Oral-History:Theodore Van Duzer (2014)

About Theodore Van Duzer

Theodore Van Duzer was born in Piscataway Township, New Jersey on December 27, 1927. After serving in the US Navy as a radio technician during World War II, he graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, the University of California, Los Angeles with an M.S. in Engineering, and the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. Since 1961, he has been a member of the faculty of the Electrical Engineering Department at Berkeley. Van Duzer has co-authored two textbooks, Principles of Superconductive Devices and Circuits and Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics, and has published a wide range of research literature on superconductor electronics in the areas of superconductive devices and circuits. He is an IEEE Life Fellow and the founding editor of the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity.

In this interview, Van Duzer describes how he came to be interested in superconductivity and circuits as well as his research in superconductive devices and circuits, and his experiences as part of the Applied Superconductivity Conference (ASC), IEEE Council on Superconductivity, and the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity.

For an earlier oral history on the support Van Duzer received for his work from the National Science Foundation see Theodore Van Duzer Oral History (1991.)

About the Interview

THEODORE VAN DUZER: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 12 August 2014.

Interview # 655 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Theodore Van Duzer, an oral history conducted in 2014 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Theodore Van Duzer
INTERVIEWER: Sheldon Hochheiser
DATE: 12 August 2014
PLACE: Charlotte, North Carolina

Background and Education

Hochheiser:

This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History Center. It is Tuesday, the 12th of August, 2014. I am here at the ASC Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina with Ted Van Duzer. Good afternoon sir.

Van Duzer:

Good afternoon.

Hochheiser:

Okay. Let's start. Where and when were you born?

Van Duzer:

In Piscataway Township, New Jersey. On December 27, 1927.

Hochheiser:

I gather you moved around quite a lot growing up?

Van Duzer:

Not until I was about thirteen, fourteen years old. We were in the same house.

Hochheiser:

Were you interested in technical things and science and the like as a youth?

Van Duzer:

I didn't have any idea about that. No. I was just surviving as a kid in school. And…

Hochheiser:

Yes. And you graduated from Dunellen High School in New Jersey?

Van Duzer:

Right

Hochheiser:

And I know the area very well. I grew up in Scotch Plains, about two towns east.

Van Duzer:

We lived in Pennsylvania for a couple of years. But then I went back and stayed with my sister and graduated from Dunellen High School.

Hochheiser:

Was that so you could go to school in New Jersey or…

Van Duzer:

It was to get away from my stepmother actually.

Hochheiser:

Oh. And I gather this was during World War II?

Van Duzer:

Yes. So I graduated in the spring of 1945. They had a wartime diploma. So I actually got a graduation certificate and then went in the Navy directly in I think February, 1945 which turned my whole life around.

Hochheiser:

So what did you do in the Navy that turned your life around?

Van Duzer:

Well they put me into the radio technician school.

Hochheiser:

How did they decide that was a good place to put you, do you have any idea?

Van Duzer:

Well they gave me a test. I guess my IQ was enough that they thought I might be a candidate, they gave me a test, and I, passed apparently. So one year of school in various locations. Certainly they gave me an introduction to electronics. And ultimately the GI bill.

Hochheiser:

Yes. And then the war ended.

Van Duzer:

The war ended.

Hochheiser:

Not long after you—

Van Duzer:

No, I was still in school when the war ended.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Van Duzer:

They offered to let us finish school if we signed over for four years. Nobody did. They let us finish anyway. So I had my overseas duty in Long Beach Harbor.

Hochheiser:

That's a tough assignment.

Van Duzer:

Yes. On a repair ship. It was just about six months and then I got out.

Hochheiser:

And then what did you do upon--

Van Duzer:

Well I went back to New Jersey, lived with my sister for a while. I got some labor jobs. And then one of our friends found an advertisement for people looking for electronic technicians, the field division of a company in New Jersey called Stavid Engineering. They said the first assignment would be in Hawaii, it sounded good to me. But it turned out that I and one other guy were sent to Washington, DC on an urgent project. And then never did get to Hawaii. But I went to Corpus Christi where I met my wife. That was better.

Hochheiser:

Then I gather around 1950, you left them and went to college?

Van Duzer:

I met Janice in Corpus Christi and we married. Then we went back to New Jersey.

Hochheiser:

You were married and then you went—

Van Duzer:

Went back to New Jersey and started college. Yes.

