2016 Nanoscience Laureate Biographies

The Kavli Prize - Nanoscience

Gerd Binnig

Gerd Binnig

Gerd Binnig is a German physicist and Nobel Laureate. He studied at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, where in 1978 he obtained his PhD for work on superconductivity with Hans Eckhardt Hoenig, in the group of Werner Martienssen.

Immediately after his PhD he moved to Zürich, where he became a research staff member at IBM. In collaboration with Heinrich Rohrer and other colleagues including Christoph Gerber and Edmund Weibel, in 1981 he developed the scanning tunnelling microscope. In recognition of this work, Binnig and Rohrer were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.

Between 1985 and 1988, Binnig was based in California, working at IBM in Almaden and at Stanford University, where he had a visiting professorship. It was during this period that he involved his IBM colleague Christoph Gerber and Stanford Professor Calvin Quate in realizing his idea of the atomic force microscope.

When he returned to Europe he was awarded an honorary professorship at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, where he directed an IBM laboratory until 1995. In 1994 he founded Definiens, a company dedicated to developing advanced processing tools for maximizing the information that can be gathered from images, with particular use for applications in medical diagnostics.

Photo: © Definiens AG

Christoph Gerber

Chistoph Gerber

Christoph Gerber is a Swiss professor of physics and Director for Scientific Communication of the National Center of Competence for Nanoscale Science at the University of Basel, where he has been since 2004.

After his PhD, Gerber moved to Sweden and in 1964 became group leader in research and development for the company Contraves. In 1966 he moved to IBM Research in Zürich, with which he remained associated until 2004; in the 1980s he also worked temporarily at IBM Almaden and at the IBM physics group in Munich. In the early 1980s he worked with Gerd Binnig, Heinrich Rohrer and Edmund Weibel on the development of the scanning tunnelling microscope. He then continued his collaboration with Binnig, and while at IBM Almaden the two scientists, in collaboration with Calvin Quate from Stanford University, realized the atomic force microscope.

In the last 30 years he has continued to explore the possibility of using scanning probes as imaging, manipulation and diagnostic tools. He is particularly interested in developing biochemical sensors based on atomic force microscopy.

He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Science Award of the City of Basel, Switzerland, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the science journal Nature, and he is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, of the World Technology Network and of the Institute of Physics, UK.

Photo: © Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI)

Calvin Quate

Calvin Quate

Calvin Quate is an American engineer and physicist who holds the Leland T. Edwards Professorship in the School of Engineering at Stanford. He graduated in electrical engineering at the University of Utah in 1944, and then moved to Stanford to work on his PhD, which he obtained in 1950. Between 1950 and 1960 he worked at different research laboratories, first at Bell Labs in Murray Hills, New Jersey, then at Sandia in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He finally moved to Stanford University, where since 1961 he has been a professor of applied physics and electrical engineering.

Quate has been interested in scanning probes for a long time. In the early 1970s, working with Ross Lemons, he developed the scanning acoustic microscope, which was reported in a paper in Applied Physics Letters in 1974; this instrument can be employed to investigate the structural properties of devices, as well as the elasticity of tissues.

In the mid-1980s he became interested in realizing an instrument that could provide images of surfaces with very high resolution, and together with Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber he developed the atomic force microscope.

Quate’s work has been recognized by a number of honours, including the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award, the IEEE Medal of Honor and the Rank Prize for Optoelectronics from the Rank Prize Funds of The Royal Society, London. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as a fellow of the IEEE and of Palo Alto Research Center.

Photo: © Linda A. Cicero