Contact: Amena Saiyid (516) 344-4458 or Mona S. Rowe (516) 344-5056

Mailed 2/8/98


Brookhaven Lab Scientists Win Materials Science Award

Upton, NY- For their sustained outstanding research in the field of materials chemistry, John Larese and Laurence Passell, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, have won DOE's 1998 Materials Science Award. The cash award of $50,000, which will be used for research, recognizes their pioneering work on neutron scattering studies of films adsorbed on graphite and magnesium oxide surfaces.

Using neutron scattering techniques, Larese and Passell investigated the formation of single- and multi-layered solid, liquid and gas films on crystalline surfaces by a process known as adsorption. By analyzing and studying the way neutrons scatter from the films, they were able to identify the structure of these films and, in some cases, obtain information about how the atoms interacted with each other and with the atoms from the crystalline surface. Specifically, they were able to determine how the atoms were arranged in the solid films and explore the changes that accompanied solid-to-liquid melting at the atomic level. To that end, Passell and Larese were the first to investigate on an atomic level how layer-by-layer film growth and melting proceeded on a multi-layered argon film adsorbed on graphite.

Today, materials scientists anticipate that improved understanding of adsorbed, or over-layer, film properties will lead to new insights into the microscopic-scale mechanisms involving adhesion, corrosion, lubrication and catalysis.

"When Passell and co-workers began this work in the early 1970s, no one dreamed that a single layer of atoms adsorbed on the surface of a crystal could be studied using neutron scattering. And now, Larese uses this technique routinely to explain how single and multi-layers of atoms form and melt on crystalline surfaces," said Denis McWhan, Associate Laboratory Director for Basic Energy Sciences. "Together, Larese and Passell's work has initiated a whole new field of inquiry."

Passell's interest in materials science dates back to his days at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his M.A. in 1952 and his Ph.D in physics in 1955. After graduation, Passell worked as staff scientist for five years at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, in Livermore, California. In 1961, Passell moved to the Riso National Laboratory in Roskilde, Denmark.

Passell's 32-year career at Brookhaven began when he joined the scientific staff in 1963 and received tenure in 1967. In the 1970s, working at the High Flux Beam Reactor, he laid the foundation for neutron studies of adsorbed films. Although he retired in 1995 as a senior scientist, he continues to work at Brookhaven as a consultant.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Passell is also a member of the prestigious Sigma Xi Society, which nominates scientists and engineers who have demonstrated noteworthy achievements in research.

Examining surfaces at atomic levels is familiar ground to Larese as well. He began his collaboration with Passell in 1979 while a graduate student at Wesleyan University where he earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1982 for studies of adsorbed molecular films. During a three-year postdoctoral position at Pennsylvania State University, 1982-85, he developed an interest in surface diffraction and began using helium atom scattering, a process similar to neutron scattering, to explore the properties of surface films.

In 1985, Larese began his career at Broohaven as a member of the physics department, moving to the chemistry department in 1987. He received tenure in April 1992.

Like Passell, Larese is a member of the Sigma Xi Society. He was also a part of the BNL team that won DOE's 1988 Materials Science Research Competition.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to the university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.


Laurence Passell lives in Shoreham, NY, and John Larese lives in Wading River, NY.