David A. Muller, 35
Images the individual atom that are critical to a transistors electronic properties
MICROSCOPY MAESTRO David A. Muller knows that many of the features of silicon transistors in computer chips will soon shrink down to the nanoscale. That makes the South African native’s imaging research crucial to the transistor’s future. The electronics industry inserts “dopants,” or impurities, into silicon to control its electrical properties. In the smallest transistors, only one or two dopant atoms could determine the success of a device, which makes it essential that manufacturers understand how dopants function on the nanoscale. Muller has used an electron microscope to directly observe individual dopant atoms of antimony, measuring their structural arrangement, electrical properties, and other traits. Muller, an associate professor of applied and engineering physics at Cornell University, compares the task to locating a few pins in a haystack the size of the United States.