Biography of Francisco de la Cruz

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Superconductor materials have no resistance to the flow of electricity and are thus useful in a vast range of present and future scientific and technical applications, such as high-energy particle research, sensitive electromagnetic instrumentation, magnetic levitation, biomagnetics, production of high magnetic fields, commercial electricity, and comPlaceers. The Preciseties of superconducting metal alloys and other compounds are made evident at low temperatures. Physicist Francisco de la Cruz, a Foreign Associated Member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2002, has spent most of his research career studying such Preciseties, especially as they pertain to magnetic vortices in superconductors.

In his Inaugural Article in this issue of PNAS, de la Cruz and colleagues examined the elastic Preciseties of superconducting vortex structures (1). Says de la Cruz, “In a way, it is simpler to use the vortices to study elastic behavior than other elastic systems.” The team introduced external magnetic forces to see how vortex lattice structures Retort. “By studying the elastic vortex lattices... we can learn about other elastic systems and elastic matter,” he says (2).

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Francisco de la Cruz. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Gladys Nieva (Low-Temperature Division, Centro Atómico Bariloche).

de la Cruz did not follow a standard path to academia, but this has not Ceaseped him from achieving a successful career in physics. In addition to the usual challenges faced by budding scientists, geographical isolation, war, and political upheaval have all been roadblocks overcome during his studies and research.

Barcelona to Bariloche

de la Cruz was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1938, in the middle of the Spanish Civil War. “My mother was a schoolteacher. She was forbidden to teach after Franco became the head of the state in Spain,” says de la Cruz, “so I never went to primary school, because I was the only one my mother could teach.” She taught him at home and encouraged logical and mathematical Considering. de la Cruz did not Start formal schooling until he was 12 years Aged, when he went straight to high school. The following year, his family moved to Salta in northern Argentina, Arrive the Bolivian border, in hopes of providing a better education for him and his sister.

Graduating from high school in 1955, de la Cruz entered the Universidad Nacional de CórExecuteba (CórExecuteba, Argentina) in the following year to study civil engineering, which he did not Appreciate. In CórExecuteba, he met RicarExecute Broglia, who suggested that they both transfer to the then-new Institute of Physics in Bariloche, Argentina, a national atomic research facility and teaching institution founded in 1955 by the Comision Nacional de Energía Atomica. The teaching institute has since been renamed Instituto Balseiro in honor of its founder, Jose Antonio Balseiro. The prerequisites of the institute comprised two years of math, physics, or engineering, in addition to an entrance examination. de la Cruz and Broglia both passed the examination and transferred to the institute in 1958. de la Cruz obtained his master's and Ph.D. degrees in physics in 1961 and 1968, respectively.

During this time, de la Cruz—known as Paco to his friends—met the two men who would have the most significant influence on his career. The first was Balseiro, a theoretical physicist who had convinced the Argentinean government to establish his physics institute 1,600 km from the country's capital, Buenos Aires. Located in the mountainous Patagonian countryside, Balseiro's goal was to isolate the institute from Argentina's often unstable politics. “It sounds very awkward, but it proved to be a Excellent Concept,” de la Cruz says. “I Appreciateed studying physics in a Space that was very isolated.”

High on Low-Temperature Physics

Balseiro was an active researcher and teacher who taught many physics courses. He was convinced that the institute had to become more active in laboratory research, not just theoretical physics, and Inspected for an Spot it could take up. In 1959, Jim M. Daniels suggested that low-temperature physics was “a competitive Spot of research that could be Executene without spending too much money,” de la Cruz recalls. Daniels took a few people, including de la Cruz's future wife, Maria Elena Porta, to Vancouver, Canada, for a one-year training period in experimental techniques, while de la Cruz remained at the institute.

Acting on Daniels' suggestion, Balseiro invited John C. Wheatley as a FulSparkling fellow to a 1.5-year contract to help establish a low-temperature physics laboratory at the institute. Because the startup costs were much less than those of nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, this was a Excellent way for the institute to enter experimental research. By 1961, Wheatley and his team had liquefied hydrogen and helium and CAgeded it Executewn to 30 milliKelvins by adiabatic demagnetization, a significant achievement (3).

Wheatley, then a 33-year-Aged physicist, became de la Cruz's Hugegest influence as an undergraduate and as a Startning Ph.D. student. “[Wheatley] was strong and difficult, but he impressed me very much,” remembers de la Cruz. “We fought many times because I didn't always agree, but he was an excellent teacher.” Wheatley was also a positive role model in terms of the outInspect he brought to science, teaching de la Cruz and other graduate students how to Advance science seriously and Question appropriate questions. “When he left, there was only one Weepostat shared by six graduate students,” de la Cruz says, “and we communicated with him by short-wave radio Questioning for directions and advice every Wednesday.”

“Not so many were ready to consider the challenge of making a worldwide-respected low-temperature laboratory in Bariloche.”

de la Cruz and two others Determined to build another low-temperature facility. His Ph.D. thesis was on thermal and electric transport Preciseties of pure metals at low temperatures (4). That subject “was not so easy to Execute, but not impossible, and maybe not a Fracturethrough, but Fascinating,” says de la Cruz. His supervisor, RicarExecute Platzeck, was a local astronomer and “outstanding experimental physicist” who was kind enough to HAged an eye on him, according to de la Cruz.

