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Donald M Eigler "Atom Manipulation - the Story and the People"

Don Eigler is a revolutionary physicist - the first man to move individual atoms with a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) almost exactly 25 years ago while working at the IBM Almaden Research Center. His work is at the very heart of nanotechnology and he continues to push the boundaries of Physics and Nanoscience. He was appointed an IBM Fellow in 1993 and retired from IBM in 2011.

Don Eigler is described as a patient, methodical scientist who is happy getting his hands dirty, building his own equipment and components, and restoring cars as a hobby. It took him 18 months to build the low temperature, ultra-high vacuum STM that he used to claim his place in history as the first person ever to move and control a single atom. The enthusiasm with which he approached this work is recorded in his lab notebooks. After refining his method so that he could lift atoms off a surface rather than dragging them with the STM probe tip, he wrote in large bold letters: “I’m really having fun!!”. More famously, he used the same technology to write the letters “IBM” in individual atoms of Xenon - an image that appeared on the front cover of almost every broadsheet newspaper in the western world when the image was realised in 1989 and has by now become an iconic symbol of nanotechnology.

He went on to further develop the low temperature STM technique, measuring spin states and moving and arranging molecules to form the smallest possible logic gates, the building blocks of all computer circuits. His imaging of electron wave patterns within “quantum corrals” (which are well-defined patterns of small numbers of atoms) earned him the front covers of the journals Science, Physics Today and Nature, all within the space of a few months.

He has been recognised for his accomplishments with the award of numerous prestigious prizes, the most recent being the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2011, and numerous honorary lectureships.

On the personal side, Don has been building his skills as a trainer of service dogs that assist people with disabilities and sailing his boat Wetnose in the South Pacific (which explains his latest job affiliation as Director of The Wetnose Institute for Advanced Pelagic Studies).

Tue 13 June 2017, 08:31 | Tags: materials grp