Research Profile

Peter Nirmalraj is a molecular surface physicist who currently heads the biosensing and functional surfaces research group at Empa.

His core area of research interest and expertise is in applying cutting edge scanning probe microscopes to decipher the structure, dynamics and energetics of functional organics and biomolecules with high spatio-temporal clarity. Information obtained from such nanoscopic experiments are then focussed towards developing biosensing and logic devices.

After receiving his PhD for the work on applying conductive imaging atomic force microscopy to study electrical percolation in nanoscale networks in 2011 from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland he joined IBM Zurich Research Laboratory. Here at IBM, he developed an unorthodox route based on scanning tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy operating in high-density liquids to electronically fingerprint nanomaterials. Later, in 2017 he joined the Adolphe Merkle Institute, Fribourg as group leader in Biophysics where he investigated the aggregation of amyloid beta peptides and developed novel cell imaging methodologies.

Selected Publications
  1. Single particle resolution of copper assosiated annular alpha synuclein oligomers reveals potential therapeutic targets of neurodegeneration. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 13, 9, 1410-1421, 2022. 
  2. Spatial organisation of protein aggregates on red blood cells as physical biomarkers of Alzheimers disease pathology. Science Advances, 7, 39, eabj2137, 2021. 
  3. Complete aggregation pathway of amyloid β (1-40) and (1-42) resolved on an atomically clean interface. Science Advances, 6, 15, eaaz6014, 2020.
  4. Heat transport through atomic contacts. Nature Nanotechnology, 12, 5, 430, 2017.
  5. A Robust Molecular Probe for Angstrom-Scale Analytics in Liquids. Nature Communications, 7, 12403, 2016.
  6. Nanoelectrical Analysis of Single-Molecules and Atomic-Scale Materials at the Solid-Liquid Interface. Nature Materials, 13, 947-953, 2014.
Selected Awards

2021 Franco Regli Foundation Recognition for Research in Neurodegenrative Diseases

2019 Spark SNF Research Grant

2016 IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award.

2011 Marie-Curie Fellowship (EU-FP7, IEF PHYS).