Nanotechnology and Autonomous Atom Assembly
Electron and Optical Physics Division Physics Laboratory
The rapidly emerging field of nanotechnology is based on the new physical phenomena that occur only in very small objects having dimensions we measure in billionths of a meter, or nanometers. The interplay of the smallest units of matter becomes paramount in such structures, and their many mysteries cannot be explained based on our experiences with normal materials. For example, on this size scale, matter can move across impenetrable barriers. Driven by the constant need for increased speed and density at reduced cost, electronic and magnetic devices are rapidly getting smaller and will reach the nanometer regime in the next decade. Before technology can be developed exploiting this new quantum regime, we need to gain a fundamental understanding of the physics of nanostructures and possess measurement tools and standards valid at atomic dimensions. The Electron Physics Group is developing the required measurement capability for nanoscale physics and nanotechnology. This unique laboratory allows the fabrication of atomically perfect nanostructures and contains a variety of methods that can be used to study their properties with sub-atomic spatial resolution. A novel nanofabrication system will perform the atom-by-atom assembly of complex nanostructures under completely autonomous computer control. A tunneling microscope has been developed that will explore the electrical and magnetic properties of the fabricated nanostructures in unprecedented detail. This recently commissioned laboratory defines the current state of the art for nanostructure measurement science.