The prime goal of modern electronics is to build nanostructures from individual atoms with functions such as diodes, transistors, switches, and magnetic bits, in electronic circuits and storage media. Controlling each function is still a major challenge, as even the slightest changes in the environment of the atoms can greatly change their properties.
As part of her ERC project, Katharina Franke and her team will build model systems of a few atoms on atomically clean surfaces under ultrahigh vacuum. Using scanning tunneling microscopy, they will map them at a low temperature of –268 C and investigate them electronically. Their main focus will be on magnetic atoms, which are adsorbed on a superconducting surface. Superconductors are perfect conductors in which the current is not transported by electrons, but rather by pairs of them called Cooper pairs. The interaction of the magnetic atoms with the Cooper pairs promises new possibilities for control of magnetic information. In addition to answers to such fundamental physical issues as the complex image of interactions at the atomic scale, the research is expected to draw new perspectives for the realization of electronics from individual atoms.
Katharina Franke majored in physics at the University of Kiel in Germany and earned her degree from Pennsylvania State University. In 2003 she received her doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin. After working as a postdoctoral researcher in Lausanne, she returned to Berlin and worked as a researcher and then a junior professor at Freie Universität Berlin, where she has been a professor of experimental physics since 2012.