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TU Muenchen’s Walter Schottky Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary

Semiconductor physics – defining the way we live

TU Muenchen's Walter Schottky Institute

17.07.2008, Press releases

When the Walter Schottky Institute (WSI) was founded 20 years ago, few people would have been able to predict the huge impact semiconductors would have on our lives today. Modern life as we know it simply wouldn’t be possible without these little electronic “helpers”. And the WSI at the TU Muenchen (TUM) is one of the leading lights in semiconductor research. This central institute of the TUM was founded with the aim of manufacturing new, highly precise semiconductor materials and rigorously investigating the resulting properties. This type of research is more important than ever today. On July 17, 2008, the institute celebrated its 20th anniversary.

In early 1985, Gerhard Abstreiter wrote a memorandum proposing the foundation of a new institute dedicated to researching the fundamental physics of new semiconductor materials. Just prior to this, Klaus von Klitzing, Abstreiter’s colleague in the TUM physics department, had identified the Quantum Hall Effect, while elsewhere, other new, sensational optical and electronic effects were being discovered. All of these developments had one thing in common – the microstructuring of semiconductor materials at practically atomic level. This paved the way for groundbreaking new properties that required further research. However, only a handful of institutions worldwide were able to fabricate and analyze these materials with the required degree of precision.

Together with Professor Fred Koch, also a member of the physics department at the TUM, Abstreiter submitted his proposal to Karl Heinz Beckurts, then head of research at Siemens AG. Beckurts immediately seized the opportunity and became one of the main drivers of the project. In less than a year, the original idea had become a concrete plan, and von Klitzing had been awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery. Siemens was prepared to take on the cost of constructing the institute – a first for both the TUM and the state of Bavaria. Never before had a partner from industry assumed responsibility for a university building. This close cooperation meant that the three partners were able to go from the planning stage to the finished building in just 24 months. The new institute was inaugurated on July 14, 1988.

Since then, the 2400m2 building has been home to offices and labs dedicated to semiconductor research. The heart of the institute is a 250m2 clean room facility, where scientists manufacture and investigate new materials with the highest levels of precision and purity. Here, they can research systems comprising ultra-thin junctions as well as micro- and nanostructures made of silicon, gallium arsenide, indium phosphide and many other materials. The scientists examine the properties of the manufactured structures and use these to develop new electronic or optoelectronic components.

Take CD players, for example. They would not have been possible unless lasers measuring just several hundred micrometers had been developed. The junction thickness must be precision-engineered to manufacture these kinds of extremely compact components enabling precise adjustment of the color (i.e., wavelength) of the emitted light. The measurement chips developed at the institute are so small that 20,000 of them would fit onto a small drinks coaster. This minute footprint is essential to manufacture compact measuring devices. Another of the institute’s inventions enables the low-cost manufacture of blue and white LEDs, making them a serious alternative to light bulbs.

This outstanding research work soon brought the Walter Schottky Institute international acclaim. “To this day, the center is at the forefront of work to manufacture and characterize semiconductor systems and nanostructures, and attracts top class researchers from all over the world,” enthuses TUM president, Professor Wolfgang A. Herrmann. The WSI frequently plays an enabling role in research projects organized by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), the German Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesforschungsministerium, BMBF) and the European Union. It also played a major role in ensuring that Munich’s two universities were named universities of excellence in the German Federal Government’s Initiative for Excellence program. And with around 40 patents, 1,600 scientific publications, 350 diploma theses and 130 PhD theses completed at the WSI, the institute certainly has an impressive track record.

And the institute continues to go from strength to strength. The three original chairs have been expanded to include a new chair for theoretical semiconductor physics. Today, the institute houses four junior research groups and funds a large number of additional research positions through external partners. Furthermore, the WSI recently started focusing on materials science for quantum computers and the combination of biological systems with semiconductors, a field that opens up important new biomedical areas of application such as direct electronic monitoring of immune responses. The institute has long since outgrown its original building, prompting the university to set up containers in front of the institute in order to house new staff. By 2010, the institute will have grown further to include the new Center for Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials. This new center is to be located next to the WSI, where it will provide a further 2000 m2 of working space. Due to the institute’s national standing, half of the construction costs of 11.6 million euros will be borne by the central German government, the other half by the state of Bavaria. The center will be working in close cooperation with the “Nanosystems Initiative Munich”, a cluster of research groups in the Munich area also awarded to be part of the Initiative for Excellence. After all, the WSI played a major role in the creation of this cluster of excellence too.


Prof. Dr. Markus C. Amann
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Walter Schottky Institut
Am Coulombwall 3
D-85748 Garching
Tel.: +49 89 289 12780
Fax: +49 89 320 6620
E-Mail: amann@wsi.tum.de
Web: www.wsi.tum.de

Kontakt: presse@tum.de

More Information


080717_wsi-20_pi Presseinformation zum 20. Geburtstag des Walter Schottky Instituts der TU München, (Type: application/pdf, Size: 174.1 kB) Save attachment

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