Awardee Interviews | Biography: Percy Zahl

Percy Zahl

Percy ZahlDr. Percy Zahl, Brookhaven National Lab., “for outstanding leadership in the development of state-of-the-art, open-source software package and associated hardware for data acquisition and analysis in scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopy”

Percy Zahl is a Scientific Associate in the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Besides research on surface science, molecular nanostructures and catalysis using scanning probe microscopy (SPM), his primary interest focuses on SPM instrument and technique development. He recently designed and built a “Nanostencil” in-situ nanopatterning system. His most extensive development has been the “Gxsm Project”, an open source system for DSP based SPM system control and large scale multidimensional data acquisition and analysis []. He has been the leader of this project for more than a decade.

Born in Germany, Dr. Zahl studied Physics at the University of Hannover, Germany. In 1996, as a diploma student in the group of Prof. M. Horn-von Hoegen, he installed a commercial scanning tunneling microscope and developed the instrument control and data acquisition software, which marked the birth of the “Gxsm Project”. In 2000 he received a Ph.D. in Physics for research on surface stress in heteroepitaxial films and the development of a system for insitu surface stress and morphology measurement. At the same time, he decided to continue developing “Gxsm” as an open source software project under the terms of the GUN General Public License, so as to centrally manage and maintain the project and avoid a detrimental divergence of the code at different user laboratories.

Following postdoctoral appointments at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, and at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory in Switzerland, during which “Gxsm” underwent extensive further development and testing in active research projects, Dr. Zahl joined the group of Dr. Peter Sutter at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials in 2005. Today his main responsibilities include the operation and maintenance of cryogenic SPM and UHV Nanoprobe instruments, and the support of external users on these systems. He actively continues work on the “Gxsm Project” as the primary project administrator, maintains a related discussion forum and continually implements new features to keep the project at the forefront of ever changing research needs, as well as compatible with the latest hardware developments.

Dr. Zahl is the author of over 30 journal publications and holds one US patent.