link to homepage

Peter Grünberg Institut (PGI)

Navigation and service

Controlled Mechanical Manipulation of Molecules

Welcome to the ERC starting grant research group of Dr. Christian Wagner

The idea to freely control the atomic-scale structure of matter has intrigued scientists for many decades. The low-temperature scanning probe microscope (LT SPM) has become the instrument of choice for this task since it allows the rearrangement of atoms and molecules on a surface. There is, however, no generic SPM-based method for the manipulation of molecules beyond lateral rearrangement. The goal of this group is to develop controlled mechanical manipulation of molecules (CM3) in which a LT SPM is used to handle large organic molecules in three dimensions with optimal control over position, orientation and shape. CM3 will become a game-changing technique for research on molecular properties and molecular-scale engineering, because it combines fully deterministic manipulation with broad access to molecular degrees of freedom for the first time. In CM3 the tip is attached to a single reactive atom within a molecule. Tip displacement guides the molecule into a desired conformation while the surface provides a second (weaker) fixation. The fundamental challenge that we will address is the identification of precise molecular conformations at any time during manipulation. The solution will be a big data approach where large batches of automatically recorded SPM manipulation data are structured using machine learning and interpreted by comparison to atomistic simulations. The key idea is a comparison of entire conformation spaces at once, which is robust, even if the theory is not fully quantitative. The obtained map of the conformation space will be used to determine molecular conformations during manipulation by methods of control theory. The effectiveness of this approach will be demonstrated in experiments that advance our understanding in the field of molecular electronics and our ability to assemble nanostructures from individual molecules, even in the third dimension.



We are permanently offering Bachelor- and Master theses as well as PhD positions. At present there are two open PhD positions and one open postdoc position in this group. Please contact C. Wagner for more information.

Fields of Research:

  • Low-temperature SPM
  • SPM-based molecular manipulation
  • Quantum transport through molecules
  • SPM instrument development
  • Molecular simulations
  • Machine learning

Start of the group:

January 2018


Dr. Christian Wagner
Peter Grünberg Institut
Functional Nanostructures at Surfaces (PGI-3)
phone +49 2461 61 3538