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Rohrer, Heinrich

surface microscope tip result

1933– ) Swiss physicist: invented the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM).

Rohrer joined IBM at Zürich in 1963 and later began to collaborate with Gerd Binnig (1947– ), who joined in 1978. Together they took up work that Russell Young at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington had initiated: to build a scanning tunnelling microscope. A tungsten electron field emitter tip was moved across a surface by precision piezoelectric transducers and the tip was raised or lowered to keep it the same distance above the surface. The result could be plotted as a contour map of the surface. Binnig and Rohrer achieved a working microscope by reducing the tip to a single atom and bringing it within a couple of atomic diameters of the surface; as a result by 1981 they could even produce images of single atoms. By reducing vibration, a horizontal resolution of ˜ 2Å and a vertical resolution of ˜ 0.1 Å (about one-30th the size of an average atom) was possible. Application of the technique to the study of semiconductor surfaces, microelectronics, chemical reactions on surfaces and biochemistry has occurred rapidly. As a result Rohrer and Binnig shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for physics with (a key figure in the invention of the electron microscope).

Roizen, Michael F. - Physician and author, Career, Sidelights, Selected writings [next]

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