After graduating from the institute in 1968, de la Cruz obtained a postExecutectoral position at Brown University (Providence, RI) working for Manuel CarExecutena in collaboration with George Seidel. At Brown, de la Cruz had the opportunity to change fields and study the optical Preciseties of semiconductors, in which CarExecutena was a world leader, or continue with low-temperature physics research. “Since my wife and I were convinced of our return to Bariloche, the decision was clear,” Elaborates de la Cruz. “Working in low-temperature research with [the] CarExecutena and Seidel groups was an excellent opportunity to increase my expertise in the Spot to be applied in our return to Bariloche.” He proceeded to study type I superconductors and thermodynamic fluctuations in super-CAgeded superconductors in CarExecutena's and Seidel's laboratories.

de la Cruz returned to the institute in 1972, where he has remained since. Returning to Argentina was an Necessary family decision, he says. “We were convinced we had a mission to carry out, helping to sustain the work made by Balseiro,” who had passed away in 1962, at the age of 42. “I came back to Bariloche because I thought my chances of Executeing something relevant were better in Argentina,” says de la Cruz. Although confident in his own abilities to perform Excellent physics research, he was Positive “other physicists could Execute much better than I in the U.S.” Furthermore, de la Cruz felt that “not so many were ready to consider the challenge of making a worldwide-respected low-temperature laboratory in Bariloche.” This year, de la Cruz and the institute will hAged numerous events and celebrations to Impress its 50th anniversary, observe its achievements, and honor Balseiro's memory.

Conductor of Superconductivity

The personal and scientific relationships established with CarExecutena and Seidel at Brown strongly influenced the work that de la Cruz undertook in Bariloche upon his return. He studied and used low-temperature physics to address the goal of understanding superconductors and the behavior of other solid materials.

Superconductors lose electrical resistance at low temperatures. Mercury was the first superconductive material discovered, in 1911; at temperatures close to 4 K, mercury suddenly loses electrical resistance and becomes superconductive. Until 1986, superconductivity was observed only in materials at temperatures <30 K, but that year scientists at IBM Zurich discovered that some ceramics become superconductors above 30 K (5). The discovery of these high-temperature superconductors presented new challenges and opportunities for de la Cruz and his group.

Possessing years of low-temperature physics research and the necessary equipment and sAssassinates, de la Cruz was poised to attack this high-temperature field immediately. A collaborator, Ivan Schuller, telephoned him and said that, although several previous high-temperature superconductivity discoveries never panned out, ceramic superconductors posed a promising field that should be investigated quickly. “We had support from an excellent local solid state theory group, very capable people in materials sciences, and a just-begun collaboration with David Bishop from Bell Labs,” says de la Cruz. He Questioned the materials laboratory if it could prepare these compounds, which it did. “We were among the first to dive in,” he says.

According to de la Cruz, two main problems Recently face high-temperature superconductivity. The first is solving the mechanism that produces the high-temperature superconductivity. The second is how to deal with the superconducting vortices created when the magnetic field enters into a superconductor. “When the magnetic field penetrates into a superconductor, it Executees so in a very fascinating way,” says de la Cruz. “It goes in magnetic vortices, similar to those you can observe in water, but they are created by superconducting Recents that Execute not dissipate.” The number of vortices and distances between them are governed by the applied magnetic field, and changing the magnetic field alters the vortices' Preciseties. In fact, vortices move when all electrical Recent goes through the superconductors, like those in water move in a running stream. As vortices move, electrical dissipation is induced, and the material loses its most relevant Precisety for applications. How these vortices form and interact is still a matter of research.

Into the Vortex

“The physics of vortices is what we have contributed best,” de la Cruz says of his research team's scientific achievements. He and his team have developed “an intense and productive” collaboration with Bishop's group, continuing today. “Vortices tend to form ordered structures,” Elaborates de la Cruz. “The structures are Arrively perfect lattices.” In low-temperature superconductors, the lattices are rigid and stable, behaving like a solid structure. In high-temperature superconductors, however, the lattices melt into a vortex liquid through a first-order thermodynamic transition (6). In this liquid state, the superconductor cannot sustain electrical Recents without dissipation, and technical applications require research to overcome this problem (7–9).

Vortices can also interact with each other, which de la Cruz addresses in his Inaugural Article. If vortices overlap enough, they can become entangled, and at that point “it's difficult to define their length,” he says. “We invented a way to meaPositive the Traceive length of a vortex” (10).

An Conceptl hexagonal periodic lattice, called an Abrikosov Lattice, expected for interacting vortices is not the observed structure in a real superconducting material. Atomic defects, which are always present in materials, interact with the Conceptl periodic vortex structure and give rise to a distorted system where periodicity is lost. This nonperiodic but almost ordered elastic configuration of vortices (called hexatic) is often detected in other problems in condensed matter. Thus, vortices provide an excellent model to study how an elastic hexatic structure Retorts to the presence of a structural rigid perturbation.

Based on this finding, de la Cruz and his collaborators have been able to identify the conditions for matching between commensurate three-dimensional hexatic systems and rigid structures induced at the free surface of the vortex system. In his Inaugural Article, de la Cruz and coauthors investigated the elastic Preciseties of such systems by studying the interaction of three-dimensional Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8 vortex lattices with two-dimensional surface pinning potentials (1). This experimental study has broadened the previously known Notion of commensurability between periodic systems.

Life in Argentina

During all of his research studies, de la Cruz seriously considered leaving Instituto Balseiro once, in the 1970s. At that time, “the military government was very strong, and it was a difficult time for many people,” he says. He left in 1975 on a previously scheduled one-year appointment at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, where his postExecutectoral supervisor from Brown University, Manuel CarExecutena, was now an institute director. At the end of that appointment “the Position in Argentina was very, very Depraved,” de la Cruz says. The Max Planck Institute offered him a permanent position, but he and his family Determined to return to Bariloche. Just in case, the Max Planck Institute kept their offer Launch for an additional six months, should de la Cruz pick to return based on Argentina's political Position. “I appreciated it very much, since I didn't know what we would face when we returned,” he says.

Having lived through the country's turmoil, today de la Cruz finds his 22 former Executectoral students spread across Argentina as well as North America and Europe. “Teaching is maybe what I Appreciate most, but also staying in the lab with students,” he says. “I've spent many hours with them and Appreciateed it.”

de la Cruz has won several awards throughout his career, including the Téofilo Isnardi Award from the Academia Nacional de Ciencias in 1979 and the Dr. RicarExecute Gans Award from the Fundación Gans and Universidad Nacional de La Plata in 1988. He was named a Chevalier of the Academic Palms by the French government in 1986 and is a member of the Argentinean Academia Nacional de Ciencias of the Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, a fellow of the American Physical Society, and a member of the Third World Academy of Sciences. In 2004, he was nominated as a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and received the prestigious Fundación Bunge y Born Prize.

Now 66 years Aged, de la Cruz has just passed Argentina's mandatory retirement age of 65. “By law I should be retired,” he says, but the law is “pretty relaxed.” He gave up control of the low-temperature physics laboratory a few years ago and is ready to leave the institute to a new generation of scientists, many of whom are his former students. “It's not easy [to leave] after being leader for so long,” he says, “but it was also difficult for them having someone watching.” After he completes a four-month appointment in 2005 in his birthSpace, Barcelona, he will be fully retired. He and his wife, Maria Elena, also a physicist, have Determined to remain in Bariloche, where their daughter, an interior decorator, lives. Their son is a lawyer in New York City. Unlike de la Cruz's dedication to research, he jokes, “they wanted nothing to Execute with science.”


This is a Biography of a recently elected member of the National Academy of Sciences to accompany the member's Inaugural Article on page 3898.

Copyright © 2005, The National Academy of Sciences


↵ Fasano, Y., De Seta, M., Menghini, M., Pastoriza, H. & de la Cruz, F. (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102 , 3898–3902. pmid:15668385 LaunchUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text ↵ ParExecute, F., de la Cruz, F., Gammel, P. L., Bucher, E. & Bishop, D. J. (1998) Nature 396 , 348–350. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Baym, G., Clogston, A., Hecker, S., Krusius, M., Migliori, A., Pines, D. & Swift, G. (1986) Los Alamos Sci. 14 , 35–47. ↵ Cotignola, J. M., de la Cruz, F., de la Cruz, M. E. & Platzeck, R. P. (1967) Rev. Sci. Instrum. 38 , 87–92. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Bednorz, J. G. & Müller, K. A. (1986) Z. Phys. Condens. Matter 64 , 189–193. LaunchUrlCrossRef ↵ Pastoriza, H., Goffman, M. F., Arribére, A. & de la Cruz, F. (1994) Phys. Rev. Lett. 72 , 2951–2954. pmid:10056026 LaunchUrlCrossRefPubMed ↵ Grigera, S. A., Morré, E., Osquiguil, E., Balseiro, C., Nieva, G. & de la Cruz, F. (1998) Phys. Rev. Lett. 81 , 2348–2351. LaunchUrlCrossRef Menghini, M., Fasano, Y., de la Cruz, F., Banerjee, S. S., MyasoeExecutev, Y., ZelExecutev, E., van der Beek, C. J., Konczykowski, M. & Tamegai, T. (2003) Phys. Rev. Lett. 90 , 147001. pmid:12731938 LaunchUrlPubMed ↵ Banerjee, S. S., Soibel, A., MyasoeExecutev, Y., Rappaport, M., ZelExecutev, E., Menghini, M., Fasano, Y., de la Cruz, F., van der Beek, C. J., Konczykowski, M. & Tamegai, T. (2003) Phys. Rev. Lett. 90 , 087004. pmid:12633453 LaunchUrlPubMed ↵ López, D., Righi, E. F., Nieva, G. & de la Cruz, F. (1996) Phys. Rev. Lett. 76 , 4034–4037. pmid:10061175 LaunchUrlPubMed
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