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Table of Contents
Gerd Binnig was a German physicist famous for inventing the scanning tunneling microscope or STM with Heinrich Rohrer, in which they received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. He also invented the atomic force microscope, which solved the limitation of the STM.
See the fact file below for more information on the Gerd Binnig or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Gerd Binnig worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
BINNIG’S EARLY LIFE
- Gerd Binnig was born on July 20, 1947, in Frankfurt, western Germany. He was the eldest of two sons of a mechanical engineer, Karl Franz Binnig, and a drafter, Ruth Bracke Binnig.
- Being born after World War II, he grew up playing among the ruins of the demolished buildings, innocent to the after-effects of the war.
- He lived partly in Frankfurt and partly in Offenbach. He attended school in both cities, but he decided to pursue Physics in Frankfurt at the tender age of ten, even without knowing its whole meaning.
- Binnig studied Physics at J.W. Goethe University at Frankfurt. He found Physics, particularly, Theoretical Physics, relatively unphilosophical and unimaginative
- The future physicist started to hesitate about his chosen career and concentrated more on playing music in a beat band with his friends..
- He had enjoyed being part of a school orchestra when he was 15 by playing the violin. His brother influenced him with the sounds of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. His short stint here taught him how difficult teamwork was, and as much as he was having fun being creative, the audience reaction was always unpredictable.
- Despite the distraction, he obtained his degree in Physics in 1973. He also had a Ph.D. with Werner Martienssen group, supervised by Eckhardt Hoenig in the same university in 1978. His experience here made him realize that doing physics was more fun than learning it.
- Binnig was recruited as a researcher at International Business Machine (IBM) Zurich Research Laboratory in Switzerland.
- He met his Nobel Prize co-winner, Heinrich Rohrer, here who was with IBM since 1963. Binnig credited Rohrer for restoring fully his somewhat lost curiosity in physics.
- Both of them had the same background in superconductivity and were interested in exploring the characteristics of the surface of materials. In 1981, they designed and built the first scanning tunneling microscope or STM, an instrument that produces images of the surface of materials in very fine detail that individual atoms are clearly recognizable.
- Binnig and Rohrer received the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics for this invention. Binnig was only 39 years old. They also received accolades from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, awarded Hewlett Packard Prize, German Physics Prize, Otto Klung Prize, and King Faisal Prize.
HOW STM WORKS
- By applying the phenomenon of quantum mechanics known as tunneling, he and Rohrer decided to make electrons tunnel through a vacuum from a sample solid surface to a sharp, needlelike probe.
- The distance between the needlelike probe and the sample’s surface is kept constant by measuring the current produced while adjusting the probe’s height accordingly.
- It records the varying elevation of the probe resulting in a three-dimensional map of the surface with clear images of the individual atoms.
USES OF STM
- Binnig was the first person to observe a virus escaping from a living cell using the STM. They soon realized that their invention was powerful enough for the scientist to see an individual atom that can be used in basic research in chemistry, physics, and biology, and applied research such as in semiconductor physics, microelectronics metallurgy, and bioengineering.
- They also discovered that a tunneling microscope could be used in spectroscopy, a tool for studying the structures of atoms and molecules. The STM’s tip current is measured versus the applied voltage to get the electron characteristics of the sample.
- Furthermore, the tunneling microscope could also be used to move the atom by bringing the tip very close to the atom, raising it and moving it somewhere else.
DEVELOPING THE ATOMIC FORCE MICROSCOPE
- In 1984, Binnig joined the IBM Physics Group in Munich and moved to IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. He also became a visiting professor at Stanford University from 1985-1986.
- In 1985, Binnig considered using atomic force between atoms rather than tunneling current to move the scanning tip over a solid’s surface. He collaborated with Christoph Gerber of IBM Zurich and Calvin Quate of Stanford to produce a new scanner, the atomic force microscope (AFM).
- It started a new field of microscopy and overcame the limitation of STM; it can only image conducting or semiconducting surfaces. The AFM allowed the not electrically conductive material, such as polymers, ceramics, composites, glass, and biological samples, to get their topographical image.
STARTING A RESEARCH COMPANY
- Binnig started a research company in 1994 he named Delphi Creative Technologies GmbH. It eventually became Definiens Cognition Network Technology and is now a subsidiary of Definiens AG, which develops knowledge-based systems. Binnig was the company’s chief researcher and scientific coordinator. They created the “Cognition Network,” which aims to simulate human thought patterns using technology. Binnig remains the company’s permanent consultant and works closely on the Cognition network.
- In 2002, the company won the European Information Society Technologies Prize for a newly developed technology that can analyze satellite and aerial images.
- Binnig married a psychologist, Lore Wagler in 1969. Wagler was the one who convinced Binnig to accept the job at IBM Zurich Laboratory. After 15 years of being together, their first daughter was born in 1984 and a son in 1986.
- In 1990, he joined the Supervisory Board of the Daimler Benz Holding. In the same year, Binnig wrote a popular German book, Aus dem Nichts (Out of Nothing), about human creativity and chaos.
- He is currently involved in a few political activities.
Gerd Binnig Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Gerd Binnig across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Gerd Binnig worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Gerd Binnig who was a German physicist famous for inventing the scanning tunneling microscope or STM with Heinrich Rohrer, in which they received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. He also invented the atomic force microscope, which solved the limitation of the STM.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Gerd Binnig Facts
- A Physicist Early Life
- Other Accolades
- Binnig’s IBM Career
- Binnig’s Jobs
- His Other Life
- After The Prize
- Using STM
- Modern Microscopes
- The Binnig and Rohrer Story
- Binnig’s Wisdom
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