Site: Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI)
Laboratory for Micro- and Nanostructures (LMN)
CH-5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland (or

Date Visited: 15 October 1997

WTEC: E. Hu (report author), H. Goronkin, M.C. Roco, D.T. Shaw



The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) is the largest Swiss-supported government laboratory. The approximate allocation of funding and division of personnel (1996) is as follows:

*21% from industry, 29% from electricity generation industry and NAGRA for nuclear energy research, 8% from EU and Swiss National Fund

The allocation of budget (in SFr. millions) by field of research is as follows (parentheses show % of total allocation, including external funding):

Operated as a multidisciplinary national research lab, PSI provides research infrastructure and the operation of large scale facilities, such as the Spallation Neutron Source (SINQ), recently completed, and a synchrotron light source (Swiss Light Source), which was to begin construction in Spring 1998. PSI supplies outreach support to the following groups of people:


The WTEC team's host at PSI was Dr. Jens Gobrecht, the Head of the Laboratory for Micro- and Nanostructures (LMN) in the Department of Applied Solid State Physics. Dr. Gobrecht estimated that in his own area about one-third of the personnel budget originates from external funding, and about 50 people are involved in the nano field. The areas of research are organized into three categories as follows:


As mentioned above, the LMN participates in a number of national initiatives involving nanostructure science. National Research Programs (Nationale Forschungsprogramm, NFP) are directed towards solution of specific problems and are largely interdisciplinary in nature. In 1993, Nanosciences was chose as a subject area of NFP 36 (1996-2001). The Swiss Priority Programs (SPP), were developed to ensure that strategic research in Switzerland is on a par with international research and that Swiss universities have the competence and financial means to play an important role in that research. SPPs are long term projects and can last eight to ten years, encompassing both basic research and practical problem solving.


Among the projects discussed in greater detail are the following:

Dr. Thomas Jung described his work on the STM manipulation of molecules, rather than atoms, thus availing himself of preassembled building blocks. The building blocks can be prefabricated by chemical methods possessing specific structural, chemical, and physical properties. In addition to preassembly, a molecular approach has the advantage of being carried out at room temperature. The molecular building blocks considered include C60 (as was used to form the "abacus"), customized porphyrins, and bimolecular systems involving planar aromatic systems and fullerenes. In particular, Dr. Jung described work utilizing Cu-TBPP on Cu (100); experiments have elucidated molecular adsorption, surface movement, positioning, and stability of the assembled structures (for further information see Gimzerski et al. n.d.).

Figure B.1. Streptavidin immobilized on mica.

Team members also met with Drs. Werner Wagner and Helena Van Swygenhoven, members of the Department on Solid State Research at Large Facilities, associated with SINQ. In addition to providing support for outside researchers wishing to use the Spallation Neutron Source, members of this department also carry their own program of research in nanostructured materials, interacting broadly with a number of collaborators, both in Europe and the United States. Synthesizing nanostructured materials by inert gas condensation (IGC), evaluations of such materials are made with respect to structural, magnetic (e.g., for Fe, Co, Ni), mechanical, and electronic (Pd, Pt) properties. Molecular dynamics computer simulations of structural and mechanical properties are carried out in order to explore conditions for improved materials properties, such as ductility or wear-resistance. Research is being undertaken with industrial collaborators in this last area (nanoscaled multilayered coatings for wear-resistant coatings).

In addition to SINQ, the Large Facilities Department of PSI makes available its IGC facility, hot compaction unit, indenter, X-ray diffraction and density measurements, small angle neutron scattering, prompt gamma activation analysis, TEM, and SEM with EDX. SQUID and NMR are carried out in the laboratories of collaborators at École Polytechnique Lausanne, and positron lifetime measurements are made at the University of Gent.


Gimzerski, J.K., T.A. Jung, M.T. Cuberes, and R.R. Schlittler. Scanning tunneling microscopy of individual molecules: Beyond imaging.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian