Gerd Binnig

Gerd Binnig (born 20 July 1947[1]) is a German physicist, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986 for the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope.[2]

He was born in Frankfurt am Main and played in the ruins of the city during his childhood. His family lived partly in Frankfurt and partly in Offenbach am Main, and he attended school in both cities. At the age of 10, he decided to become a physicist, but he soon wondered whether he had made the right choice. He concentrated more on music, playing in a band. He also started playing the violin at 15 and played in his school orchestra.[1]

Binnig studied physics at the J.W. Goethe University in Frankfurt, gaining a bachelor's degree in 1973 and remaining there do a PhD with in Werner Martienssen's group, supervised by Eckhardt Hoenig.[3]

In 1969, he married Lore Wagler, a psychologist, and they have a daughter born in Switzerland and a son born in California.[1] His hobbies are reading, swimming and golf.

In 1978, he accepted an offer from IBM to join their Zürich research group, where he worked with Heinrich Rohrer, Christoph Gerber and Edmund Weibel. There they developed the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level.[4] The Nobel committee described the effect that the invention of the STM had on science, saying that "entirely new fields are opening up for the study of the structure of matter."[2] The physical principles on which the STM was based were already known before the IBM team developed the STM, but Binnig and his colleagues were the first to solve the significant experimental challenges involved in putting it into effect.[2]

The IBM Zürich team were soon recognized with a number of prizes: the German Physics Prize, the Otto Klung Prize, the Hewlett Packard Prize and the King Faisal Prize.[1] In 1986, Binnig and Rohrer shared half of the Nobel Prize in Physics, the other half of the Prize was awarded to Ernst Ruska.

From 1985-1988, he worked in California. He was at IBM in Almaden Valley, and was visiting professor at Stanford University.[5]

In 1985, Binnig invented the atomic force microscope (AFM) [6] and Binnig, Christoph Gerber and Calvin Quate went on to develop a working version of this new microscope for insulating surfaces.[7]

In 1987 Binnig was appointed IBM Fellow. In the same year, he started the IBM Physics group Munich, working on creativity[8] and atomic force microscopy [9]

In 1994 Professor Gerd Binnig founded Definiens which turned in the year 2000 into a commercial enterprise. The company developed Cognition Network Technology to analyze images just like the human eye and brain are capable of doing.[10]

in 2016, Binnig won the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.[11] He became a fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.[12]

The Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center, an IBM-owned research facility in Rüschlikon, Zürich is named after Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer.

Gerd Binnig
Gerd Binnig at the Memorial Symposium for Heinrich Rohrer (cropped) 2
Born20 July 1947 (age 71)
Alma materJ.W. Goethe University, Frankfurt
Known forScanning tunneling microscope, atomic force microscope
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (1986)
The Elliott Cresson Medal (1987)

Kavli Prize (2016)
Scientific career
InstitutionsIBM Zurich Research Laboratory
Doctoral advisorWerner Martienssen
Eckhardt Hoenig
Doctoral studentsFranz Josef Giessibl


  1. ^ a b c d "Gerd Binnig - Biographical". Nobel Media AB. 1986. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  2. ^ a b c "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1986 - Press Release". Nobel Media AB. 1986-10-15. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  3. ^ "Definiens Management Team - Gerd Binnig, PhD". Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  4. ^ Binnig, G.; Rohrer, H.; Gerbe, Ch; Weibe, E. (1982). "Surface Studies by Scanning Tunneling Microscopy". Physical Review Letters. 49 (1): 57. Bibcode:1982PhRvL..49...57B. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.49.57.
  5. ^ "Gerd Binnig". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  6. ^ G. Binnig, "Atomic force microscope and method for imaging surfaces with atomic resolution", US Patent US4724318 (priority date Nov 25 1985)
  7. ^ Binnig, G.; Quate, C. F. (1986). "Atomic Force Microscope". Physical Review Letters. 56 (9): 930–933. Bibcode:1986PhRvL..56..930B. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.56.930. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 10033323.
  8. ^ G. Binnig, "Aus dem Nichts. Über die Kreativität von Natur und Mensch", Piper (1990).
  9. ^ Franz Josef Giessibl, Christoph Gerber and G. Binnig, "A low-temperature atomic force/scanning tunneling microscope for ultrahigh vacuum", J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B9, 984-988 (1991).
  10. ^ Health, Audacity. "Team | Definiens". Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  11. ^ "2016 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience |". Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  12. ^ "Group 2: Astronomy, Physics and Geophysics". Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2017.

External links

1947 in Germany

Events in the year 1947 in Germany.

1985 in science

The year 1985 in science and technology involved many significant events, listed below.

1986 in science

The year 1986 in science and technology involved many significant events, some not listed below.

Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center

Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center in Rüschlikon/ZH is a Research Facility for Nanotechnology owned by IBM.

This building was named after the two Nanotech-Pioneers and Nobelaureates Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, who invented the Scanning Tunneling Microscope in the year 1986 in the Zurich Research Laboratory next to the Nanotechnology Center.

The Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center is specialized on basic research but also in photonics and nanotechnology. The facility is based on the premise of open collaboration with IBM scientists and external partners. One of these partners is ETH Zurich, the renowned Swiss university that agreed to rent part of the Center for 10 years. EMPA is a third partner.

Christoph Gerber

Christoph Gerber is a titular professor at the Department of Physics, University of Basel, Switzerland.

Christoph Gerber is the co-inventor of the atomic force microscope. He was among the 250 most cited living physicists in the world in the year 2000.Christoph Gerber is a titular professor at the Department of Physics, University of Basel, Switzerland. He was a founding member and Director for Scientific Communication of the NCCR (National Center of Competence in Research Nanoscale Science). He was formerly a Research Staff Member in Nanoscale Science at the IBM Research Laboratory in Rueschlikon, Switzerland, and has served as a project leader in various programs of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

For the past 35 years, his research has been focused on nanoscale science. He is a pioneer in scanning probe microscopy, who made major contributions to the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope, the atomic force microscope (AFM), and AFM techniques in high vacuum and at low temperatures.He is the author and co-author of more than 165 scientific papers that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and has been cited approximately 29'000 times in cross-disciplinary fields. He belongs to the one hundred worldwide most cited researchers in Physical Sciences. He has given numerous plenary and invited talks at international conferences.

His work has been recognized with multiple honorary degrees and various awards and appeared in numerous articles in daily press and TV coverage. 2016 he has been awarded the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience together with Gerd Binnig and Calvin Quate for the Scanning Force Microscope. He became a fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics UK. His IP portfolio contains 37 patents and patent publications.

His current interests include

Biochemical sensors based on AFM Technology

Chemical surface identification on the nanometer scale with AFM

Nanomechanics, nanorobotics, molecular devices at the ultimate limits of measurement and fabrication

Atomic force microscopy research on insulators

Self-organization and self-assembly at the nanometer scale

Cognition Network Technology

Cognition Network Technology (CNT), also known as Definiens Cognition Network Technology, is an object-based image analysis method developed by Nobel laureate Gerd Binnig together with a team of researchers at Definiens AG in Munich, Germany.

It serves for extracting information from images using a hierarchy of image objects (groups of pixels), as opposed to traditional pixel processing methods.

To emulate the human mind's cognitive powers, Definiens used patented image segmentation and classification processes, and developed a method to render knowledge in a semantic network. CNT examines pixels not in isolation, but in context. It builds up a picture iteratively, recognizing groups of pixels as objects. It uses the color, shape, texture and size of objects as well as their context and relationships to draw conclusions and inferences, similar to a human analyst.

Don Eigler

Donald M. "Don" Eigler is an American physicist associated with the IBM Almaden Research Center, who is noted for his achievements in nanotechnology.

Experimental physics

Experimental physics is the category of disciplines and sub-disciplines in the field of physics that are concerned with the observation of physical phenomena and experiments. Methods vary from discipline to discipline, from simple experiments and observations, such as the Cavendish experiment, to more complicated ones, such as the Large Hadron Collider.

Franz Josef Giessibl

Franz Josef Gießibl (born May 27, 1962 in Amerang) is a German physicist and university professor at the University of Regensburg.

Heinrich Rohrer

Heinrich Rohrer (6 June 1933 – 16 May 2013) was a Swiss physicist who shared half of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with Gerd Binnig for the design of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). The other half of the Prize was awarded to Ernst Ruska.

Kavli Prize

The Kavli Prize was established in 2005 through a joint venture between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and The Kavli Foundation. The main objective for the Prize is to honor, support and recognize scientists for outstanding scientific work in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience and award three international prizes every second year. The Kavli Prize was awarded the first time in Oslo, 9 September 2008. The Prizes were presented by Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway. Each of the three Kavli Prizes consists of a gold medal, a scroll, and a cash award of US $1,000,000.

List of German physicists

This is a list of German physicists.

List of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich people

This is a list of people associated with Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in Germany.

List of Swiss inventions and discoveries

The following list is composed of items, techniques and processes that were invented by or discovered by people from Switzerland.

List of members of the National Academy of Sciences (Applied physical sciences)

This list is a subsection of the List of members of the National Academy of Sciences, which includes approximately 2,000 members and 350 foreign associates of the United States National Academy of Sciences, each of whom is affiliated with one of 31 disciplinary sections. Each person's name, primary institution, and election year are given.

List of microscopists

This is a list a microscopists.


Nanoengineering is the practice of engineering on the nanoscale. It derives its name from the nanometre, a unit of measurement equalling one billionth of a meter.

Nanoengineering is largely a synonym for nanotechnology, but emphasizes the engineering rather than the pure science aspects of the field.

Scanning tunneling microscope

A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level. Its development in 1981 earned its inventors, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer (at IBM Zürich), the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. For an STM, good resolution is considered to be 0.1 nm lateral resolution and 0.01 nm (10 pm) depth resolution. With this resolution, individual atoms within materials are routinely imaged and manipulated. The STM can be used not only in ultra-high vacuum but also in air, water, and various other liquid or gas ambients, and at temperatures ranging from near zero kelvin to over 1000 °C.STM is based on the concept of quantum tunneling. When a conducting tip is brought very near to the surface to be examined, a bias (voltage difference) applied between the two can allow electrons to tunnel through the vacuum between them. The resulting tunneling current is a function of tip position, applied voltage, and the local density of states (LDOS) of the sample. Information is acquired by monitoring the current as the tip's position scans across the surface, and is usually displayed in image form. STM can be a challenging technique, as it requires extremely clean and stable surfaces, sharp tips, excellent vibration control, and sophisticated electronics, but nonetheless many hobbyists have built their own.

Timeline of microscope technology

Timeline of microscope technology

c. 700 BCE - The "Nimrud lens" of Assyrians manufacture, a rock crystal disk with a convex shape believed to be a burning or magnifying lens.

167 BCE - The Chinese use simple microscopes made of a lens and a water-filled tube to visualize the unseen.

13th century - The increase in use of lenses in eyeglasses probably led to the wide spread use of simple microscopes (single lens magnifying glasses) with limited magnification.

1590 - earliest date of a claimed Hans Martens/Zacharias Janssen invention of the compound microscope (claim made in 1655).

After 1609 - Galileo Galilei is described as being able to close focus his telescope to view small objects close up and/or looking through the wrong end in reverse to magnify small objects. A telescope used in this fashion is the same as a compound microscope but historians debate whether Galileo was magnifying small objects or viewing near by objects with his terrestrial telescope (convex objective/concave eyepiece) reversed.

1619 - Earliest recorded description of a compound microscope, Dutch Ambassador Willem Boreel sees one in London in the possession of Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel, an instrument about eighteen inches long, two inches in diameter, and supported on 3 brass dolphins.

1621 - Cornelius Drebbel presents, in London, a compound microscope with a convex objective and a convex eyepiece (a "Keplerian" microscope).

c.1622 - Drebbel presents his invention in Rome.

1624 - Galileo improves on a compound microscope he sees in Rome and presents his occhiolino to Prince Federico Cesi, founder of the Accademia dei Lincei (in English, The Linceans).

1625 - Francesco Stelluti and Federico Cesi publish Apiarium, the first account of observations using a compound microscope

1625 - Giovanni Faber of Bamberg (1574 - 1629) of the Linceans, after seeing Galileo's occhiolino, coins the word microscope by analogy with telescope.

1655 - In an investigation by Willem Boreel, Dutch spectacle-maker Johannes Zachariassen claims his father, Zacharias Jansen, invented the compound microscope in 1590. Zachariassen's claimed dates are so early it is sometimes assumed, for the claim to be true, that his grandfather, Hans Martens, must have invented it. Findings are published by writer Pierre Borel. Discrepancies in Boreel's investigation and Zachariassen's testimony (including misrepresenting his date of birth and role in the invention) has led some historians to consider this claim dubious.

1665 - Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia, a collection of biological micrographs. He coins the word cell for the structures he discovers in cork bark.

1674 - Anton van Leeuwenhoek improves on a simple microscope for viewing biological specimens.

1850s - John Leonard Riddell, Professor of Chemistry at Tulane University, invents the first practical binocular microscope.

1863 - Henry Clifton Sorby develops a metallurgical microscope to observe structure of meteorites.

1860s - Ernst Abbe discovers the Abbe sine condition, a breakthrough in microscope design, which until then was largely based on trial and error. The company of Carl Zeiss exploited this discovery and becomes the dominant microscope manufacturer of its era.

1928 - Edward Hutchinson Synge publishes theory underlying the near-field scanning optical microscope

1931 - Ernst Ruska starts to build the first electron microscope. It is a Transmission electron microscope (TEM)

1936 - Erwin Wilhelm Müller invents the field emission microscope.

1938 - James Hillier builds another TEM

1951 - Erwin Wilhelm Müller invents the field ion microscope and is the first to see atoms.

1953 - Frits Zernike, professor of theoretical physics, receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the phase contrast microscope.

1955 - George Nomarski, professor of microscopy, published the theoretical basis of Differential interference contrast microscopy.

1957 - Marvin Minsky, a professor at MIT, invents the confocal microscope, an optical imaging technique for increasing optical resolution and contrast of a micrograph by means of using a spatial pinhole to block out-of-focus light in image formation. This technology is a predecessor to today's widely used confocal laser scanning microscope.

1967 - Erwin Wilhelm Müller adds time-of-flight spectroscopy to the field ion microscope, making the first atom probe and allowing the chemical identification of each individual atom.

1981 - Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer develop the scanning tunneling microscope (STM).

1986 - Gerd Binnig, Quate, and Gerber invent the Atomic force microscope (AFM)

1988 - Alfred Cerezo, Terence Godfrey, and George D. W. Smith applied a position-sensitive detector to the atom probe, making it able to resolve materials in 3-dimensions with near-atomic resolution.

1988 - Kingo Itaya invents the Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope

1991 - Kelvin probe force microscope invented.

Kavli Prize laureates

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