Gian Piero Felcher (MSD, retired) is the recipient of the 2012 Sustained Research Prize of the Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA) with the citation "For pioneering the development of neutron reflectometry and demonstrating its application to magnetic and polymer film systems."
The prize and $2500 honorarium will be awarded at the 2012 ACNS in Washington, DC, June 24-28, 2012 (http://www.mrs.org/acns-2012/).
Throughout his career Gian Felcher has been involved in developing neutron scattering instrumentation, the most notable of which is the polarized neutron reflectometer. In 1981, he published his first paper related to neutron reflectometry, suggesting the use of polarized neutrons as a way to probe the surface magnetism of a ferromagnetic material, nickel, a topic of great interest at the time.
The interaction of neutrons with magnetic materials had previously been described in optical terms, and reflectivity measurements were used to determine coherent scattering lengths of materials, but the suggestion that polarized neutron reflectivity could be used to learn about the magnetism close to the surface was unique. Through his foresight, the first dedicated polarized neutron reflectometry instrument was constructed by him at Intense Pulsed Neutron Source (IPNS) at Argonne in 1984.
Felcher was quick to realize the potential of neutron reflectometry in polymer science as well, and split the IPNS beam line into two instruments, one with a polarized beam dedicated to magnetism and one to soft condensed matter. Among his many significant achievements were the experimental confirmation of de Genne's reptation theory for diffusion in polymers and the measurement of off-specular scattering due to lateral structures within polymer films. These developments came at a time when expanding research programs on surfaces, interfaces, and multilayers encountered many questions that could be answered with this new technique.
As a result, neutron reflectometry was quickly recognized as one of the most powerful tools for characterizing surface phenomena or buried interfaces, and reflectometers were put into operation at all major neutron scattering facilities throughout the world. He has continued this record of creativity throughout his career, his most recent achievement being the first successful demonstration of the use of neutron spin-echo in grazing incidence geometry as a way of measuring surface inhomogeneity with enhanced resolution and flux.
Felcher received his dottore in fisica from the University of Milano, Italy in 1958. He worked at Argonne for more than 40 years, ultimately as Senior Physicist in the Materials Science Division before his retirement in 2007.
The Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA) established the Sustained Research Prize to recognize a sustained contribution to a scientific subfield, or subfields, using neutron scattering techniques, or a sustained contribution to the development of neutron scattering techniques. The primary consideration shall be an enduring impact on science. Preference shall be given to applicants whose work was carried out predominantly in North America.