October 20, 2005

IBM Fellow Shows Off Microscope at Cornell

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Donald M. Eigler, an IBM fellow, exhibited the powers of the Scanning Tunnels Microscope (STM) by giving a live demonstration of the microscope’s ability to pick up individual atoms and transport them yesterday.

Prof. Seamus Davis, physics, stressed the ability of these lectures to exchange ideas and information with the scientific community at Cornell.

“It is important to have [the Bethe lectures] for the purpose of communicating with the full community of Cornell the frontiers of physics,” Davis said.

Eigler’s lecture focused on atom manipulation, in which the STM manipulates atoms by creating a chemical bond between the atoms and microscope. Eigler was able to demonstrate a live manipulation in San Jose, Texas, through the Internet.

Sjoerd Veenestra, a visiting scientist from the Netherlands, found this live display to be one of the most intriguing parts of the lecture.

“The most fascinating part of the lecture was [Eigler] moving an atom from the Internet one or two thousand miles away from the actual microscope,” Veenestra said.

Although Eigler said his goals were to understand the physics of nanometer scale structures and to explore the applications of nanometer scale structures, he also emphasized the preparation of the next generation of scientists. This preparation is one main reason for the creation of the Internet demonstration.

“We wanted to take the joy of our experience in the lab and share it with young people,” Eigler said. Eigler says he is unsure what the manipulation of atoms means for the future, but he does believe it will open many doors.

“What we know is that when we extend our knowledge of the world, it allows us to do things we never did before,” he said. “When we first invented the gasoline engine, we did not know that it would give the power of flight. We hope this knowledge will impact the world of medicine, technology and material sciences.”

The Bethe lecture series was founded in 1975 to honor physics Prof. Emeritus Hans Bethe’s impact on Cornell and the nation. The purpose of the lectures is to inspire the same intellectual atmosphere that Bethe had created while he was at the University by inviting prominent physicists to speak.

Archived article by Blair Robin
Sun Contributor