Hochheiser:

What led you to decide to go back to college and why Rutgers?

Van Duzer:

Well because when I was in school in the Navy, a lot of the guys were talking about going back to college. I thought that sounds like a good idea. So I tried it and Rutgers was because I was so provincial and naïve that I didn't have any other ideas.

Hochheiser:

Sure.

Van Duzer:

And fortunately, they did accept me.

Hochheiser:

So did you go in then planning on EE as a field?

Van Duzer:

Yes

Hochheiser:

What was the curriculum like at Rutgers in the early 1950s?

Van Duzer:

Pretty standard, I think. There wasn't much about advanced electronics. Our electronics professor who had been teaching us mainly vacuum tube circuits said he thought he ought to tell us something about these new transistors and that was it at that time.

Hochheiser:

Now what led you from there to Hughes Aircraft masters combined program?

Van Duzer:

Well, I found an advertisement for it. And I had been in California in the Navy and liked it. So it was an attractive thing where I could get a good income and also get a master’s degree. And we got started on a family before leaving New Jersey.

Hochheiser:

Now did you leave Hughes once you completed your masters?

Van Duzer:

Yes. I had an invitation to become a Ph.D. student at Berkeley. And so I went and did that.

Hochheiser:

What was your Berkeley experience as a grad student?

Van Duzer:

Oh, it was good. It was a little hectic. We had three kids at that time. So I was racing from exam to exam and putting fires out. I was working on microwave vacuum tubes, big ones.

Hochheiser:

So was that your dissertation area?

Van Duzer:

Yes

Hochheiser:

Who did you study with?

Van Duzer:

John Whinnery who was famous at the IEEE for sure.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Did you move directly then from finishing your graduate work to being on the faculty?

Van Duzer:

No, I had a post-doctoral fellowship in Vienna for a year. So we had a wonderful year in Europe.

Hochheiser:

How did the research conditions in Vienna compare to those of Berkeley?

Van Duzer:

Well unfortunately, they were being very nice to me and gave me a private office. And I could work on whatever I wanted to work on, rather than interacting more with their research group, which would have been better.

Hochheiser:

So then did you continue on the work that you had started with your dissertation?

Van Duzer:

Yes. I was doing theoretical work. I didn't have any opportunity for experimental work. I did enough work to publish one or two papers from it. And then I got an invitation to join the faculty at Berkeley and to become a co-author of the Ramo Whinnery book at the same time. That was a good inducement.

Hochheiser:

Yes, I certainly know the classic status of the Ramo and Whinnery book.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So they were looking for a younger person to—

Van Duzer:

Yes. Ramo was kind out of it. He was a big industrialist by then.

Hochheiser:

Right, by this point right.

Van Duzer:

And John Whinnery was the chair or dean at that time and didn't have time to work much on the book. But it turned out that he still had to do a lot of work even though I was working with him; I wasn't taking over or anything. But anyway, we got it done.

Hochheiser:

How substantial of a revision was it?

Van Duzer:

Oh very much, a big revision.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Okay.

Van Duzer:

There have been a couple more subsequently. They changed the name at that time from Fields and Waves in Modern Radio to Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics. And changed the authorship.

Hochheiser:

So it became--so it gradually became more your book?

Van Duzer:

Well jointly with John Whinnery, but not Ramo.

Hochheiser:

Now during, during these years, I assume you were establishing your research at Berkeley?

Van Duzer:

I should have been establishing that more. But I was writing the book too much. It worked out. Actually, I hadn't started changing research fields on at that time. That didn't happen until we went to Chile four years later and after I got back in 1965.

Hochheiser:

Okay. So you took a sabbatical year?

Van Duzer:

No it was a joint project with the Catholic University of Chile. And I was an exchange professor.

Hochheiser:

And so what did you do during your year in Chile?

Van Duzer:

I got them started on lasers. John had gone to Bell Labs for a year in 1963 to learn about lasers. And he came back to Berkeley in 1964. And I took his seminar that ran through the semester. And then I went to Chile and lasers seemed like something they could actually make because you just need a glass blower. And that's not so hard. So I got a project started there, and became a world-renowned laser expert overnight according to their newspaper. Yes, they told me that everything is relative.

Hochheiser:

Well it was quite a new field.

