Ge(001) before and after gold evaporation and annealing
Kernel of the 4-probe microscope (left), crushed tip on Si surface (middle), two STM tips over gold structures on Ge(001) surface

About Us

Nanotechnology at the oldest university in Poland

Due to recent developments in the global economy, scientists are confronted with several new challenges. In order to respond to those challenges, research and educational institutions must shift the ‘centre of gravity’ of their activities from pure and fundamental science towards applied and technology-oriented investigations. This is particularly true in newly EU Associated States, to which Poland belongs. Research of new materials and nanotechnology will definitely be a key factor in shaping the growth of our society. Therefore, finding a new approach to carry out research and education in modern disciplines is of crucial importance for integration of newly Associated States into European Research Area.
Kraków and its university
The Jagiellonian University in Kraków was established in 1364. It was the second university to be founded in Central Europe; the first in 1348 in Prague. Kraków is a city of one million people, in the very heart of Europe. Poland’s former capital, the cradle and Pantheon of Polish kings, Kraków is a city of national heritage and of youth: a city of 150,000 university students. Despite its impressive age, the Jagiellonian University attempts to be the most modern educational and research institution in Poland. In order to respond to challenges of the contemporary society, several new activities in information technology, biotechnology, new materials and nanotechnology have been initiated by the University.
Nanotechnology is a prime activity for the Centre for Nanometer-scale Science and Advanced Materials (NANOSAM), established in 2002 as a National Centre of Excellence within a structure of the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science. The Faculty employs 173 scientists with a PhD degree or higher, among them 51 hold a title of full professor, and 39 others hold higher a doctoral degree (so-called ‘habilitation’). Overall the Faculty structure consists of Marian Smoluchowski Institute of Physics, the Astronomical Observatory and the Department of Applied Computer Science. The NANOSAM Centre is located at the Institute of Physics, the largest of the three units of the Faculty. 35 laboratories and theoretical research groups are co-ordinated by the Physics Institute Director, Professor Andrzej Warczak and supervised by the Institute Scientific Board. Approximately 20 permanent staff members of the Institute are associated with the Centre and about the same number of undergraduate and graduate students. In spite of research activities, the Institute of Physics carries full-time educational programmes for MSc diploma in Physics, and also starting from 2002 an MSc in Materials Engineering. Since summer 2007, a new educational curriculum on ‘Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology’ has been created and NANOSAM is going to play a very important role as a research foundation for this new educational programme in interdisciplinary science. Furthermore, the Institute runs an internationally oriented PhD programme in which a total of 120 students are participating. Approximately 10% of them are involved in research carried out by the Centre.
Nanotechnology at the Institute of Physics
Nanotechnology research activities at the Institute of Physics are concentrated on topics related to design, fabrication, characterisation, and properties of nano-size materials and structures, with particular focus on scanning probe methods. The experimental investigations are based on facilities housing the most up-to-date research equipment, including eight scanning probe instruments and three multitechnique Ultra High Vacuum (UHV) systems for complex characterisation of solid surfaces. The research agenda of the Institute’s NANOSAM Centre consists of three European projects within 6th Framework Programme of the European Union: Integrated Project ‘Computing Inside a Single Molecule Using Atomic Scale Technologies’, Specific Targeted Research Project ‘Anchoring of Metal-Organic Frameworks, MOFs, to surfaces’, Marie Curie Actions: Host Fellowships Transfer of Knowledge, ‘Nano – Engineering for Expertise and Development’, and the European Science Foundation Programme ‘Nanotribology’, as well as several national research projects.
Research highlights
Organic molecule properties are of interest to numerous groups carrying out investigations in molecular electronics. NANOSAM researchers participate in an international effort on developing computing devices based on single molecules. The non-contact Atomic Force Microscopes (nc-AFM) and Scanning Tunnelling Microscopes (STM), operating in an ultrahigh vacuum environment, are used to image adsorbed organic molecules on an insulating and/or semi-conducting substrate materials. The consortium’s ultimate goal is to create and diffuse original roadmaps to a large community of researchers and practitioners actively engaged in mono-molecular computing and atomic-scale technologies. Control of growth and properties of structures on the length-scale down to molecular dimensions is one of the major challenges in nanotechnology. Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), which are co-ordination polymers consisting of organic ligands linked together by metal ions, are very promising systems due to the virtually unlimited flexibility in their design. Appealing properties of the frameworks make MOFs most interesting as electrochromic, magnetic and storage materials. The fact that the framework can be loaded with other molecular compounds by employing guest-host chemistry creates a tremendous technological potential in a variety of different fields, such as catalysis and hydrogen storage. Using the UHV high resolution nc-AFM, available at the NANOSAM Centre, it is possible to determine the positions of the individual molecular subunits from which the MOF is assembled on various templates including metal oxides. Electronic, optical and structural properties of various nanostructured surfaces of biomedical materials are investigated at the NANOSAM Centre with the use of different surface sensitive techniques, among which are AFM and other types of scanning probe microscopy. AFM permits the performance of experiments in physiologic solutions, with control of experimental parameters such as temperature and/or pH. One activity concerns description of the effects of radiation on biological materials by imaging individual molecules and getting realistic visual impressions of radiation defects. In another project, studies are on the interactions between bacterial antigens and receptors on the surface of macrophages using AFM. Macrophages are involved both in initiation of immunologic responses as antigen-presenting cells and the effector phase of immunity as inflammatory, tumoricidal and microbicidal cells. By using AFM, we were able to directly determine the changes in interactions between bacterial antigen and pattern recognition receptors after activation of macrophages. These results are promising for improving the understanding of the role of commensal bacteria in organisms and their interaction with immune cells such as macrophages.
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