTA sponsors triennial International Vacuum Congresses, the latest of which (the 15th) was held in San Francisco in 2001 in conjunction with the 48th International Symposium of AVS and ICSS-11.

AVS - Science and TechnologyThe educational programs of AVS include short courses at the basic and advanced levels, video presentations, and monographs. During a typical year, the society sponsors approximately 100 individual short courses with a total attendance of up to 3,000. The society also encourages interest in science by participation in programs such as local science fairs and Science Educators Day.

AVS presents awards at the national, divisional, and chapter level. A Board of Trustees administers the national awards. The society’s premier honor is the Medard W. Welch Award “to recognize and encourage outstanding research in the fields of interest to AVS.” AVS sponsors an array of other professional, educational, student, and service awards that are described on its Web page. Another coveted AVS national award is the Honorary Membership, which the society has awarded to only 33 individuals over its 50-year history. The list of awardees reads like a Who’s Who of the folks who have made AVS what it is today.

AVS is a truly volunteer-run society. Unlike many AIP member societies, it does not have an executive director who is responsible for the society’s business affairs. Rather, it works through a network of active volunteer committees, overseen by a Board of Directors. Day-to-day operations are performed by a small administrative office of nine people led by Administrative Director Yvonne Towse, and run from offices in New York City and Santa Clara, California.

AVS has grown from the initial 295 interested individuals into an international science and technology organization with approximately 6,000 members and a global reach. It has initiated two regular international conferences. It is the source of record for technical information in the vacuum equipment industry. As a member of the AIP family, it is the major vehicle whereby AIP reaches out to the global vacuum-processing, vacuum- coating, and microelectronics industries, as well as the surface and biologicalscience communities. In 50 years, AVS has come a long way.

Further reading
Additional information about AVS, including how to become a member

Duke, C. B. Birth and evolution of surface science: Child of the union of science and technology. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2003, 100, 3858–3864. Details the intimate link between the evolution of surface science as a discipline and AVS as a professional society.

Duke, C. B.; Plummer, E. W., Eds. Frontiers in Surface and Interface Science. Surf. Sci. 2002, 500, 1–1053. A collection of semipopular articles written by leaders in their fields on topics of current interest to AVS at the forefront of surface and interface science.

Information about the International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique, and Applications

Lafferty, J. M. History of the American Vacuum Society and the International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique, and Applications. J. Vac. Sci. Technol. A 1984, 2, 102–109.

Redhead, P. A., Ed. Vacuum Science and Technology: Pioneers of the 20th Century; AIP Press: New York, 1994; 229 pp. A collection of articles that describe the formative years of AVS and the career contributions of the pioneers in vacuum science and technology, plus reprints of seminal papers.

Charles B. Duke is vice president and senior research fellow at the Xerox Wilson Center for Research and Technology in Webster, New York.


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