Early Interest in Josephson Junctions and Circuits

Van Duzer:

So I had to decide what to do when I came back to Berkeley after being in Chile and working on lasers: whether I want to join John in the laser area or do something else. But then Brian Josephson discovered his Josephson effects.

Hochheiser:

Right in '62.

Van Duzer:

Then John Rowell actually demonstrated it in 1964. People started talking about it, quantum interference, and all that. And that sounded exciting. So I decided that's it. And started on that direction.

Hochheiser:

Well I guess that proved to be a good choice because it's basically where you have been working

Van Duzer:

Fifty years later.

Hochheiser:

Fifty years later, exactly.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So you decided that Josephson junctions and superconductivity was where you wanted to be.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So then what did you do in the 1960s with this?

Van Duzer:

Well I actually started with a different aspect where magnetic flux goes through a thin film and can move through the film if you apply a current to drive it. I was trying to study that aspect, not specifically Josephson junctions, for another couple of years and then I started some students working on junctions. One was using a semi-conductor barrier instead of an oxide barrier so that's a different kind of junction. So the first work that we did was really device work. But then later we drifted into circuits.

Hochheiser:

And what led to the drift into circuits?

Van Duzer:

Well that's where the action is. When it becomes important is when you make circuits with it.

Hochheiser:

Were you in these years, looking towards any applications or is that something that you came to much later?

Van Duzer:

Not much later, but a little later. IBM had a big project on the superconductor computers which started in 1967. I started connecting in with IBM just visiting them and understanding what they were doing. And so then we started doing some digital circuits, a variety of simple circuits and then that grew into more complex circuits.

Hochheiser:

But then eventually IBM--

Van Duzer:

Disastrously--

Hochheiser:

Decided to go in a different direction should we say?

Van Duzer:

Yes, right. We were heavily into digital things. We had started the US workshop, focused on that subject. And so our group was heavily involved with that and also doing our own digital circuits. And then at our meeting of the US workshop in 1983 came the announcement that they were dropping out, IBM. But by then I had been in contact with Japanese people, who had started their own project, a ten year project they started a couple of years before IBM dropped and they decided not to drop and so that was a good boost for my activities. A few other US companies continued.

Hochheiser:

Who were the people in Japan that you were working with then?

Van Duzer:

It was the group at Fujitsu mainly. Hasuo was there at the beginning.

Hochheiser:

So then you continued working with them?

Van Duzer:

Not actually working with them but interchanging information.

Hochheiser:

I'm trying to understand the relationship between your lab at Berkeley and the lab at Fujitsu.

Van Duzer:

Yes it was just information exchanged. And we started a US Japan workshop. So we met every other year. Once there, once in the US.

Hochheiser:

So this would be in the 1970s?

Van Duzer:

Right.

Hochheiser:

Textbook on Superconducting Devices and Circuits

I know another activity was you began working on a textbook on superconducting devices and circuits.

Van Duzer:

Right.

Hochheiser:

What led you to undertake this?

Van Duzer:

Well, we decided we had to teach some students about superconductivity. I had a visitor from England who was there in Berkeley for three years.

Hochheiser:

Named?

Van Duzer:

Charles Turner. And so we started. We didn't know anything at all about superconductivity. And we started teaching students in a seminar at first.

Hochheiser:

And this would have been graduate level PhD students?

Van Duzer:

Yes. And we tried to teach them some second quantization which seemed to be important till we found out it wasn't important. So we went on to figure out what was really important and then after a couple of years of that, we decided it might become a textbook and so we start moving in that direction. He went back to England but we continued communications on the book. The date of the first textbook was 1981.

Hochheiser:

Yes it looks like took quite a number of years from when you started.

Van Duzer:

Yes. These textbook jobs can be ten-year jobs.

Hochheiser:

Doesn’t that cause problems with a moving target because the field keeps--

Van Duzer:

No we were trying to teach basic enough material so it was not going to change.

Hochheiser:

It was basic enough that that wasn't a problem?

Van Duzer:

Right.

Hochheiser:

I see. And then did the book come into good use as a text?

Van Duzer:

It came into use. It never has been anything comparable to Fields and Waves.

Hochheiser:

Well I guess it's a more specialized topic.

Van Duzer:

Right. And there aren't many people teaching courses in it. So it took until one or two years ago for me to pay back the advance. I never got any royalties 'til then and then it was $85, I think.

