IPM RAS / About / History / S. V. Gaponov article

My story of the IPM RAS foundation

Director Z. F. Krasilnik suggested I write a history of the IPM RAS foundation for the institute official website. By that time I had already read the story offered by one of our colleagues and it seemed too biased to me. I wanted to give a true account of how it happened, but failed. In the new year 2012 I had a break in my work, and the director turned to me with the request again. Thinking it over, I remembered that even the Gospel adopted by Christian church comes in four versions, which implies that eyewitnesses cannot be objective. It was agreed that I would tell this story the way I see it and put my signature under it. All those willing were invited to follow suit.

As befits an evangelist, first a few words about myself.

I grew up in a professor’s family, with an elder brother — a brilliant scientist and a person of immaculate conduct and exemplary biography. I could not afford to follow my elders' example for reasons of self-assertion, so what remained for me in terms of behavior was exactly the opposite.

Now that I have reached a certain success and educational institutions do not mind, as it seems, entering my name in some honorary list, it proved impossible. I was expelled from school and my higher education took 11 years.

After the XX congress of the USSR communist party I quit the institute in my second year, driven by good intentions, but the society did not need me. Serving it in the army was not in my plans. As ever, I was supported by my parents. They arranged for me to work in a top secret institution engaged in producing radio controlled fuses for missiles.

I worked in the antenna group. Antennas, naturally, are installed at the tip of a missile head section and the charge unit is in the mid-body section, after the control system. It was necessary to check the connections at all stages of the assembly and before launching. Therefore, over the years spent in that institute (1957 — 1960) I came to know practically every design bureau and some of the missile launch sites.

A life’s lesson I derived from those years is that one must do one’s best to set it flying, and if something goes wrong it should not be through your fault. I remember the favorite saying of my first supervisor, Vyacheslav Pavlovich Kuryatchii: «There are no miracles in the world, there is a bad contact'. My experience proves it to be true.

I was not an angel at the time, and frequent business trips did not contribute to impeccable behavior.

Now for the matters of a direct concern to the Institute organization, since to have it established I was to know many influential people in the Academy and they were supposed to know about us and our work.

I started work at P. O. box 134, currently the «Salute\\' research and production company, with the laser department led by Yakov Izrailevich Khanin, in 1964. In line with the practice of those years I was to defend my diploma project in a year. It was a time of high expectations in the laser field (and the expectations were met), and the laser community was closed and closely knit.

The topic of my diploma work was a double-frequency Q-switched pulse repetition rate Nd3+ glass laser for underwater vision and location. The research in this area was carried out in NIRFI, «Salute\\' and the «Polyus\\' institute then headed by M. F. Stelmakh, now named after him. My first device with the power supply, cooling and synchronization units I made entirely on my own, afterwards there were designers and pilot productions involved. We came ahead of the allied enterprises, and the expedition of 1966 if my memory serves me right, was equipped with our laser. I have since inferred that a problem should be viewed and solved as a whole.

I was broadly uneducated at the time and many years were spent on finding out how science differs from nonscience. I can’t say I was facing my challenges all by myself. Andrey Viktorovich Gaponov-Grekhov repeatedly helped me in solving problems I was unable to cope with, and in writing of articles and theses I was advised by unsurpassed master of style, Yakov Izrailevich Khanin.

The attempt to break through in the field of underwater location was not unproductive. My initial idea that backscattering of laser light from suspended particles in water can be minimized only in a pulsed mode was wrong. The limiting range is determined only by the number of photons or by mean power. And this proved to be true for all technological problems we addressed in the following years. Of course, given proper space-time organization of photons. This problem was considered in my Ph. D. thesis «Methods of laser radiation control'.

I must tell about one more prominent personality who had influenced our work. It is Vladimir Zinovievich Vysotsky. Bike race cyclists have a slang term, «breakaway\\', i. e., when one rider pulls ahead of the peloton to take the lead, whereas the bunch can move much faster given a constant change of lead riders. We have adopted this «breakaway\\' attitude from him. It was V. Z. Vysotsky, a mechanical engineer, who created the first laser lithography facility displayed at the Osaka World Exposition of 1970. Later, under his lead and with our major involvement ten more lithography systems were developed and supplied to various institutes. And now we buy this equipment from Germany and are happy.

