Nanoscale science began in the IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory with the groundbreaking invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), for which Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986.
Equally important was the development of the atomic force microscope (AFM) by Gerd Binnig, Christoph Gerber, and Calvin Quate in the mid-1980s. Work in this research area encompasses novel applications of scanning probe methods and related techniques with which one can manipulate individual atoms and molecules to construct nanometer-sized structures. Scientists' goal is to construct functional devices such as transistors out of nature's fundamental building blocks. Increasing efforts have been dedicated to the development of sensors for chemical and biological interactions, stress, magnetization, etc. in extremely minute amounts of materials as well as into the development of such SPM techniques as microscopy based on chemical interactions, nuclear magnetic resonance or dynamic forces. Research work also includes imaging of nanoscopic magnetic structures with the aim to improve our understanding of ferromagnetism at its limits.