Yes, it's that time of the year again, when I get together with 6500-7000 of my closest colleagues and talk physics until our brains are full and it's time to leave. This year the March APS Meeting, the big US national meeting of (mostly) condensed matter physics folks, is in New Orleans. So far the biggest topic at the meeting by a wide margin seems to be graphene, just like last year. There are various divisions of the APS, including the Division of Condensed Matter Physics (DCMP), the Division of Materials Physics (DMP), the Division of Chemical Physics (DCP), and the Division of Polymer Physics (DPOLY). Each division sponsors Focus Topics designed to appeal to their membership and centered around hot ideas of the moment. One challenge in laying out the meeting is coordinating all of their Focus Topic sessions and invited sessions so that we don't end up with what seems to happen every year: head-to-head competition of researchers in a hot field speaking at the same time on similar subjects in different sessions at the meeting. Like this morning, when DMP had "Graphene Transport" at the same time as DCMP's "Electronic Properties of Graphene and Related Structures", or 3.25 hours later when DMP had "Graphene, Graphite, and Related Structures" at the same time as DCMP's "Graphene Transport II". Ahh, coordination.
I spent most of my time in sessions that I helped to organize, and I saw some interesting talks on STM work and single molecule electronic measurement techniques. One talk by Anping Li of Oak Ridge gave me a classic case of stainless steel envy. He has put together a variable temperature 4-probe (!) ultrahigh vacuum scanning tunneling microscope with built-in UHV scanning electron microscope and electron analyzer for scanning Auger microscopy, as well as an integrated UHV deposition chamber with built-in electron diffraction. Wow. Now that's a cool toy! That was followed by a very interesting set of measurements from a group at the University of Tokyo, looking at the electrical properties of truly 2d atomic layers of indium on Si. It's quite fascinating how the temperature dependence of such a film can be changed from metallic (better conduction at low temperatures) to insulating just by the introduction of a very few defects; this is a great demonstration of localization physics.