Tiny science, big prize

UNSW's Dr Frank Ruess has been awarded the 2007 Bragg Gold Medal by the Australian Institute of Physics.

FrankReuss lab inside

UNSW's Dr Frank Ruess has been awarded the 2007 Bragg Gold Medal by the Australian Institute of Physics. This is the first time a UNSW candidate has won the prestigious award, which honours the best physics PhD thesis nationally each year.

Before 2003 there was no known technology to make electronic devices in silicon at the level of single atoms. Indeed, the only tools that have allowed the manipulation of matter at the atomic level are scanning probe microscopes, which are typically used to observe atomic-scale features rather than fabricate devices.

Dr Ruess is pioneering a new way to make atomic-scale electronic devices using the atomic resolution capability of the scanning tunnelling microscope. Based at UNSW's Centre for Quantum Computer Technology, he is working with colleagues in the Atomic Fabrication Facility under the supervision of Federation Fellow, Michelle Simmons.

The success of Dr Ruess' PhD work has been highlighted by his subsequent demonstrations of very narrow conducting wires in silicon and the smallest silicon quantum dots, where the active components of the device were related directly to device characteristics.

This is a unique ability internationally and means UNSW researchers are now making the smallest transistors and interconnects. The technology allows a fundamental understanding of the crossover between classical and quantum electronics. It paves the way for unprecedented miniaturisation of electronic devices and the goal of creating silicon-based quantum computers.

"I'm overwhelmed and delighted to have been given this award," said Dr Ruess. "My PhD was a very challenging yet extremely rewarding experience and to receive such acknowledgement on a national level is the icing on the cake."

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Simmons said, "Frank has been an outstanding student and I congratulate him heartily. It is a real pleasure to work with international students of this calibre and we thank both the University and the Australian Research Council for supporting this research".

Reflecting this sentiment, Professor Les Field, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) added: "This is yet another example of the University's leading position in this frontier technology research."

The Bragg Medal was instituted by the AIP to commemorate Sir Lawrence Bragg and his father Sir William Bragg. The pair received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for their analysis of crystal structures using X-rays.

Media Contact: Dan Gaffney, 0411 156 015