Atomic Scale Spectroscopy

The physical and chemical properties of nanostructures are unique functions of their size and shape, and can be very different from those of bulk matter. Particularly fascinating phenomena occur if the nanostructures are subject to lateral boundary conditions on a length scale where quantum behavior prevails. Examples include magnetic nanostructures, where information can be stored and processed in very few atoms; atomically sharp semiconductor interfaces where electrons can travel millimeters before they scatter at a defect; or low-dimensional carbon materials with exceptional electronic properties, which can be inherently linked to molecular environments in chemistry and biology.


We address the fundamental properties of nanostructures at the single atomic and molecular level in order to characterize physical and chemical properties atom by atom. Our experiments provide an important benchmark for the understanding of quantum physics in nanostructures. Our main tool for studying nanostructures at the atomic scale is low temperature scanning probe microscopy. The microscopes enable us to image, manipulate, and detect the local properties of nanoscale objects with picometer resolution under extreme conditions, i.e. in ultra-high vacuum, at temperatures down to 10mK and in magnetic fields up to 16T. We measure electronic, vibrational and optical excitations, magnetic interactions and forces, manipulate single atoms and molecules to assemble functional nanostructures and induce chemical transformation by excitation with unprecedented resolution.


Responsible Scientists:

Dr. Christian Ast (Spin-orbit Coupling, Josephson Effect, mK-STM)

Dr. Markus Etzkorn (Superconductors, mK-STM)

Dr. Klaus Kuhnke (Tunneling-Induced Light Emission)

Dr. Uta Schlickum (Electronic and Magnetic Properties of Molecules)

Dr. Markus Ternes (Magnetic Molecules, Correlation Effects, NV Centers)


Team Members


Christian Ast, Robert Drost, Markus Etzkorn, Abhishek Grewal, Haonan Huang, Klaus Kuhnke, Basitan Kern, Tomasz Michnowicz, Matthias Münks,
Marcel Pristl, Anna Maria Roslawska, Uta Schlickum, Lukas Schlipf, Jacob Senkpiel, Markus Ternes, Jing Wang, Yuqi Wang


Key Publications

M. Muenks, P. Jacobson, M. Ternes, K. Kern
Correlation Driven Transport Asymmetries Through Coupled Spins in a Tunneling Junction
Nature Communications 8, 14119 (2017)


Christian R. Ast, Berthold Jäck, Jacob Senkpiel, Matthias Eltschka, Markus Etzkorn, Joachim Ankerhold, and Klaus Kern
Sensing the quantum limit in scanning tunnelling microscopy
Nature Communications 7, 13009 (2016)
(also: arXiv:1510.08449)


Berthold Jäck,  Matthias Eltschka, Maximilian Assig, Markus Etzkorn, Christian R. Ast, and Klaus Kern
Critical Josephson current in the dynamical Coulomb blockade regime
Phys. Rev. B 93, 020504(R) (2016)


P. Jacobson, T. Herden, M. Muenks, G. Laskin, O. O. Brovko, V. S. Stepanyuk, M. Ternes, K. Kern
Quantum Engineering of Spin and Anisotropy in Magnetic Molecular Junctions
Nature Communications 6, 8536 (2015)


Berthold Jäck, Matthias Eltschka, Maximilian Assig, Andreas Hardock, Markus Etzkorn, Christian R. Ast and Klaus Kern
A nanoscale gigahertz source realized with Josephson scanning tunneling microscopy
Appl. Phys. Lett 106, 013109 (2015)


Eike Schäfer-Nolte, Lukas Schlipf, Markus Ternes, Friedemann Reinhard, Klaus Kern, and Jörg Wrachtrup
Tracking Temperature Dependent Relaxation Times of Individual Ferritin Nanomagnets with a Wide-band Quantum Spectrometer
Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 217204 (2014)


M. Eltschka, B. Jäck, M. Assig, O.V. Kondrashov, M.A. Skvortsov, M. Etzkorn, C.R. Ast, and K. Kern
Probing Absolute Spin Polarization at the Nanoscale
Nano Lett. 14, 7171 (2014)

Yong-hui Zhang, Steffen Kahle, Tobias Herden, Christophe Stroh, Marcel Mayor, Uta Schlickum, Markus Ternes, Peter Wahl, and Klaus Kern
Temperature and magnetic field dependence of a Kondo system in the weak coupling regime
Nature Communications 4, 2110 (2013)

Steffen Kahle, Zhitao Deng, Nikola Malinowski, Charlène Tonnoir, Alicia Forment-Aliaga, Nicha Thontasen, Gordon Rinke, Duy Le, Volodymyr Turkowski, Talat S. Rahman, Stephan Rauschenbach, Markus Ternes, and Klaus Kern
Addressing the Quantum Magnetism of Individual Manganese-12-Acetate Molecular Magnets Anchored at Surfaces
Nano Letters 12, 518 (2012)

J. Bork, Y. Zhang, L. Diekhöner, L. Borda, P. Simon, J. Kroha, P. Wahl, and K. Kern
A Tunable Two-impurity Kondo system in an atomic point contact
Nat. Phys. 7, 901 (2011)

Yong-hui Zhang, Peter Wahl, and Klaus Kern
Quantum Point Contact Microscopy
Nano Letters 11, 3838 (2011)

Sangita Bose, Antonio M. García- García, Miguel M. Ugeda, Juan D. Urbina, Christian H. Michaelis, Ivan Brihuega, and Klaus Kern
Observation of shell effects in superconducting nanoparticles of Sn
Nature Materials 9, 550 (2010)

L. Vitali, G. Levita, R. Ohmann, A. Comisso, A. De Vita, and K. Kern
Portrait of the potential barrier at metal-organic nanocontacts
Nat. Mat. 9, 320 (2010)

P. Wahl, P. Simon, L. Diekhöner, V.S. Stepanyuk, P. Bruno, M.A. Schneider, and K. Kern
Determining the exchange interaction between single magnetic atoms
Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 056601 (2007)

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