Big recognition for nanoscientist

07 June 2010

IBM Fellow Dr. Donald M. Eigler

IBM Fellow Dr. Donald M. Eigler has been awarded the most prestigious honour in nanoscience; The Kavli Prize.

He shares the honour with Nadrian Seeman, a professor at New York University.

Eigler, a scientist at IBM Research, is recognised with The 2010 Kavli Prize for the development of atom manipulation with the scanning tunnelling microscope and for the elucidation and demonstration of quantum phenomena with precisely controlled atomic and molecular arrangements on surfaces. This seminal work laid the foundation for modern nanoscience.

Understanding the properties, movement and interaction of various materials at the nanoscale is essential for building smaller, faster and more energy-efficient processors and memory devices. In addition, this kind of understanding could also enable a new level of personalised health care and targeted treatments and therapies. The ability to study and manipulate atoms is leading to new kinds of fabrics, products and more, in part due to Dr. Eigler's discovery.

On 28 September 1989, Eigler demonstrated the ability to manipulate individual atoms with atomic-scale precision. He went on to write ‘IBM’ using 35 individual Xenon atoms; an event likened by Jack Uldrich in his book, The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change The Future of Your Business, to the Wright brothers' first flight.

Eigler's feat was performed using a low temperature ultra high vacuum scanning tunnelling microscope that he designed and built. Since then, his group's results include the invention of quantum corrals, the discovery of the quantum mirage effect, a demonstration of a fundamentally new way to transport information through a solid utilising modulated quantum states, the demonstration of nanometer-scale logic circuits based on molecular cascades, and the invention of spin excitation spectroscopy.

Most recently, milestones made by the researchers in Eigler's lab include the ability to measure the magnetic properties of individual atoms and the ability to measure the force it takes to move individual atoms. Eigler received both his bachelor's and doctorate degrees from the University of California, San Diego, and was named Outstanding Alumnus of the year in 1999. He has been recognised for his accomplishments with the Davisson-Germer Prize awarded by the American Physical Society, the Dannie Heineman Prize awarded by the Academy of Sciences, the Newcomb-Cleveland Prize awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Grand Award for Science and Technology awarded by Popular Science Magazine, and numerous honorary lectureships including the Gordon Research Conference's Alexander M. Cruikshank Lectureship in Physical Sciences, the Bethe Lectureship at Cornell University, the Loeb Lectureship at Harvard University, the Bragg Lectureship at University College London and a Regents Lectureship at the University of California Los Angeles. In 2002, he received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Delft. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004 he was elected a member of the Max Planck Society, Germany's prestigious scientific organisation. In 2007 he was appointed a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Eigler currently serves on the advisory boards of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Nanoelectronics Program, the Oak Ridge National Laboratories Center for Nanophase Materials Science (CNMS), New Zealand's MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, the University of California Microelectronics Innovation and Computer Research Opportunities (MICRO) program, the Harvard University Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC), and the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Nanoscale Science programme.

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