There are numerous examples in science in which a radically different conceptual approach to solving a problem at hand has resulted in a major scientific breakthrough. Such is the case for scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). The inventors of STM, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer of the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986, only four years after their initial report of the technique (G. .Binnig and H. Rohrer, Rev. Mod. Phys. 59, .6 15, 1987).

Before the invention of STM, researchers who desired a high-resolution surface map of a particular sample relied on scanning electron microscopy (SEM). SEM, like other microscopy techniques, creates an image of a specimen by directing an incident beam in the case of high-energy electrons) at the sample. Although SEM provides an excellent structural representation of a specimen, the vertical resolution that can be obtained is limited. Additionally,...

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