Hochheiser:

As opposed to your earlier textbook with Whinnery which was a much more basic text.

Van Duzer:

Yes. And much better royalties.

On the First ASC

Hochheiser:

Do you recall when you first attended one of these ASC's?

Van Duzer:

It was Knoxville in 1982.

Hochheiser:

Did you give a paper at that meeting?

Van Duzer:

Yes I think so.

Hochheiser:

Do you have any impressions of what the ASC was like in back in those days?

Van Duzer:

Oh, you know, I felt really out of it because I didn't know anybody. It was in a strange environment with strange people and also unlike today when I know a lot of people.

Hochheiser:

Well what meetings had you been attending earlier than that?

Van Duzer:

I guess there were one-off meetings, like maybe a meeting that some government agency had set up on microwave properties or something like that.

Hochheiser:

And meanwhile, you're continuing to work on these superconducting devices and circuits.

Van Duzer:

Right, circuits. Not much on devices.

Hochheiser:

You’ve almost completely moved over to circuits by this time.

Van Duzer:

Yes, we had developed a semiconductor barrier junction which was novel, I think novel enough to get me an IEEE fellow position.

Hochheiser:

Are you talking now about hybrid junctions?

Van Duzer:

No well it's just the layer. Instead of an insulator between the two superconductors, there was a semiconductor.

Hochheiser:

And what did that do?

Van Duzer:

Not too much actually. But it was thicker. So maybe it was a little easier to control the thickness and critical current. But it never really became a useful technology.

Hochheiser:

And I take it that after Knoxville, you started attending the ASC's regularly?

Van Duzer:

Yes, I think so.

Hochheiser:

Yeah. And then I assume gradually you got to know more people.

Van Duzer:

Right.

Hochheiser:

How did you come to become a member of the ASC board by around 1981?

Van Duzer:

You know, that was interesting. I didn't even remember that I was until I looked back at some papers and saw I was there at the signing of their incorporation.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

I don't know, I probably had the only university engineering research group. Somebody invited me to it, I guess. But I don't remember.

Hochheiser:

Now do you have recollections of what you did as a member of the board for the conference?

Van Duzer:

No. No. I don’t. Sorry.

Hochheiser:

Well that's quite all right.

Creation of the US Workshop

Van Duzer:

I focused more on the US workshop.

Hochheiser:

And so what was the US workshop then?

Van Duzer:

Okay. The ASC meets every other year.

Hochheiser:

Correct.

Van Duzer:

And so some of us out there thought there ought to be something in the alternate years.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

Richard Harris was at NIST or it was NBS at that time. I approached some people and we all agreed that we should start a workshop. I was the chair of the first workshop in 1979.

Van Duzer:

Okay. All right.

Hochheiser:

So then did this workshop then meet regularly in the alternating years?

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

And does it continue?

Van Duzer:

Oh yes, I was at the board meeting today at noon.

Hochheiser:

What is the size of the workshop as opposed to the size of the ASC?

Van Duzer:

Oh the ASC now is like 1,500. And the workshop is fifty persons on purpose. We had restricted membership. In fact, on our working board, we had a Doctor No so people who wanted to come to the workshop though they were beyond the capacity, he told them no. And it was heavily affected by IBM because their project was in full speed at that time. And so we had a lot of IBM papers and participants and a bunch of others. And I took my students to it. That was good for the students. So anyway, that workshop has been very successful. And has continued.

Hochheiser:

I gather the workshop not only is much smaller but is much more narrowly focused on just--

Van Duzer:

It's just electronics.

Hochheiser:

Right. As opposed to the variety of different tracks at ASC.

Van Duzer:

Right, power, magnets, and a lot of stuff and a lot of materials. We didn't focus much on materials because we were just trying to make circuits.

Work on Hybrid Memory and Other Circuits

Hochheiser:

As part of your circuit work, did you get involved in fabrication?

Van Duzer:

Oh yes. We actually set up a fabrication line and made our own integrated circuits, niobium integrated circuits. So that was good. We were doing well. But then our support level went down enough that we couldn’t really support a person full time on the process.

Hochheiser:

It was a matter of what grants and funding you were getting?

Van Duzer:

Yes. There wasn't enough money on the grants to support full time the man that we had.

