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The Swiss Physical Society (SPS) is the national professional association of Physicists coming from teaching, research, development and industry. The diversity of modern research in physics is reflected in ten specific sections.

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The winners of the SPS Awards 2016

The SPS Award committee under the lead of Professor Louis Schlapbach selected the winners for 2016 out of numerous submissions. Unfortunately there was no suitable candidate for the newly introduced SPS Award in Computational Physics, sponsored by COMSOL. We nevertheless hope to receive numerous candidatures for the next round in 2017.
The 2016 winners presented their work at the annual meeting in Lugano. Below you can read the laudationes written by Louis Schlapbach and the summaries written by the authors.

From left to right: Bruno Schuler, Marta Gibert, Susanne Baumann, Fabian Menges
From left to right: Bruno Schuler, Marta Gibert, Susanne Baumann, Fabian Menges

SPS Award in General Physics, sponsored by ABB

The SPS 2016 Prize in General Physics is awarded to Susanne Baumann for her development of the coherent manipulation of individual atomic spins on surfaces. Her work, which was published in Science in 2015, showed that the quantum states of individual atoms on surfaces are accessible to coherent quantum control. This initial work will surely lead to the application of atoms on surfaces as qubits for quantum computation as well as for exquisitely sensitive detectors of magnetic and electric fields. In addition, Susanne Baumann is recognized for the exploration of the magnetic properties of Co and Fe atoms with a combination of scanning tunneling microscopy and x-ray absorption performed at the Swiss Light Source (Science 2014).

Susanne Baumann 1,2, William Paul 1, Taeyoung Choi 1, Christopher P. Lutz 1, Arzhang Ardavan 3, Andreas J. Heinrich 1
1 IBM Almaden Research Center, 650 Harry Road, San Jose, CA 95120, USA
2 Departement of Physics, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 82, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
3 Clarendon Laboratory, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, OXI 3PU, United Kingdom

In a spin resonance experiment, radio-frequency radiation drives transitions between low-energy spin states. Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) experiments generally require a large ensemble of nearly identical spins, but magnetic resonance has, in certain systems, been detected also on individual spins. Here we present how electron spin resonance experiments can be performed on single iron atoms in a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) by using a spin-polarized tip to readout the atom’s quantum state. In contrast to conventional ESR experiments, we use an oscillating electric field (20 to 30 GHz) to excite the spin resonance in the individual iron atoms placed on a magnesium oxide film. We determine an energy relaxation time of T1 ~ 100 microseconds and a phase-coherence time of T2 ~ 210 nanoseconds. This approach combines the high energy resolution of conventional spin resonance (here ~10 neV) with the unique strengths of the tunnelling microscope to characterize and modify an individual magnetic nanostructure and its atomic-scale environment.

SPS Award in Condensed Matter Physics, sponsored by IBM

The SPS 2016 Prize in Condensed Matter Physics is awarded to Marta Gibert for her excellent PostDoc-research work on magnetic coupling at oxide interfaces, especially in the interface engineering of heterostructures combining nickelates and manganites. The observation of exchange bias in superlattices of non-magnetic LaNiO3 and magnetic LaMnO3 layers not only implied the development of interface-induced magnetism in the paramagnetic LaNiO3 layers, but also provided a very subtle tool for probing interfacial coupling.The experimental results were supported by firstprinciples calculations.
The results led to the publications:
"Exchange bias in LaNiO3–LaMnO3 superlattices", M. Gibert, et al., Nature Materials 11, 195 (2012).
"Interfacial Control of Magnetic Properties at LaMnO3/LaNiO3 Interfaces", M. Gibert et al. , Nanoletters 15, 7355 (2015).
"Interlayer coupling through a dimensionality induced magnetic state in LaNiO3", M. Gibert et al. Nature Communication 7, 11227 (2016).

M. Gibert 1, M. Viret 2, P. Zubko 3, N. Jaouen 4, J.-M. Tonnerre 5, A. Torres-Pardo 6,7, S. Catalano 1, J. Fowlie 1, A. Gloter 6, O. Stéphan 6 and J.-M. Triscone 1
1 Département de Physique de la Matière Quantique, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
2 Service de Physique de l'Etat Condensé, CEA/DSM/IRAMIS, CEA Saclay, France
3 London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, London, UK
4 Synchrotron SOLEIL, L'Orme des Merisiers, France
5 Institut Néel, CNRS et Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France
6 Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France
7 Departamento de Química Inorgánica, Facultad de Químicas, Universidad Complutense Madrid, Spain

Transition metal oxides display a wide range of physical properties arising from the complex interplay between their spin, charge, orbital and lattice degrees of freedom. In recent years, complex-oxide heterostructures have garnered much attention due to the many routes they offer for the engineering of novel functionalities and the discovery of fascinating and often unexpected phenomena. The emergence of new phases due to reduced dimensionality or at interfaces between chemically distinct compounds have led to some of the most interesting findings.
We report on how interface engineering can be used to induce a new magnetic phase in the otherwise non-magnetic material LaNiO3 [1]. We show that an induced antiferromagnetic order can be stabilized in LaNiO3 by interfacial coupling to the insulating ferromagnet LaMnO3 in (111)-oriented LaNiO3/LaMnO3 superlattices. The emergent magnetism is used to generate an interlayer magnetic coupling in the heterostructures of a nature that depends on the exact number of LaNiO3 monolayers [2]. For 7-monolayer-thick LaNiO3/LaMnO3 superlattices, negative and positive exchange bias is observed at low temperature before the stabilization of an antiferromagnetically coupled state between the LaMnO3 layers above the blocking temperature. All these behaviours are explained by the onset of an antiferromagnetic spiral order of (1/4, 1/4, 1/4)-wavevector in the ultrathin LaNiO3 layer, akin to that of all other insulating nickelates, and the presence of a structural interface asymmetry with LaMnO3 [3].