Through our work on laser manipulation and radiation-matter interaction we came to know remarkable scientists I would like to mention here, but since our story is about the foundation of an Academy’s institute, I will name only those who had the influence to help it happen, i. e., the Academy members. In the first place, it is Alexander Mikhailovich Prokhorov. I got so close to him that from that time until his death I felt it to be my duty to regularly inform him (at seminars and in person) of our affairs. Academician Fedor Vasilievich Bunkin, corresponding member Nikolai Vasilievich Karlov and their IOFAN (General Physics Institute RAS) entourage. Corresponding member of RAS Alexey Mikhailovich Bonch-Bruevich and his department in GOI (State Optical Institute). With time the IOFAN and GOI had become places where I felt at home when visiting. Corresponding member of RAS Sergey Ivanovich Anisimov (Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics RAS), initiator of the research studies on radiation-matter interaction.

Since we then worked at the institute of the Ministry of electronic industry, it would have been natural to use lasers towards manufacturing of electronic devices, semiconductor structures, device components or microchips. An active research trend at the time was laser annealing and recrystallization of semiconductor structures after ion implantation. The research studies in this area were awarded the State Prize, and one awardee, Ildus Bariyevich Khaibullin of Kazan Physical-Technical Institute, was elected a corresponding member of the Academy for our division. But to me laser shooting at semiconductor structures seemed as absurd as cleaning porcelain with a sledgehammer. After I had tried it myself.

And then we embarked on a new stage in our activities: fabrication of films from materials of laser erosion of targets.

It is generally accepted now that the success attained on this way is due to the equilibrium methods that provide for a high structural perfection of grown films, the laser method just being an aid. The view is shared by our colleagues who have had quite a few successful results in laser deposition. I am of a different opinion. This is life. Some could not afford to fix on a method, it was necessary to move on. Others moved farther still — out of science and the country. I think that the method involving high growth rates and oversaturation will find its niche yet.

The key figure in the studies of grown structures was Nikolai Nikolayevich Salashchenko, while I was more involved in the investigation of laser plasma and its interaction with the growth surface. Our major achievements of that period include fabrication of superfine semiconductor films, novel heterostructures and superlattices, the technologies for epitaxial growth through ultra-thin amorphous layers, removal and deposition of films on alternative substrates. It was the time of our collaboration with academician Leonid Veniaminovich Keldysh, academician Zhores Ivanovich Alferov made regular appearances at our seminars. We had such a dense flow of results coming in that once in two or three weeks I used to fly to Leningrad with presentations at Zh. I. Alferov’s seminar in FizTekh and at another one held by A. M. Bonch-Bruevich at GOI. At that very time we were invited by Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg to his theoretical department seminar. They raised the issue of whether we would be able to make an artificially layered superconductor he was dreaming about. We were not. About the same time we received an invitation from academician Andrey Stanislavovich Borovik-Romanov to give a talk at the seminar of the Institute for Physical Problems of the Academy of Science.

In those days Yevgeny Borisovich Kluyenkov was engaged in sputtering of laser-induced plasma into ambient medium, primarily oxygen, to obtain films of simple and complex oxides. This experience enabled us afterwards to succeed in high-rate growth of films of high temperature complex oxide superconductors as cuprates.

Our next activity that attracted the attention of people who finally determined our status was multilayer x-ray optics research. This work began with the fundamental article of А. V. Vinogradov and B. Ya. Zeldovich. In the vacuum UV and soft x-ray regions all materials are strong or moderate absorbers. It was shown in the article that by setting an optimal thickness ratio of layers in pairs of materials with different absorptivity one can make the reflection coefficient largely nonzero. Our reputation of being masters of thin film fabrication did the job, and at some conference Boris Yakovlevich came up to me (to our group) and suggested we have a go at it. At that time, like S. M. Budenny with his saber, we used to do everything with a laser. N. N. Salashchenko took charge of the measurement work both in Gorky (the hard x-ray range) and in Novosibirsk (synchrotron-based measurements).