Hochheiser:

So did that cause you to stop working on fabrication or just--

Van Duzer:

Yes. We stopped making our own circuits.

Hochheiser:

About when was this?

Van Duzer:

Let's see. I think it's about 1983 or so, about when IBM was dropping their project. During the 1980s anyway.

Hochheiser:

That's good enough.

Van Duzer:

OK.

Hochheiser:

And you were working on a variety of different sorts of circuits. Were you not?

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

So was one type AD converters?

Van Duzer:

That was one of our main projects.

Hochheiser:

And can you tell me a little bit about that?

Van Duzer:

We had our own design for flash type A to D, which is where you take one set of bits at each time point. You know, I think two or three of my students were working on various aspects of that. And it worked and we published the results.

Hochheiser:

In the 1980s were you also working on superconducting memory circuits?

Van Duzer:

We did a little bit of work on individual memory cells. Not any memory arrays. Not until much later did we make memory arrays.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

A young student, Uttam Ghoshal joined our group in 1990. He came from a computer research company (MCC). Harry Kroger worked there and he worked with Harry and they had the idea for hybrid memory, where you would use semiconductors for the memory array and then interface to the superconducting circuits. Superconducting signal levels are millivolts; semiconductor’s are volts. So there's a little incompatibility there that we had to solve. But the whole idea was take advantage of the highly developed semiconductor technology that exists, where they know how to make big memory arrays that work.

Hochheiser:

Right. What did you see as the advantages of doing a hybrid memory rather than just a semiconductor one?

Van Duzer:

Well you have to interface. You have to interface to millivolts. So if you want to send a message to the memory to get data, you send it from your processor which is all working at millivolt level.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

And then you send a millivolt signal there and if you don't have the right interface circuit, it isn't recognized by a volt level circuit. So you had to have amplification at the input to the semiconductor memory array. And not just amplification but fast amplification. And it has to be done very quickly or it's not useful. Coming out of the memory, it is much easier to go from volt to millivolt.

Hochheiser:

What were the advantages of including superconducting devices as part of the overall memory array?

Van Duzer:

We had to do the amplification. So you get a millivolt signal coming in. You have to somehow get that up to high enough level to go into the semiconductor circuits. So what we did was to have first a superconductor amplifier that got it up to 40 millivolts. And then 40 millivolts was enough to get into a semiconductor amplifier which got us up to a volt level. So it's a two stage input amplifier.

Creation of the Transactions on Applied Superconductivity

Hochheiser:

To switch topics a bit, what do you recall about how the Transactions on Applied Superconductivity came into being?

Van Duzer:

In 1989 I was asked to head a committee for the IEEE on superconductivity. They had collected a group of people to be on that committee. I led the committee. Then we decided to start a Transactions and there was jumping through IEEE hoops, to do that.

Hochheiser:

And was it difficult to navigate all those hoops?

Van Duzer:

Well difficult I guess but possible even with my ignorance about IEEE politics. We managed to do it. So we got permission to start it and in 1991, March 1991, we had the first issue. And we were able to attract a paper from Professor Likharev, and his colleague, a very big paper in our first issue. So that was good.

Hochheiser:

How did you go from being the chair of the committee to being the first editor in chief of the transactions?

Van Duzer:

I don't know. I suppose somebody asked me. I don't know whether I volunteered or they asked.

Hochheiser:

How did you find being the editor in chief of the journal? Did it take a lot of your time?

Van Duzer:

Well I didn't call it editor in chief at that time.

Hochheiser:

Okay, just editor?

Van Duzer:

Yes. It was just editor because I did almost all the work. I reviewed all the papers that came in and selected papers and so on. I had some help in reviewing. Then we started getting a committee of editors but at first I did all the editorial work. And that was it, it was fine. I don't remember when we started having an active board of editors. But I think at least a year anyway

Hochheiser:

So as the journal evolved, there were more people involved in editing than just you?

Van Duzer:

Yes, and I only stayed at it for three years. In fact, that, it’s written into our bylaws I think that the editor position is two years.

Hochheiser:

Were you also on the superconductivity committee as editor?

Van Duzer:

No, the committee was first.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

And then it stayed as a committee. I was the chair of the committee.

Hochheiser:

You were the chair of the superconductivity committee?

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Okay. I didn't have the chronology quite straight in my mind.