[1] Gibert et al., Nat. Mater. 11, 195 (2012).
[2] Gibert et al. Nat. Commun. 7, 11227 (2016).
[3] Gibert et al., Nano Letters 15, 7355 (2015).

SPS Award in Applied Physics, sponsored by OC Oerlikon

The SPS 2016 Prize in Applied Physics is awarded to Bruno Schuler for his work of unprecedented resolution on the quantitative determination of the adsorption geometry of individual molecules, their identification and manipulation using atomic force microscopy (AFM) with tip functionalizations made by atomic manipulation, published under the titles “Adsorption Geometry Determination of Single Molecules by Atomic Force Microscopy” (Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 106103 (2013)) and “Reversible Bergman cyclization by atomic manipulation” (Nature Chem., doi:10.1038/nchem.2438 (2016)).
Using this approach, he was able to induce intramolecular reactions and demonstrated the re-arrangement of bonds within a molecule, namely a reversible switching between a structure with two six-membered carbon rings and one with a ten-membered carbon ring. This reaction, called Bergman cyclization, features switching between singlet and triplet ground states, thus switching of the spin multiplicity.
The methods that he brought forward are already now used as standards in the non-contact AFM community indicating a path towards chemical resolution using atomic force and Kelvin probe microscopy.

B. Schuler, G. Meyer and L. Gross, IBM Research – Zurich, Säumerstrasse 4, 8803 Rüschlikon, Switzerland

Physical and chemical interactions between single molecules and their environment form the basis for a plethora of processes in nature and are key for many technological applications. Using a combination of low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) we measure complementary molecular properties with atomic-scale precision exploiting the enhanced resolution obtained with functionalized tips. From atomically resolved AFM images one can learn about the chemical structure, the adsorption geometry [1] and even small details like bond order differences in single bonds can be resolved. With STM, one can directly image the frontier molecular orbitals. This can be used for instance for chemical structure identification, which we consider as an important emerging application for high-resolution scanning probe microscopy. By atomic manipulation it is also possible to change the molecular conformation and to trigger chemical reactions [2]. Detailed insights about molecules and their interaction help us to understand and control the underlying physical and chemical mechanisms to eventually build custom-designed molecular networks.

[1] B. Schuler et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 106103 (2013)
[2] B. Schuler et al. Nature Chem. 8, 220, (2016)

SPS Award related to Metrology, sponsored by METAS

The SPS 2016 Prize related to Metrology is awarded to Fabian Menges for his excellent PhD work entitled "Scanning probe thermometry of nanosystems“. He developed scanning thermal microscopy into a quantitative method suitable to measure both temperature and thermal conductance with so far unattainable combination of spatial (sub-10 nm) and heat flux resolution (sub-nW). Using his newly developed method and a custom built vacuum scanning thermal microscope, he could spatially resolve local heat dissipation processes such as the formation of hot spots and Peltier effects in operating nanoscale devices. His accomplishments are scientifically of high relevance to the entire field of nanoscale thermometry, e.g. to characterize local thermal non-equilibrium processes in low power electronics or thermoelectrics.

F. Menges 1, H. Riel 1, A. Stemmer 2 and B. Gotsmann 1
1 IBM Research - Zurich, Rüschlikon, Switzerland
2 ETH Zurich, Rüschlikon, Switzerland

Nanoscopic hot spots, such as those observed in integrated circuits and plasmonic nanostructures can locally affect the physical properties of matter and have tremendous impact on the performances and reliability of scaled devices. Experimental techniques to quantify temperature fields at the nanoscale, however, are rarely established making the development of tools and methods for nanoscale thermometry of central relevance for various areas of science and technology.
Addressing this challenge, we developed a novel high-vacuum scanning thermal microscope to characterize thermal non-equilibrium processes in electronic devices, and thermal transport across nanoscopic contacts and interfaces. We demonstrated the quantification of thermal conductance with sub-10 nm spatial and sub-nW heat flux resolution [1], which enabled realspace characterization of local heat transport properties with sensitivity for single atomic layers [1]. Most recently, we presented a novel technique to characterize local temperature fields using scanning probe thermometry [2]. In contrast to previous scanning-probe-based thermometry approaches, we simultaneously measure a steady-state and a transient heat flux signal between a self-heated scanning probe sensor and a temperature modulated sample, which enables to separate signals related to variations of the temperature potential from that related to changes of tip-sample thermal contact resistance. Our approach facilitates the elimination of tip-sample contact-related artifacts, a major hurdle that so far has limited the use of scanning probe microscopy for nanoscale thermometry. We applied the technique to visualize local Peltier effects at the metal-semiconductor contacts to indium arsenide nanowires and nanoscopic hot spots in self-heated metal interconnects with 7 mK and sub-10 nm spatial temperature resolution [2].
In summary, we have developed both a novel instrument and method to study the particularities of nanoscopic thermal conversion and transport processes in real-space by enabling the measurement of local temperature variations with nanometer-scale spatial resolution.

[1] F. Menges, P. Mensch, H. Schmid, H. Riel, A. Stmmer, and B. Gotsmann, Temperature mapping in operating nanoscale devices by scanning probe thermometry, Nature Communications 7, (2016).
[2] F. Menges, H. Riel, A. Stemmer, C. Dimitrakopoulos, and B. Gotsmann, Thermal transport into graphene through nanoscopic contacts, Physical Review Letters 111, 205901, (2013).