Here I should note a crucial role of Valery Markovich Genkin in the establishment of our Institute, first as the leader of a theoretical group and then as head of laboratory. Even today not all is understood about what underlies violation of structural perfection, and back then everything was unclear. It is such a pity we now don’t have a person like that, nor a theoretical lab. Through our multilayer optics activities we won the friendship of many loyal and influential people. These are, primarily, scientists from the Academy’s Space Research Institute: academician Roald Zinnurovich Sagdeev, Rashid Alievich Sunyaev, Albert Аbubakirovich Galeev, and also director of a department with FIAN (the Lebedev Physical Institute), corresponding member of RAS Igor Ilyich Sobelman. We still are involved in collaboration with this department for studies of x-ray radiation from the Sun.

About that time and for the same reason we started collaborating with the Novosibirsk scientists: academician Alexander Nikolaevich Skrinsky; then corresponding members and later academicians Sergey Nikolaevich Bagaev and Eduard Pavlovich Kruglyakov, and corresponding member Igor Georgiyevich Neizvestny.

Our research work in the field of multilayer x-ray optics was awarded the State Prize, the last one in the USSR, in 1991. The public hearing was held at the Academy of Science Institute of Crystallography. The discussion was conducted by academician Boris Konstantinovich Vainshtein, and academician Evgeny Borisovich Alexandrov presented our work, which afterwards turned helpful when the issue of the IPM opening was discussed.

And yet, this «glorious\\' story would not have led us anywhere, had it not been for the discovery of high temperature superconductivity.

Before I go on, I want to make a few remarks on what has been said already. Of course, we won the State Prize for the achievements in x-ray optics when we were still part of the Institute of Applied Physics, which had its effect, too. But science development programs then involved institutions regardless of their departmental affiliation, and we were admitted to the academic community long before we became an independent academic institute. Our friendship and scientific cooperation with the institutes and scientists of various departments continue to this day as mutually interesting and beneficial.

In 1986, before the superconductivity in cuprates was discovered, at our seminars we would discuss superconductivity experiments that did not fit in the traditional notions, and there were even some attempts made, as it seems to me, to perform them on the initiative of Valery Markovich Genkin who was interested in this problem. So, by the time of a research boom in this area we had been prepared both morally and experimentally owing to Ye. B. Kluenkov’s work for growth of films by laser sputtering of oxides and segnetoelectrics in oxygen environment.

Expectations were high for HTSC, both in our country and worldwide. A State committee was organized, with Prime Minister of the USSR Council of Ministers N. I. Ryzhkov as Chairman. The Committee included the members of Politburo, heads of ministries and departments, President of the USSR Academy of Science. The Council for Science on this Committee was represented by the leading academicians, Viktor Anatolievich Zayats was appointed Secretary for science. He then had a permanent pass to the Kremlin and has since retained a statesman’s perception of events, and our friendship.

In the summer of 1987 we worked strenuously to obtain YBCO epitaxial films with limiting current-carrying properties, while the majority were busy conferencing and exulting in the season’s hustle and bustle. To declare later that everything was all right in their affairs. We then did what now would be called a PR campaign, i. e., we sent out samples of films for research and device fabrication to those who had this way or other shown an interest in the problem.

In the autumn, when reporting to the government Committee, A. V. Gaponov-Grekhov asked for and was granted the building we are in now. Only, it formally was to house «Special Design and Technology Bureau (SKTB) with pilot production'. «Production\\' implied manufacturing of facilities for HTSC growth of films towards device fabrication. We felt euphoric.

A great many identified themselves then as superconductor scientists. Some indeed had been in the field all their life, others happened to be affiliated with the relevant institutes — it was the USSR-last big handout of money to the institutes for purchase of equipment. And although the HTSC story did not amount to much, it was a great time we remember with appreciation. For the first time the country opened up to the world, the conferences were attended by our scientists on a large scale and we became a close community through this participation. Secondly, huge money was spent on research equipment, which helped Russian science to survive the decades of devastation. I will just name the Academy’s people we came to know, from the reference book as of the time of IPM organization:

Academicians Alexey Alexeyevich Abrikosov, Kirill Sergeyevich Alexandrov, Alexander Fedorovich Andreev, Lev Petrovich Gor’kov, Alexander Mikhailovich Dykhne, Boris Petrovich Zakharchenya, Yuri Moiseyevich Kagan, Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, Gennady Andreevich Mesyats, Yuri Andreevich Osipyan, Yuri Dmitrievich Tretyakov, Igor Fomich Shchegolev.

