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ATHENE is a home-built variable temperature scanning tunneling microscopy apparatus with a low base pressure in the 10-11 mbar range. For investigation, a beetle-type STM is lowered onto the sample, itself mounted on a large rotatable translator. STM investigation is possible in a large temperature range from 40 K to 700 K. The system has a load-lock for sample transfer as well as complete sample preparation and characterization facilities, including multiple evaporators, ion source, O and H gas cracker for radical supply, a gas inlet system, thermocouple for full sample temperature control, thermal desorption spectroscopy capability, and low energy electron diffraction.

Research at ATHENE is directed toward the creation of cluster superlattices and cluster superlattice membranes. The latter is a new 2D material based on the regular arrangement of small clusters on a 2D-layer and embedded into a matrix material. A second line of investigation is the interaction of 2D materials with low energy ions resulting in phenomena like the formation of a nanomesh, insulator-metal or crystalline-amorphous transformations, and the trapping of implanted gases under a 2D layer.