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Dr. Christopher Bates

DSM Science & Technology Award Americas (2013)

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, C. Grant Willson Group, The University of Texas at Austin
From left to right: Abhijeet P. Bapat, Erin F. Wiesenauer, Shiyi Zhang, Dr. Christopher Bates & Marcel Wubbolts

An American from Minnesota who holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and who completed his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 2013, Christopher is interested in materials that can make a difference in real-world applications.

I won my award for my Ph.D. research titled “Block copolymer thin film orientation”, which I concluded under the supervision of Professor Grant Willson at the University of Texas at Austin. The work focused on the use of block copolymer thin films that naturally self-assemble into layered structures with domain sizes circa 1-30 nanometers. Thin film applications demand precise control of interfacial interactions to coax the block copolymers into the perpendicular orientation required for most thin film applications. The key enabling technology that we have developed is polymeric top coats, which functionalize the top interface and are fully compatible with existing industry infrastructure and processing techniques. Thin films to which these top coats are applied could be useful in many applications, including organic optoelectronics, nanoporous membranes and next-generation lithography.

The DSM award event itself was incredibly interesting. The session featured a terrific set of talks spanning a wide range of potential applications. The room was overflowing with an enthusiastic and attentive audience. The entire experience was fantastic, and by far one of the highlights of my graduate career.

I’m currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the same group I did my Ph.D. research in. I will soon be moving to Caltech to start post-doctoral research with Robert H. Grubbs, likely on olefin metathesis chemistry. My friends and colleagues were naturally very happy to hear about the award. At the same time, we’re right on the cusp of some really exciting results, so I think everyone in the group is just really focused on the next experiment and the next big breakthrough. It could happen any day!

We currently have three new publications in the works. Two of the papers describe research partially included in my presentation at the DSM Award symposium. They discuss the impact of confinement on block copolymer materials, with an emphasis on interfacial design. One was just accepted (DOI: 10.1021/nn403616r). The third is a perspective article discussing the outlook for block copolymers in the microelectronics industry.

This year’s award theme, ‘Mastering Macromolecular Morphology’, highlights an important enabling technology that will form the basis for future developments in, among other things, lithography and photo-voltaics, which can ultimately play an important role in energy capture and storage.

Bates has made an excellent contribution to the field of thin-film materials sciences – one evidenced by his extensive list of publications in high-impact journals and his six patents. His research has great relevance, as it may lead to breakthrough developments in electronics and solar applications. Bates also impressed the jury with his clear presentation of a very complex subject matter.”

Commenting on this year’s award recipient in the context of DSM’s wider ambitions, Chief Technology Officer of DSM Dr. Wubbolts said: “It is the work of innovative scientists like Jian Ping Gong that enables trailblazing advances in science. Professor Gong’s work is key in addressing global health and wellness challenges in a world with an aging population and rising global healthcare costs. Her research also provides tools and inspiration to others in materials sciences for generating new possibilities for even wider applications. It is these kind of scientific advances that help make it possible for DSM to sustainably fulfill its mission of creating brighter lives for people today and generations to come.”