Alexander Mikhailovich Dykhne visited us, I think, in 1989. In 1974 he reported a study in which he had shown that intergrain tension in percolated films may increase by orders of magnitude, but with us it was different: the higher the film quality, the narrower the transition between the normal and superconducting states. If he was disappointed, he made no sign of it. Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk was then President of the Academy of Sciences and supervisor of all major allocations of material goods. He was the one to finally authorize the resolution passed by the Bureau of the Department on IPM organization. Yuri Andreevich Osipyan headed the Council for Science that for years had allocated funds according to scientific achievements and claims. I attended its meetings on a regular basis and was Chair for some section.

Of the then corresponding members of the Academy let me mention only two truly dedicated superconductor scientists, Yuri Vasilievich Kopaev and Nikolai Alexeyevich Chernoplekov.

However, the issue of opening a new institute was not even raised at the time. In 1990, I obliged myself and the Department of physics and astronomy by being nominated for corresponding member, with just a Ph. D. in technical sciences. I thought everybody simply adored me. But elections is a special kind of game, all those involved pursue their own goals. The Gorky representation then had one electoral vote more than what the IPM has today. Anyway, I won in all of the three rounds, and one vote was lost.

In 1990 the USSR government paid the PARTEK company of Finland a complex delivery of the building and built-in technology facilities. In autumn the SKTB site-to-be was freed from corn crops, and we got down to pouring concrete on what is now a 24h parking lot, so that in the spring we would not have had to stack the construction stuff in mud. The building was to be transported by water.

The idea of opening an institute came in early 1993, when it was already clear that the building would be completed and someone would have to move in there.

We transferred to the IAP RAS in 1978 as a division in the engineering department headed by V. A. Flyagin and at once felt our position improve. We still were accomodated with the Chair of Electronics at NNSU, but the noble affiliation instantly told on the quality of students eager to study at our faculty. We formed a theoretical group of superhigh competence. The IAP then had a traineeship program that essentially embodied our responsibility before the young scientists. Trainee-researchers were led by Mikhail Adolfovich Miller and I supervised the trainee-engineer groups, and we used to attend each other’s meetings. It is common knowledge that the best way to learn about a supervisor is through their trainees, so in a few years my awareness about the IAP compared with that of many aborigines.

When the buildings on Ulyanova St. and Proviantskaya St. were ready, we moved in, and soon a new Department for Solid-State Physics was organized of which I became Director. At the same time I was appointed deputy-Director of IAP.

First contributor in the well-being of would-be Institute was N. N. Salashchenko. When the construction was being considered, the scope of problems also included acquisition of the equipment for the new premises. These issues in the State Committee for science and technology lay within the competence of Anna Mikhailovna Belova who took an instant dislike to me and forever fell for Nikolai Nikolayevich. They made lists of equipment, wrote justification letters for each budget item and submitted them to GOSPLAN (State Planning Committee) for confirmation. Today this noble establishment in Okhotny Ryad area houses brazen loudmouths. An office clerk with a document folder will never be able to understand an outcast with a big sack. We had survived the years of devastation largely because each department had a basement room stocked up with what N. N. Salashchenko managed to acquire. Deputy director for capital construction Valery Semenovich Sukhov and chief engineer Stanislav Alexeyevich Malofeyev had stocked up on necessary supplies from the institute construction site.