Van Duzer:

It was still a committee when I quit being the editor. Maybe I wasn't still the chair of the committee.

Hochheiser:

But you were still a member of the committee?

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Transitioning from Committee to Council

Hochheiser:

Did you play a role in the transition of the committee to being a council in the late 1990s?

Van Duzer:

No actually, Moises Levy did that.

Hochheiser:

He is another person I've interviewed. But sometimes more than one person is involved so it's useful to ask.

Van Duzer:

Oh I was probably somehow involved. But he handled the whole thing. And he's good at IEEE politics.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

It really doesn't interest me very much, the politics part of it, and so I was glad he did it. He also started expanding the activities of the Transactions and turning the committee into a council on superconductivity which it is now still. That was a big transition.

Hochheiser:

How did things change as a result of that transition?

Van Duzer:

Gradually it started involving more and more activities--got somebody working on standards and got committees on this and committees on that and established a distinguished lecturer, so now it's very complex with all sorts of good things they're doing which I probably wouldn’t have done if I had stayed in power.

On the Discovery of High Temperature Superconductivity

Hochheiser:

Backing up in time a bit, back into the '80's, do you recall your reaction when you learned about the discovery of high temperature superconductivity?

Van Duzer:

I was a little careful about it; I forget what all my considerations were, but even at the Woodstock of superconductivity in spring of 1987. I gave a cautionary paper about it. I'm not sure I remember what all my issues were. But it turned out, that it was somewhat prescient because, people really wanted to use these at high temperatures. And at high temperatures, the electronic noise is larger and we only have millivolt signals. The competition between the noise and the signals get worse. We later conducted studies in my group to show that you can't use them above about 40 degrees with the single flux quantum circuits which we were working on.

Hochheiser:

Sure.

Van Duzer:

They were really eager to use a 65-Kelvin refrigerator because the Navy had a good one. And then what really happened was that nobody was able to make good junctions. They made junctions but couldn’t control them. The problem is the materials are too complicated. Nobody has ever made tunnel junctions. There were junctions where you'd have a crack or something. And that crack would serve as the barrier. Nobody really ever made any more than half a dozen- junction or ten-junction circuits; something like that. People would advertise the spread that they had controlled, the spread of characteristics. But they'd measured it a 4 Kelvin; but where you want to use it, it was much worse. It went on and maybe still going on somewhere but people have not been able to make good junctions. And that's the heart of superconductor electronics.

Hochheiser:

So despite much effort over the years, it's the more traditional low temperature superconductors…

Van Duzer:

That’s what’s being used. So it's unfortunate but, you can't always have what you want.

Hochheiser:

I assume that some of this work was being done in your lab by your students?

Van Duzer:

Yes, but not much.

On Conductus Incorporated

Hochheiser:

What was Conductus Incorporated?

Van Duzer:

Venture capitalists saw this big jump in transition temperature and thought there's got to be money to be made there. So they hired a group of us, three of us from Berkeley and three or four from Stanford, to form a scientific advisory board. And we had a lot of fun meeting with the venture capitalists trying to figure out how to make money on superconductivity. It pretty much boiled down to using them for microwave properties. Thin films of high temperature super conductors still at 65 Kelvin, which was convenient temperature, had good microwave properties. There are no junctions involved, just the low surface resistance of the material. Conductus was making microwave receivers with superconducting filters. STI was doing the same thing in Santa Barbara. And they had a better management or something and Conductus folded and was absorbed by STI.

Hochheiser:

That is interesting. Here is an area where the high temperature superconductors were useful.

Van Duzer:

Yes and then for power lines and things like that.

Hochheiser:

But not for the kind of devices that were the focus of your research.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Teaching and Research after Official Retirement

Hochheiser:

I notice from your CV that 1992 your title became professor in the graduate school?

Van Duzer:

Right.

Hochheiser:

I have no idea what that means. Could you enlighten me?

Van Duzer:

Well I retired. Then I had the opportunity to have that title. If you look at the first letters, you'll see that it's PIGS. I think they have changed the acronym a little since then. But if you're still teaching and retired, then instead of being an emeritus professor, you can be a professor in the graduate school. So as long as I had students, I had that title. As of a few years ago, I graduated my last student and I became an emeritus.

Hochheiser:

So how did being professor in the graduate school and officially retired, affect your work?

Van Duzer:

Not at all.

