“When I read of the accomplishments of previous awardees, I was very humbled and also a little nervous”, said Austen Angell.
Looking at his accomplishments, one must say that is a very modest man. He has more than 500 publications and his work has been honoured by several awards from different Technical Societies – for example the Hildebrand award of the American Chemical Society and the Turnbull lecture award of the Materials Research Society.
During his long career, he has worked mostly on liquids and glasses, but he has also published on geochemical, biophysical and battery electrolyte problems. He currently makes a major effort in the energy storage and conversion disciplines.
You are awarded the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award “For inventing the concept of fragility of glass-forming liquids”. How would you describe your breakthrough – and the importance of it?
“Perhaps the choice of descriptive words 'strong and fragile liquids' played a role… More seriously, I think the importance lies in the way that this scaling allows liquids of all classes, ranging from cryogenic to volcanic, to be brought together on a single plot with little overlap between the individual members. It hints at some underlying simplicity in the way liquids respond to temperature or pressure changes, though there is so far little agreement about how the underlying simplicity is to be extracted and analyzed.”
Austen Angell has had collaborations with researchers at Chalmers since more than 40 years and been faculty opponent on several occasions. He was nominated for the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award 2019 by Professors Patrik Johansson and Aleksandar Matic, both at the Department of Physics at Chalmers. In 1999 he served as opponent for the doctoral examination of Aleksandar Matic and more recently Patrik Johansson’s PhD student Henrik Markusson spent some months in his lab in Arizona.
“Scandinavia, in general, and Sweden and Chalmers in particular, have a long history in the field of molten salt and ionic liquid chemistry that I entered before I ever knew I would become an academic. My first visit to Chalmers was in 1971 and later I had a valuable collaboration with star Chalmers researcher Lena Torell, whose research played an important role in the development of the fragility concept.”
What is your driving force when you research?
“The driving force is always that you have an idea that might be new and unexplored and ultimately useful. The frustration is that it often takes quite a while for a new idea to earn its recognition.”
This year, 80 years have passed since the Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Frisch provided a physical explanation of how nuclear fission could happen. Her long-term collaborator Otto Hahn was the only one to be awarded the Nobel Prize for 1944 for the discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei.
What does Lise Meitner mean to you?
“Through the years, I have always known the name of Lise Meitner in connection with the early days of radioactivity discovery. But I didn’t know the details of her struggles with prejudice, not to say persecution. I think it is great that the Gothenburg Physics Center has undertaken to play a role in keeping her name alive in our thoughts, given the proximity to her work-site.”
What do you wish to accomplish with your research?
“This is not an easy question to deal with, without sounding trivial or pompous. One obvious answer is that I wish to quickly solve the problems that I have proposed to my funding agencies, so that they will continue to support my research. The more serious answer is that I wish to earn the respect and friendship of my many colleagues in the international quest for new solutions to recognized scientific problems, especially those of societal importance."
More about the winner of the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award 2019
Austen Angell was awarded the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award by the Gothenburg Physics Centre “For inventing the concept of fragility of glass-forming liquids”.
Austen Angell, born 1933 in Canberra, Australia, is currently Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, USA. He holds a Ph.D. degree from London University, Imperial College, where he won the Armstrong medal for 1959-61. Austen Angell profited from a postdoc at Argonne National Laboratory, before joining Purdue University where he became full professor in 1971 and is at ASU since 1989.