In the spring of 1993 it became clear that we (now the department) were bound to move: it was unthinkable to live 10 kilometers away from the administrative body. I hope it was Andrey Viktorovich whom I told about my plans in the first place, and only after that I discussed this prospect at the Bureau of the Department in the Academy. Andrey Viktorovich had always supported such a scenario. The members of the Bureau voiced an unanimous approval of our plans, too, only Boris Konstantinovich Vainshtein, on the point of naming the new institute, restrained my enthusiasm by suggesting a more discreet option: the Institute for Physics of Microstructures. So it was decided. The resolution of the Presidium was not long in coming. On 28 September 1993 the IPM RAS was authorized as a legal entity. I thought it unethical to recommend close people for the deputy positions and so the first Board of Directors included Deputies-Director Alexander Alexandrovich Andronov, Zakhary Fishelevich Krasilnik and Vladimir Ivanovich Shashkin, Vladimir Izyaslavovich Gavrilenko was appointed Secretary for Science. The post of Deputy-Director for General Affairs was offered to Alexey Ivanovich Kuzmichev, then a fairly new associate who was in a position to take on administrative and managerial duties.

Z. F. Krasilnik was the separation commission authority for our institute and it is much to his credit that we got hold of all our moving, rotating and cutting stuff. As far as I remember, we were neither deprived of, nor granted research equipment.

The next step was to build the Institute, scientific staff in the first place. The making of a scientist involves educational institutions, postgraduate schools, doctoral programs and dissertation councils. Z. F. Krasilnik had shown a brilliant performance as personnel manager. We have always been and remain good friends with the University, many of our colleagues used to teach there and even held Chair positions. However, it did not help us with recruiting, for the best students were lured by their course teachers already in their first years of study. To open a self-contained faculty like the High School for General and Applied Physics at IAP RAS was definitely something we could not afford. There was no alternative. A helpful idea came from Roman Grigorievich Strongin, then Rector of NNSU. He suggested we set up an interdisciplinary Chair (departments of physics and radiophysics) that would focus on the sciences relevant to our research areas, i. e., nanophysics and nanoelectronics. What was his motivation? To facilitate progress, or was it his vision of a future research-based university? Whatever…

At that moment in time only Zakhary Fishelevich, of all our colleagues, was able to grasp the significance of such a solution, and he gave himself totally to this work. The second-important project that required our primary attention was organization of a Dissertation Council. I hesitated, whereas Z. F. Krasilnik firmly stood his ground in favor of the Council. We see now that it was the right decision that helped us solve many problems.

We currently have three Academy members, about 20 holders of the Doctor of Science degree and 70 PhDs, and their average age is by far below the critical working age. The Institute holds «Nanophysics and Nanoelectronics' Annual Conference whose scope embraces all key research areas of interest to IPM RAS. With time this conference has gained recognition and is now listed among the most significant conferences on physical sciences in Russia. It offers one an opportunity to keep pace with the latest developments and achievements in one’s specific area of research and helps young scientists to find their way in science. In recent years our experimental base has been largely renewed, mainly owing to the successful policy conducted by Z. F. Krasilnik who managed to position ourselves as both the Academy and the University — always in time for where a handout is offered. Repairs are successfully implemented, the quality of our real property is improving. So is the personal (movable) property, by the way — one look out the window gives pretty convincing evidence.

And still… One may replicate a successful society, change the scale, and end up in absurdity. The first UK grant to Andre Geim was 500 thousand pounds but he, obviously for economy reasons, had his working lithography system fixed rather than buy a new one.

Another annoying thing is the Franko principle: «friends get everything, all others get it according to law', and by law we are eligible for 550.000 rubles support from the RFBR and 300-1000 thousand rubles from the Academy grant programs. Such a grant system is ruinous for research: today’s grant to cover yesterday’s achievements, tomorrow’s grant to cover current needs, and so the researcher remains stuck in one theme forever. That is why all our D. Sci. and PhD colleagues are attached to their autos. Everyone is busy, but it’s hard to say what with.

Now for the friends. All authoritarian systems need a miracle to ascribe poor economic management to. In other words, an alternative science is required. And when something is called for, it is sure to be there. Scientists look upon this reality depending on an individual’s degree of unscrupulousness and scarcity of means.

It seems that what we have built so far is correct. But there is this feeling, as A. T. Tvardovsky put it in his poem «Terkin na tom svete' («Terkin in the next world'): everything is pretty much like in this world, but there’s no relish, like when you take a puff and — just bitter taste and no smoke.