Hochheiser:

That was my impression. That's why I didn't know what it meant

Van Duzer:

It's just a title. I think the University wanted to encourage senior faculty to continue to contribute their talents.

Hochheiser:

So you can continue to do your research and continue to have graduate students.

Van Duzer:

Yes. Actually there are some university rules that somehow I haven't completely obeyed. I mean, I did at first. My understanding was that as a retired professor, I had to have a non-retired professor on the grant with me. Each grant. And the first grant I got was a very large one, right at the time I became retired. It was six million dollars. Anyway for us, that was very large.

Hochheiser:

Where was the grant from?

Van Duzer:

It was the headquarters of DOD. I got a couple of my colleagues to sign on with me. They never did anything on it but they were on the grant. And we had that grant for five years. I think we stretched it a year, six years.

Hochheiser:

What, what research did that grant cover?

Van Duzer:

It was all digital stuff. And then I had to hunt up other support and I somehow just didn't bother trying to bother any of my colleagues to sign on and it worked. So I just kept doing it for the next fifteen years.

Awards and Recognition

Hochheiser:

And I guess another thing that happened right around that time in 1993, you became an IEEE fellow.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

What did that recognize?

Van Duzer:

It was for the semiconductor barrier junctions.

Hochheiser:

And that soon followed by your becoming being elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Van Duzer:

Right. And I forget what the designation was for that.

Hochheiser:

Are those meaningful except as an honor? Or are they meaningful because they're an honor?

Van Duzer:

Yes, it's nice to put them on your papers but you don't get anything for it.

Hochheiser:

Were you working on the hybrid memory devices during this period?

Van Duzer:

Yes we started that in 1980.

Hochheiser:

Right and were you still working on it in the 1990s?

Van Duzer:

Yes, till my retirement. My final retirement. In fact it was in the last two years of my retirement period that a number of things converged. One of my former students became a director at TSMC.

Van Duzer:

Sang Dhong. And he was able to get us free runs in 65-nanometer technology which was much better than we had.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Van Duzer:

And at the same time Thomas Ortlepp came to join our group for a couple of years. And he was dedicated and excellent experimentalist. He loved doing experimental work, which was always a weakness in my group because of me. We had that and we had Steve Whiteley who's a computer program expert and has his own company and has worked with us for twenty years. So we had that expertise and one of my former students, Lizhen Zheng , the division of her company closed down. And so she joined us. And then through Sang Dhong another guy who's a memory designer at one of the major companies, with fifteen years of experience in designing memories came on, and worked with us. So we had a real professional team. Students are nice but they, you know, they make mistakes, they don't have knowledge of the things that you can do. Anyway, with this team we were able to make and demonstrate a successful memory with good numbers, good characteristics .Best characteristics of any memory for 4 Kelvin. And that was what I ended up my career with. And it was satisfying.

Hochheiser:

Now have these devices had any applications outside of the lab to date?

On the C3 Computer Project

Van Duzer:

There's a new computer project now called C3. It is similar to other computer projects where they try to demonstrate that you can have a processor working at high speed and you can have a memory and the processor can access data from the memory and that's the basis for a computer. So the purpose of these projects was to show that. Previous projects, well one that NSA was trying to get established about ten years ago, they couldn’t get enough money for it and it didn't happen. So this one is another effort. There was also a previous one before to do the same thing.

Hochheiser:

Are these all through the NSA?

Van Duzer:

The last one is through IARPA.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

So that's the idea. So you have to have a memory and you have to have a processor. So people that were doing the processor said we're doing real well but, there is no memory. And so now we have a memory and we find out there's no processor. So what C3 is trying to do is develop both of those simultaneously. And they didn't like our memory because they know what our numbers are and they're not what they're hoping to get.

Hochheiser:

So were these processors that now the C3 people don't like, ones that came out of your group?

Van Duzer:

No. No we didn't try to make a processor. There are no complete processors; this is one of the C3 goals.

Hochheiser:

So were there particular groups that work on the processor side?

Van Duzer:

Oh there's one at SUNY, in fact Dorojevets is his name.

Hochheiser:

Okay. And which SUNY campus is that?

Van Duzer:

It's Stony Brook. He's made a processor. I don't know anything about how it functions or anything. All the other people Hypres and Northrop Grumman and everybody are working on circuits for a processor. Also, some groups are working on ideas for memories, including Northrop Grumman. So in C3, there are supposed to be parallel tracks, a processor track, a memory track, and then bring them together at the end.

