Roman Fasel obtained his PhD in Physics in 1996 from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and joined Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, after post-doctoral research fellowships at La Trobe University (Melbourne) and the Fritz-Haber-Institute (Berlin). He is the head of the nanotech@surfaces Laboratory of Empa, and adjunct professor at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Bern. His group’s research covers a wide range of topics at the interface of materials science, surface physics and chemistry.
In the field of quantum technologies, carbon-based nanomaterials have raised high hopes for their application in electronics, spintronics and quantum sensing. However, since the properties of such nanomaterials are largely determined by quantum effects, controlling them depends on the ability to fabricate nanomaterials by controlling the position of every single atom. Roman Fasel and his team have thus developed a novel bottom-up approach based on the surface-assisted assembly of molecular building blocks, which allows for atomically precise fabrication of low-dimensional carbon nanomaterials such as graphene nanoribbons. Since the width and edge structure of these ribbons determine their quantum electronic properties, slight tweaking of the shape of the ribbons creates entirely new materials. Recently, their work showed that by tweaking the shape, it is also possible to induce quantized magnetic moments – so called spins – and to control their interactions, thus obtaining graphene nanomaterials with quantum coherent magnetic ground states. Thanks to these breakthroughs, professor Fasel and his team have developed a toolbox to construct complex nanoribbon structures with such precision that they can harness and manipulate quantum effects – on a scale, where just a single atom makes a huge difference. This opens concrete perspectives for carbon-based quantum devices and brings carbon-based nanomaterials a significant step closer to future quantum technologies.