Nanoscale Science Department
Research efforts in the Department are centered on nanoscale science and technology with a focus on the bottom-up paradigm. The aim of the interdisciplinary research at the interface between physics, chemistry and biology is to gain control of materials at the atomic and molecular level, enabling the design of systems and devices with properties determined by quantum behavior on one hand and approaching functionalities of living matter on the other hand.
Molecules colliding with surfaces at energies relevant to chemistry (0 – 50 eV) undergo selective conformation changes and mechanochemical reactions. The origin of these phenomena is the compression of the molecules when the fast-approaching molecules are brought to sudden halt upon their impact at the surface. Our novel approach offers a general pathway to explore the conformation space and the mechanochemistry of any molecule that can be electrosprayed.
Despite plenty of room at the bottom, there is a limit to the miniaturization of every process. Using scanning tunneling microscopy, we have exploited a magnetic impurity at a superconducting tip and one on a superconducting sample to demonstrate tunneling between two energy levels as a minimal configuration of a tunneling current. The underlying theory, which was developed together with colleagues from Ulm and Madrid, becomes surprisingly simple and allow us to extract the rather long lifetime of the Yu-Shiba-Rusinov states.
There is a new perspective on sugar. In collaboration with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces we have used scanning tunnelling microscopy to image how individual polysaccharide molecules are folded for the first time. Using electrospray ion beam deposition we could isolate single sugar molecules at a cold surface and image them with submolecular resolution. Our landmark experiments make it possible to investigate the relationship between the spatial structure of polysaccharides such as those found on pathogens and their biological effect.
The operation of components for future computers can now be filmed in HD quality, so to speak. Manish Garg and Klaus Kern, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, have developed a microscope for the extremely fast processes that take place on the quantum scale. This microscope – a sort of HD camera for the quantum world – allows the precise tracking of electron movements down to the individual atom. It should therefore provide useful insights when it comes to developing extremely fast and extremely small electronic components, for example.