Retirement

Hochheiser:

So now that you finally really retired, the work continues?

Van Duzer:

The work is continuing in spite of me not being there.

Hochheiser:

One of the things I found amazing at looking at your career is how you didn't really retire.

Van Duzer:

Well I did finally because I ran out of money and, and it's kind of sensible at my age to retire anyway.

Hochheiser:

As you certainly know, most people retire long before your age.

Van Duzer:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

What led you to keep going for many years?

Van Duzer:

It was fun. I like to work. I was brought up as a child working and, never, never got into sports or music or anything. So I just work.

Hochheiser:

So what are you doing now?

Van Duzer:

I am actually closing down my lab, closing down my office, and closing down our house because we're building a house in Eureka. It's a big job.

Hochheiser:

I'm sure it is. Looking back over your long career, is there a way you would characterize your career and the arc of your work as a whole?

Van Duzer:

I was probably focused mainly on the digital side of superconductor electronics.

Hochheiser:

Were you instrumental in the establishment of the paper prize here that bears your name?

Van Duzer:

I understand the story was, John Przybysz and some of his colleagues were driving along in a car and somebody said, you know, we should probably have a prize paper. And someone said what would we call it? He said well how about Van Duzer prize because he was the first editor. That was it. I am afraid it sounds a little like something I pay for.

Hochheiser:

Actually what it sounds like is quite an honor.

Van Duzer:

Yes, that I did something honorable. But anyway, it's nice to have my name in there.

Reflections

Hochheiser:

How do you think the field of superconducting devices has evolved over your many decades of involvement with it?

Van Duzer:

Well it's always hitting head-to-head with semiconductors. We think we're doing something great and somebody does something better with semiconductors and they have fabrication advantage.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Van Duzer:

Because the way it all started with transistors was--they started making a few, putting them in pocket radios, selling a gazillion pocket radios, getting a lot of profit, putting the profit back into research and on and on. Like that. So they always had a funding base for their research and development. We never had that because you have to have a 4 Kelvin refrigerator. So it's hard to build a mass market.

Hochheiser:

Yes, it would be hard to imagine a smart phone with a 4 Kelvin refrigerator.

Van Duzer:

Right. Yes that's the problem. So we've depended on government funding for the field to develop.

Hochheiser:

Are there areas that have or have not lived up to your expectations for them?

Van Duzer:

As I said before, my expectations were not so high for high Tc.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Van Duzer:

At that time the newspapers were touting the advances in computers with high Tc and all that. But I think I always had hopes that that the computer thing would develop with low Tc and it hasn't yet. So maybe that's what you're asking.

Hochheiser:

What do you see as the challenges lying ahead?

Van Duzer:

I think the competition with semiconductors is the main problem. We can always do things better. But can we do them enough better to get a niche where they can be used? The big prize would be to make commercial computers. And that's what we have been working on for decades now. It’s a big computer. So you need a lot of money. And the NSA group was trying to get 400 million dollars for a project that we had kind of designed and they couldn’t obtain that kind of money.

Hochheiser:

Right.

Van Duzer:

I guess Marc Manheimer has less money than that, but enough to have a project that may succeed. It's looking good. The fabrication process at Lincoln Labs is apparently looking very good. I wasn't expecting it to look so good so quick, but it is. And Northrop Grumman has a big team now working on C3. Unfortunately, I think there were some smaller groups that could have provided expertise that didn't get included in the C3 project. There is not a lot of expertise lying around. You need people who know how to design, not at the lowest level, but with some wisdom, know how to design SFQ circuits, single flux quantum circuits. And I saw that a headhunter is looking vigorously for quite a large number, but I don't know where they are. People do some SFQ design research and then they lose their job or the contract runs out or something and they go into the semiconductor field. Once they have made that transition, it's pretty hard to get them back.

Hochheiser:

Is there anything you would like to add that I didn't think to ask you about?

Van Duzer:

Oh yes! I would add that the support of my family and my wife particularly for me keeping my nose to the grindstone all these years is very much appreciated. And my kids have been supportive with their love and tolerance even of my failed electric car project.

Hochheiser:

Okay. Well in that case we're done.

Van Duzer:

Okay. Thank you.