The research of specialist scientists at the Helmholtz centres addresses major scientific and technological challenges with photons, neutrons, and ions and strongly pushes the methodology, instrumentation, and integration between techniques to new levels. PNI methods are not tailored to specific applications, but they must address the broader needs of the user base including other subject areas and emerging disciplines. This track requires new, highly specialized equipment, preparation techniques and laboratory infrastructure. Therefore, own research of the Helmholtz centres plays a vital role to identify the needs of the community. The resulting activities have a strong integrating effect; they bring together facilities and universities, facilities between themselves, research and R&D, specialistst and newcomers to the subject, different techniques, and training activities of centres and universities.
Atoms, molecules and plasmasFor important fundamental questions of Atomic-, Molecular-, and Plasma physics the PNI facilities can offer unique experimental possibilities and correspondingly the most advanced instrumentation. Striking examples are the testing of QED in strong fields by studying highly-charged heavy ions in rings and traps, the use of ion beam heated plasma as a model case for the centre of a star, and the observation of the femtosecond dynamics of structural changes in molecules and of electronic transitions utilizing the ultra short pulses of an FEL.
Magnetism and highly correlated electron systemsMagnetism and highly correlated electrons are a primary research area for photons and neutrons. The activities here establish leadership at the PNI facilities in key areas such as polarimetry and Larmor labelling with neutrons, highest magnetic fields for neutron scattering worldwide, the study of complex multicomponent systems with neutrons, photons and special laboratory methods, the study of magnetism in surfaces, interfaces and nanoparticles to gain a new level of access to the function and processing of magnetic materials, and new experimental techniques to access femto second ultrafast switching.
Engineering MaterialsThe global demand for energy and raw materials is increasing rapidly, while the amount of available resources is very likely to decline in the coming decades. A promising approach to preserve resources and the environment is the development of novel lightweight and multifunctional materials.PNI materials research is meant to develop, tailor, or improve existing and new materials and process routes and to promote their application, and to study fundamental aspects of the behaviour of solid and liquid metals in order to elucidate fundamental questions in materials research. The unique experimental techniques developed by PNI are supporting this research with investigations of material microstructure that are not possible by other means.
Micro and Nano Science and TechnologyStructuring and manipulation of matter on ultra-small length scales opens functionalities that are beyond the reach of conventional technologies: controlling and manipulating atoms, observation and simulation of collective phenomena, treatment of complex materials, and spanning length scales of micro-systems from atoms to the level of our everyday experience. An integrated approach of growth facilities with analysis tools will be increasingly important to optimize the nano- and microfabrication processes. Of particular importance are non-destructive techniques, in-situ techniques, experiments under relevant process conditions, methodology to correlate structure and function and tailoring of novel materials and nanoscaled devices.
Soft Matter and Life ScienceSoft Matter and Life Science are located at the interface between physics, chemistry and biology, where novel and fascinating research areas are emerging and interdisciplinary approaches are required. PNI provides primary research tools for Soft Matter and Life Science. It allows insight into polymers and nanocomposites, colloids and microemulsions, cellular components and biomaterials. Some key questions challenge the sophisticated PNI research infrastructure, e.g. slow dynamics in polymer melts and colloidal glasses, functional dynamics of biomolecules, tailoring nanostructures or in-situ structural characterisation.
Prof. Dr. Matthias Ballauff
Head of Institut of Soft Matter and Functional Materials
Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie