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The MAS Beads of Office Security Program

Time to secure the royal jewels for posterity...

Thomas F. Kelly*, Katherine P. Rice, and Yimeng Chen
CAMECA Instruments, Inc.
*corresponding author:


In this fiftieth-year celebration of the Microanalysis Society, it is fitting that we consider one of the pivotal moments in our history which occurred thirty years ago. In 1987 at the Microanalysis Meeting in Kona, Hawaii, MAS traditions were established. The scene was the conference banquet and the President of the Society at the time, our esteemed Chuck Fiori, was dressed in the spirit of the Hawaiian beach. He had purchased a seashell bead necklace, Figure 1. (If anyone has a picture of Chuck wearing the beads from that time, we would very much like to obtain a copy.) At the end of the banquet/business meeting, Chuck was excited to be concluding his term as President and in a spontaneous gesture, he took off the beads and put them on President Elect, Bill Chambers. This simple act thus created, not one, but two, time-honored traditions of MAS. Firstly, up to that point in history, the MAS President’s term was one year and had run from January 1 to December 31. Chuck’s enthusiastic handoff of the Presidency at the Business Meeting stuck and since then it is our tradition that the Presidency runs until the end of the business meeting at our annual meeting. Secondly, the “Beads of Office,” as we now refer to them, have become the symbol of the Presidency of the MAS. Presidents wear the beads at all official functions and during the annual meeting, Figure 1. The Beads are transported and stored in the official “Box” which is a slightly worn Neiman Marcus box, Figure 2, as if to suggest that the Beads were purchased from this fine retailer. Somehow, I don’t think so but if anyone knows the history of the Box, please contact the authors or our archivist, John Fournelle. 

The Beads of Office

Over the past few decades, as our traditions have formed, the Beads have become an integral part of our culture and identity. Their value to the society has grown to the point that they are a priceless object. As such, the Beads are irreplaceable and a great weight of responsibility bears on the shoulders of the wearer. During my Presidency, I (TFK) slept uneasy at night thinking about this responsibility and wondering how we could prevent disaster. What if someone misplaced the beads? Or they were mixed up with another set? Or, horrors, they were stolen? How would we know that we had the true Beads of Office? We dare not ever lose them but if we did, we needed a way to be sure that we were looking at the authentic Beads. 

Furthermore, we needed a way to identify them that was worthy of the Microanalysis Society. Would a hologram suffice? What about an RFID? We needed something that would demand all the skills and equipment of a microanalyst and was not an invasive alteration of the Beads. It should be obvious to all you microanalysts that a focused-ion-beam (FIB) instrument could engrave the beads and fulfil these requirements. I (TFK) decided to engrave the Society logos into the surface of one of the shells. Since the MAS logo was being updated in 2016, the work had to wait until the new logo was approved at Summer Council 2016. Furthermore, I chose to include each of the logos (almost) in the history of the Society. Figure 3 shows the logos which includes the original logo of the Electron Probe Analysis Society of America (EPASA) from 1967. In 1974, the name of the Society was changed to the Microbeam Analysis Society (MAS) and a new logo was created. In 2011, the Society changed its name to the Microanalysis Society (MAS) to reflect the evolution of its interest in all forms of microanalysis. This logo was modified only to the extent that the subtitle changed to the new name. Figure 3 shows the latter version of this second logo. In 2016, a new logo was adopted with no change in the Society name, Figure 3. 

Experimental Program

Each of the three essential logos was chosen for the engraving. However, the large amount of detail in the EPASA logo posed difficulties for the FIB etching and a truncated logo was created by Katie as shown in Figure 4. As we did not have a facility for engraving in color, and the newer two logos are two-color, the color levels were converted to binary black and white as shown in Figure 4. Each logo was introduced as an image file that was used as a mask in the FIB. Since seashell is not a good conductor of electricity, it was necessary to provide a path to ground for the charge accumulating on its surface. Copper tape was used to mask a rectangular area which is about 3 mm by 1.5 mm, Figure 5. A 40-nm thick layer of aluminum was then deposited on top of this area. Once the FIB engraving was completed, the copper tape was removed. We left the aluminum layer as a marker that will aid in finding the engraved location in the future, as shown in Figure 6. 

The Result

Apparently, as Katie learned the hard way, seashell is not easy to FIB. A lot of redeposition occurs and organic goo moves around under the beam. Nonetheless, Katie persevered in this critical mission. Figure 7 shows that the objective of this security project has been achieved. The logos are approximately 50 microns in extent and are lightly milled into the surface. These now are the only seashell beads in the world that contain the logos of our Society. This technological tour de force has made it possible for me to sleep just a little bit more soundly knowing that it would be near impossible for nefarious entities to forge a replica of the Beads. Sherlock Holmes would be proud. 

The Fib'd logos



Masashi Watanabe, our reigning President and Bead wearer, is the consummate good sport and his cooperation throughout this mission was critical to its success. John Fournelle, our archivist, helped dig up crucial facts about the early days of our society. MAS council also proved to be a valuable resource for historical facts. 

More photos here...


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