Heiner Sussner

Heiner Sussner
Heiner Sussner
Lindau, Germany
Associated organizations
IBM, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics, Phase Metrics Corporation
Fields of study
IEEE Medal for Engineering Excellence


Heiner Sussner was born on May 17, 1948 in Lindau, Germany. He received the M.S. degree in Physics from the Technical University of Munich in 1973, and the Ph.D. degree from the Centre National de Recherche Scientific and Max-Planck Institute, Grenoble, France in 1976, for work on piezoelectric polymers with Professor K. Dransfeld. This work was continued during a postdoctoral year at IBM's San Jose Research Laboratory and later led to commercial applications.

In 1977, at the Max-Planck Institute for Solid-State Physics in Stuttgart, Dr. Sussner and his colleagues built a high-resolution Brillouin spectrometer. With this instrument it was possible to measure the attenuation of 30GHz phonons in glass at low temperatures which helped clarify the role of two-level system in amorphous materials.

In 1980, Dr. Sussner became a staff member at the IBM San Jose Research Laboratory, San Jose, California where he conducted research on advanced storage technology and became manager of recording physics in 1982. During this time, his group pioneered the key design elements of magneto resistive heads which were first introduced commercially in disk drives in 1991. In 1984, Dr. Sussner created the head disk interface department, a new research effort dedicated to understanding the physics and chemistry of the head disk interface.

Dr. Sussner was named Director of Storage Systems and Technology at IBM Research in 1986. At this time, he initiated the gigabit task force, with a goal to implement an areal density of 1 gigabit per square inch in magnetic recording. This work brought together teams of people with different engineering and scientific disciplines ranging from mathematics to material science. The gigabit goal challenged the performance of each component and led to the design of new high density magnetoresistive heads and magnetic disk layers. In addition, integration issues and engineering tradeoffs had to be resolved to find the right design point. Involving manufacturing from the beginning insured realization of the goal and, as a first benefit, led to early product introductions of some of the results. The gigabit goal was demonstrated with manufacturable components in 1989. Today, disk drives are shipping at densities of 500 Mbit per square inch, a 20 times improvement from 1986 when the gigabit project was started.

Dr. Sussner joined IBM Europe in 1992 as Executive Consultant to establish a closer working relationship with IBM customers and to provide a link with the research community. He co-founded and directed IBM Europe's corporate venture group in Paris. Since 1993, he has been involved in setting up a new effort dedicated to new market investments. He served as a director of ICVEN, IBM Europe's corporate venture group.

In 1996, Sussner joined Phase Metrics Corporation, based in San Diego, California, and served as its Chief Technical Officer responsible for R&D and product development. He then worked as the Senior Managing Director at H&Q Asia Pacific. Sussner is currently the Managing Director at Miramar Venture Partners.

Dr. Sussner is co-author of many papers and patents in solid-state physics and magnetic recording. He is the recipient of several IBM outstanding contribution and corporate awards. For his Ph.D. thesis, he received the Byk Prize from the University of Konstanz. He is a member of the American Physical Society and the IEEE. Sussner received the IEEE Medal for Engineering Excellence in 1994.

Dr. Sussner and his wife, Resa, have two teenage children. He enjoys playing piano, tennis, and skiing.