German Science Council recommends an investment of 54.2 million Euro to build the research building OPTICUM
German companies have shaped the optical landscape with iconic brands like Leica and Zeiss for decades. Nowadays, our everyday digital life relies on optical technologies: We use smartphone cameras to submit documents, stream movies online via optical fibres, weld cars with lasers and diagnose illnesses with 3D imaging. At Leibniz University Hannover (LUH), around 120 scientists of the Cluster of Excellence “PhoenixD: Photonics, Optics, and Engineering – Innovation across Disciplines” are working on the next evolutionary step – novel integrated optics. With the advanced technology, the researchers plan to take mechanical engineering and production processes to a new level and build a production platform. Now they have come one step closer to reach this goal. On 23.04.2021, the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) recommended the funding of the research building “OPTICUM – Optics University Center and Campus”. LUH shares first place on the funding list with the universities in Marburg and Münster. The OPTICUM will be financed – subject to the Joint Science Conference’s final decision (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz – GWK) – with 54.2 million euro. The federal government and the state of Lower Saxony will each contribute half of the funding. “I congratulate our scientists on this outstanding success,” says Leibniz University President Prof. Dr. Volker Epping. “LUH already demonstrates the importance of optical technologies through its own research focus and its own research school, which is comparable to a faculty. I am glad that this future topic is also underpinned by a new research building and receives appreciation and support from science policy. The funding recommendation for the OPTICUM also means a further strengthening of our Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD, Leibniz University and Hannover as a science location.”
Research building enables to set up a networked production platform
“Our OPTICUM will be the research building for all scientists from the disciplines of physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, computer science and chemistry working together on the digitalisation of optics research and optics production,” says Prof. Dr. Uwe Morgner. The physicist is the spokesman of the board of the PhoenixD Cluster of Excellence. “We are very pleased about the Science Council’s decision. Now, with the support of the federal government, the state and the state capital, we can build the optics campus in the Hannover-Marienwerder Science Park.”
The 120 optics researchers are investigating how they can realise complex optical systems in a short development time and for a fraction of today’s price. To achieve this aim, Leibniz University Hannover’s scientists join their forces with project partners from Technical University Braunschweig and Laser Zentrum Hannover e. V. Two trends trigger the desired paradigm shift in optics production: more powerful data processing and improved (additive) manufacturing methods. These trends enable scientists to realise a digitally and physically networked production platform for optical components and systems.
It requires measurement and production technology and a great deal of computing power, and the development of algorithms and new types of optical composite materials consisting of glass and plastic, among other things. With the production platform to be set up in the OPTICUM, the scientists can check the optics’ quality during ongoing production. Still, production defects can also be corrected in real-time. The research goals include an increase in precision and a reduction in resource and energy consumption than the current state of the art. Many fundamental questions still need to be answered over the next ten years to achieve these goals.
At present, the optics researchers are working decentrally on individual production sections. The new research building will then have enough offices, laboratories and experimental halls to assemble the fully networked production platform in one place and work on it together, interdisciplinary. Until completing the OPTICUM, Leibniz University Hannover is procuring up to twelve million euro for the large-scale equipment for the production hall with funds from its Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD and the European Structural Fund, among others.
The Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD is part of Germany’s Excellence Strategy to strengthen Germany’s position as an outstanding place for research and further improve its international competitiveness. Between 2019 and 2025, PhoenixD will receive approximately 52 million euro of funding from the federal government and the State of Lower Saxony via the German Research Foundation (DFG). The cluster is a collaboration of TU Braunschweig, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt and Laser Zentrum Hannover e. V.
Hannover has a long tradition in optics research
With the OPTICUM, LUH brings together under one roof research activities in the fields of optics, production technology, materials development and computer science that have existed for decades. In spring 2020, LUH founded the Leibniz School of Optics & Photonics (LSO), which has a structure equivalent to a faculty. The LSO is closely linked to the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD and will manage the new OPTICUM. Close links exist with quantum physics at the Hannover Institute of Technology (HITec) and Quantum Valley Lower Saxony (QVLS). “The OPTICUM is another milestone in the extraordinarily successful development of optical technologies as a connecting focus topic between applied physics and production technology at Leibniz University Hannover, and it will sustainably advance the strategic development of Leibniz University Hannover. We are very pleased about this,” says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ludger Overmeyer, member of the board of the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD.
Opportunities for students, PhD candidates, and two open professorships
Students can already prepare for a career in this growth industry at LUH with the English and German Master’s degree programme in Optical Technologies. A doctorate at the PhoenixD graduate school offers an entry into a scientific career. Excellent Master students can submit their applications for the PhoenixD Research School all year long or apply for one of the open PhD positions regularly announced on the PhoenixD website (www.phoenixd.uni-hannover.de). The Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD will advertise two vacancies for full professorships in the upcoming months in the fields of Quantum Systems Engineering/Integrated Optics and Inorganic Materials. Members of the Cluster regularly build up their teams and advertise PhD and postdoc positions. 2022 PhoenixD will host the 10th Europhoton conference, organised by the European Physical Society. The conference on solid-state, fibre, and waveguide coherent light sources will take place from 28th of August till 2nd of September 2022 in Hannover.
Research building to be constructed in the north of Hannover
The OPTICUM will be built in the Hannover-Marienwerder Science Park. The location on Pascalstraße will be easily accessible via its own tram stop and is near the Laser Zentrum Hannover e. V. and the participating institutes on the Mechanical Engineering Campus of Leibniz University Hannover in Garbsen. Also, the Technology Centre, the Institut für Integrierte Produktion Hannover (Institute for Integrated Production) and the Technopark Hannover, which is currently under development and where numerous innovative companies from the research and science sectors have already settled, are located in the neighbourhood. “The establishment of the OPTICUM is a great success for excellent research in Hannover. It demonstrates the advantages of the Hannover-Marienwerder Science Park as an ideal location for innovation and research settlement,” explains Lord Mayor Belit Onay. “With its outstanding landscaping, the Science Park offers students and company employees an attractive environment that is widely used”. At the same time, the state capital has other areas available for research settlements. The planned OPTICUM has four floors and a usable area of just over 4,000 square metres. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022. Completion is planned for 2026.