Don Eigler

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Don Eigler
Donald M. Eigler

(1953-03-23) March 23, 1953 (age 70)
Alma materUniversity of California San Diego
Scientific career

Donald M. Eigler (March 23, 1953) is an American physicist associated with the IBM Almaden Research Center, who is noted for his achievements in nanotechnology.


In 1989, Eigler was the first to use a scanning tunneling microscope tip to arrange individual atoms on a surface, famously spelling out the letters "IBM" with 35 xenon atoms. He later went on to create the first quantum corrals, which are well-defined quantum wave patterns of small numbers of atoms, and nanoscale logic circuits using individual molecules of carbon monoxide. He shared the 2010 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience with Nadrian Seeman for these breakthroughs.[1]

Eigler's 1989 research, along with Erhard K. Schweizer, involved a new use of the scanning tunneling microscope, which had been invented in the mid 1980s by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, also of IBM. The microscope had previously been used for atomic-resolution imaging, but this was the first time it had been used as an active technique, to precisely position individual atoms on a surface. The technique requires vacuum conditions and ultra-cold temperatures achieved by liquid helium cooling, and was featured on the cover of the journal Nature. At the time, it was seen as a potential first step towards applications in mechanosynthesis, where chemical reactions could be manipulated one molecule at a time.[2][3] Eigler's 2002 research, along with Andreas J. Heinrich, used a cascade of collisions of carbon monoxide molecules to perform logic operations.[4]

Eigler graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor's degree in 1975 and a doctoral degree in 1984. He was postdoctoral staff at AT&T Bell Labs for two years, and then moved to IBM where he was appointed IBM Fellow in 1993.[5][6] He retired from IBM in 2011.[7]

He was elected in 1995 a Fellow of the American Physical Society[8] and in 1999 a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[9]


  1. ^ "2010 Nanoscience Prize Explanatory Notes". Kavli Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  2. ^ Browne, Malcolm W. (5 April 1990). "2 Researchers Spell 'I.B.M.,' Atom by Atom". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  3. ^ "A New Role for the STM". Science. 250 (4986): 1340–1341. 1990. doi:10.1126/science.250.4986.1340-a. PMID 17754978.
  4. ^ Chang, Kenneth (25 October 2002). "Scientists Shrink Computing to Molecular Level". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Don Eigler". IEEE Global History Network. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Don Eigler". IBM. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  7. ^ “Bio: Don Eigler” Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Nano/Bio Interface Center, University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
  8. ^ "APS Fellow Archive". American Physical Society. (search on year=1995 and institution=IBM Almaden Research Center)
  9. ^ "Historic Fellows". American Association for the Advancement of Science.