SYDNEY, Australia, March 20, 2008 -- Frank Ruess, PhD, a researcher at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, has been pioneering a way to make atomic-scale electronic devices using the atomic resolution capability of the scanning tunneling microscope. This "small" ambition has earned him the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) 2007 Bragg Gold Medal, which honors the best physics PhD thesis nationally each year.
Based at UNSW's Centre for Quantum Computer Technology, Ruess is working with colleagues in the Atomic Fabrication Facility under the supervision of physics professor Michelle Simmons. He has demonstrated very narrow conducting wires in silicon and the smallest silicon quantum dots, where the active components of the device were related directly to device characteristics.
Frank Ruess, PhD, at the Atomic Fabrication Facility at the University of New South Wales (Photo courtesy Camera Vision)
"This is a unique ability internationally and means UNSW researchers are now making the smallest transistors and interconnects," the university said in a statement. "The technology allows a fundamental understanding of the crossover between classical and quantum electronics. It paves the way for unprecedented miniaturization of electronic devices and the goal of creating silicon-based quantum computers."
Scanning probe microscopes, which are typically used to observe atomic-scale features rather than to fabricate devices, are the only tools that have allowed the manipulation of matter at the atomic level. Before 2003, there was no technology to make electronic devices in silicon at the level of single atoms, UNSW said.
Ruess, who graduated from UNSW in 2006, said, "I find it amazing that we can perform experiments with atomic-level control that allow us to observe quantum mechanical effects manifesting at the smallest scale. While the ultimate atomic scale device will be a quantum computer, this research also has the ability to provide insights relevant to the semiconductor industry."
UNSW provided an Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (EIPRS) for Ruess, a native German, for his PhD studies. Beyond that, he said, "Good intuition, perserverance, great mentoring and support were key for a successful PhD."
The Bragg Medal was instituted by the AIP to commemorate Sir Lawrence Bragg and his father, Sir William Bragg. The pair received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for their analysis of crystal structures using x-rays.
For more information, visit: www.qcaustralia.org/bio/staff_ruess.php
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