Sometimes now I regret having switched over to a purely administrative work for creating an optimal, European-model research institute. But epochs change and, hopefully, what we have accumulated will work yet.

S.V. Gaponov

P. S.

My version of the IPM history got reviews that I will try to comment on here. The criticisms concern 1 — the style of presentation, 2 — understatement of the favorable circumstances facilitating the institute organization, and 3 — lack of an optimistic scenario for the future.

1. I tell about our research activities with respect to certain time frames in which we got acquainted and established friendly relations with people who played a significant role in the organization of IPM. Of course, it was not quite so. The activities in those specified areas would generally be continued after, and professional relationships established before that period, and for other reasons, too. I attempted, as done in novels covering a long time span, to describe the events that took place simultaneously and sequentially. But apparently I lack the technique and talent, so the criticism of style is justified.

2. New institutes in the Soviet times were opened with an eye to a certain research problem, personality and promises given, and only then the construction and staff recruitment were launched. The IPM opening scenario was by far more successful. The building was almost completed. It had been designed and built in line with our requirements. At the time research institutes used to be accommodated in standard brick buildings: on one side there were rooms measuring 6 meters in depth, then came a 3-meter long corridor and rooms 9 meters in depth. To enable optical measurements, the larger-depth rooms were partitioned into the light and dark sections. In buildings designed for big institutes the total floor area was expanded through an increase in the height (number of storeys) and length of a building.

We got a completed two-storey building 38 meters in width, with the laboratory spaces that need no daylight placed on the inner side, in the center, and light rooms for employees' offices being on the outer side of the building. A 500 sq. m space was also provided for clean rooms. The building had a pile foundation, and in the basement we could make rooms with decoupled foundations to be used for vibration-senstive measurements. During the construction period we formed very efficient engineering groups led by Stanislav Alexeyevich Malofeyev. Highly-qualified engineers joined us after B. E. Nemtsov shut down the unfinished nuclear thermal power plant not far from our location.

The scope of research to be conducted at IPM included the areas I described in my story: physics of solid-state nanostructures, high-temperature superconductivity, soft x-ray optics.

The IAP Department for solid-state physics, apart from the persons already mentioned here included many well-known scientists: ex-Director of the NIFTI (then GIFTI) institute Yuri Anatolievich Romanov, an expert in semiconductor plasma, one of those who started the superlattice research in the USSR; Avenir Mikhailovich Belyantsev, initiator and supervisor of the IAP research activities in the field of semiconductor physics; Alexander Alexandrovich Andronov, Zakhary Fishelevich Krasilnik, Vladimir Izyaslavovich Gavrilenko and other developers of p-germanium lasers and masers — all in all, eight scientists — sharers of the USSR State Prize awarded for this work. So, initially as the new institute we had 14 State Prize winners. We should note the group of physicists involved in the magnetic phenomena research led by famous Gennady Markovich Genkin and give credit to the radio engineering department headed by Vladimir Ilyich Ostrovsky and Vladimir Leibovich Vax. It is them who helped us pull through the meager 90s by carrying out repairs and renewals of the equipment.

3. Now for the bright future. Everything can be improved, if we concern ourselves with things the importance of which we are sure of, rather than just work for pay. It is well known that the «priority areas» and «сritical technologies» were devised in ministry offices with the involvement of «pocket» scientists. Although lots seem to be awarded democratically on a competitive basis, they happen to fall in the hands of figures in the affiliated institutes close to the Ministry of Education and Science. Our experience proves that if you have confidence in the importance of your work, you can always find a way to go on with it, notwithstanding the challenges and underfinancing. In this respect a good service is done by international recognition and financial aid. At IPM we have positive examples of such an approach: the laboratory of Valery Nikolayevich Shastin and department headed by Nikolai Nikolayevich Salashchenko. I think, the situation is favorable currently for the research on superconductivity, magnetism and sources of tunable terahertz radiation.

I believe that if we cast aside our daily bread concerns, which are quite hard to ignore really, and set ourselves important and challenging goals, we have a worthy future ahead.

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