36_Dan Rugar


Dan Rugar, 51

Manager of nanoscale studies
San Jose, California

When you’re on a quest, it’s important to get a sign that you’re on the right path. Dan Rugar has spent 13 years trying to create the ultimate microscope, one that would reveal the 3-D atomic makeup of molecules below the surface. It would give scientists unprecedented understanding of the body’s proteins, facilitate drug breakthroughs, and help IBM engineers make advances in microelectronics. In January 2004, Rugar got his sign, detecting the magnetic signal from a single electron in a piece of quartz. That makes his magnetic resonance force microscope about 10 million times more sensitive than a medical MRI. The ultimate goal–detecting a single nucleus–is still a ways off: A nucleus’s magnetic force is at least 650 times smaller than an electron’s. “We’re not going to get there next week or next year,” Rugar says. “But now we know it can really be done.”