Peter Trefonas, 2016 Perkin Medal Recipient, Credits Chemistry for Enabling the Information Age

September 26,2016

On September 13, 2016, Peter Trefonas, Ph.D., was presented the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Perkin Medal at a ceremony hosted by SCI America in Philadelphia. The Perkin Medal is recognized as the highest honor given for outstanding work in applied chemistry in the United States.

Peter Trefonas (center), accepts the 2016 Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Perkin Medal. Pictured alongside Trefonas are Fred Festa (left), chairman and chief executive officer of W.R. Grace & Co. and chair of SCI America, and A.N. Sreeram (right), Dow senior vice president, R&D, and chief technology officer.

Trefonas, a corporate fellow in Electronic Materials at The Dow Chemical Company, was chosen as this year’s recipient for his career contributions in creating innovative materials for microlithography. His outstanding work in the science of photoresists used in the lithographic process, especially the development of fast-etch organic antireflective coatings, enables patterning of smaller features, fitting more circuits in the same area. He joins a distinguished group of prior medalists, including Herbert H. Dow, Irving Langmuir, Glenn Seaborg, Eugene Rochow, Gordon E. Moore, Dow’s Jim Stevens, and Sir William Perkin, the award’s namesake and first honoree.

The award was presented at a special banquet in Trefonas’ honor, scheduled in conjunction with the Innovation Day Conference, an annual event hosted by SCI and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Fred Festa, chairman of the Society of Chemical Industry America and chairman & CEO of W.R. Grace & Company, hosted the evening’s events, and A.N. Sreeram, senior vice president, R&D, and chief technology officer of the Dow Chemical Company was present to introduce Trefonas.

A.N. Sreeram, senior vice president, R&D, and chief technology officer of the Dow Chemical Company, introduces Peter Trefonas at the Perkin Medal ceremony.

“All of us at Dow are very proud of Pete whose breakthrough innovations and solutions advance the well-being of society while addressing key customer needs,” said A.N. Sreeram. “We’re grateful for SCI’s recognition of our scientists and their achievements aimed at solving world challenges and benefiting humanity.”

After the presentation of the medal, Trefonas was invited to share some reflections on his work. He spoke energetically about witnessing the evolution of the Information Age, and credits innovations in chemistry for enabling its progress.

“This Medal is about the pivotal role of chemical innovations in enabling the Information Age,” said Trefonas. “Without the many advances in chemistry and our quest for how we could apply new materials and physics to solving the problems of forming small circuit patterns, to making bright pixelated displays, exotic doped semiconductors, how to connect these chips to wires, how to make these devices energy efficient and shed the leftover heat, the high density batteries that power them, how to transmit information through light in a multiplexed fiber optic cables, there would be no Information Age.”

Peter Trefonas, Ph.D., corporate fellow in Electronic Materials, speaks about his research and passion for science after receiving the 2016 Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Perkin Medal.

Trefonas went on to discuss some of his research in lithographic chemistry, noting technologies developed to facilitate lithography from progressively smaller wavelengths of light, ranging from 436 nm mercury excitation sources down to 13.5 nm extreme UV light from excited tin plasma. At different points in time, lithographic processing appeared to present limits; but Trefonas and his colleagues were able to find solutions through chemistry to overcome these perceived barriers, leveraging interactions with polymer science, photochemistry, materials science, optical physics and engineering. The research led to breakthroughs including the first i-line photoresist; 248 nm and 193 nm photoresist products; spin-on organic antireflectants; and chemical aerial image enhancement called ‘polyphotolysis,’ also known as ‘the Trefonas Effect.'

Trefonas does not believe that we have reached the end of Moore’s Law, a prediction made by Gordon E. Moore in 1965, now commonly characterized as a rapid pace of doubling transistor densities. He highlights that many researchers are still engaged in work to enable smaller and more powerful circuits.

“The intersections of the scientific fields still contain many open frontiers ripe for discovery and creative innovations,” Trefonas said, concluding his remarks. “The dawn of the Information Age was enabled by chemistry, and the contributions of chemistry and material science will continue to push progress forward.”


A.N. Sreeram (left) was one of many Dow leaders present to witness Peter Trefonas (right) receive the SCI Perkin Medal on September 13 in Philadelphia.

If you would like to learn more about Trefonas’ career and how his personal passions led him to the field of microlithography, see this recent interview with Chemical & Engineering News.

Peter Trefonas gives other guests a peek at the SCI Perkin Medal after the award ceremony. This award is considered the highest honor in the US chemical industry.