By Sue Major Holmes

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sandia technologist honored with national award from American Vacuum Society

THIN FILM AWARD — Sandia technologist Michael Lopez received the Thin Film Division Distinguished Technologist Award in 2016 from the American Vacuum Society. Lopez poses in a Sandia clean room with the latest generation of the type of machines he started working with at Sandia two decades ago. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

The American Vacuum Society (AVS) has recognized Sandia technologist Mike F. Lopez with its Thin Film Division Distinguished Technologist Award for his exceptional technical support of thin film research and development.

The society’s Thin Film Division presented the award to Mike (2723) in November at the society’s International Symposium & Exhibition in Nashville, Tennessee. The inaugural Distinguished Technologist Award in 2015 also went to a Sandia technologist, Catherine Sobczak.

Mike says he was shocked, surprised, “and, of course, very excited” when he received a phone call telling him he’d been chosen for the national award.

He says he believes he was recognized because of his longevity, more than 25 years, in the field of thin film and vacuum technology rather than for a specific achievement. “I’ve seen the technology evolve, I’ve seen the advancements, and I’ve helped in many aspects of thin film technology over the years,” he says.

Mike’s work largely involves physical vapor deposition, also known as PVD coating, a variety of thin film deposition in which solid metal is vaporized in a high-vacuum environment and deposited on electrically conductive materials as a pure metal or alloy coating. The process transfers the coating material on a single atom or molecule level, providing extremely pure and high-performance coatings, which is preferable to electroplating for many applications.

Mike praised Sandia for encouraging staff members to participate in professional societies and for fostering interactions with colleagues both inside and outside the Labs.

More than willing to share expertise

David Goy (2723), who nominated Mike for the award, says Mike is more than willing to share his expertise with others.

“He’s helped our production operators, other technologists, and engineers learn about thin film, residual gas analysis, vacuum technology, and leak detection, using a very hands-on approach,” David says. “Mike is a leader in our center,” Sandia’s Neutron Generation Enterprise Center 2700.

Mike joined Sandia in 1994 and was promoted to distinguished technologist 10 years later. He has been a major contributor in the design, layout, fabrication, installation, and check-out of high-vacuum equipment used to manufacture neutron tubes and switch tubes for generators.

He holds an associate’s degree from Central New Mexico Community College and is co-author or contributing author on several Sandia papers. In addition, earlier this year he helped develop an American Vacuum Society short course called “Working with Tritium.”

The New Mexico Chapter of AVS created and endowed the national award to honor its founders and their contributions.