Photos: Inside IBM's Zurich research lab

The IBM Research laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, founded 50 years ago, was Big Blue's first research facility outside the U.S. It was 25 years ago that the lab made its most famous research breakthrough: the scanning tunneling microscope, which provided the foundation for understanding and working with nanoscale technology.

That breakthrough brought a Nobel Prize in physics in 1986 for Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer. Only a year later, the lab hit the research jackpot again, when Georg Bednorz and Alex Mueller scooped the same prize for their work on high-temperature superconductivity.

Two Nobels in two years is some achievement, especially considering that IBM Research as a whole has won only three in total.

Despite its pedigree, IBM Zurich is quite small. There are 240 employees, and 50 predoctoral and 30 postdoctoral students. IBM Research has 3,500 employees in eight laboratories around the world--with three of those labs in the U.S., including the largest, Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

The work of the lab in Zurich varies widely, from advanced silicon research to helping IBM's consulting arm win new business.

Colin Barker/ZDNet UK

By Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the ...