The Chair of Applied Physics at FAU turns 75

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Foto: FAU / Anna Tiessen

The Chair of Applied Physics is one of the most traditional of its kind in Germany and celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

On this occasion, the chair, which has been a worldwide center of silicon carbide research since the late 1980s, is hosting an international symposium on “Silicon Carbide as Quantum-Classical Platform” on September 14 and 15.

In the interview, Prof. Dr. Heiko B. Weber looks back on the history of the chair and gives an outlook on the next 75 years.

The Chair of Applied Physics is celebrating its 75th anniversary. What has changed the most in this time from your point of view?

Prof. Dr. Heiko B. Weber: Everything! Solid state physics was just emerging as a discipline at that time, today it is the largest field of physics. Especially semiconductor physics, to which the chair has dedicated itself since then, has changed the world.

FAU and our chair used to be world famous for research on zinc oxide, now the same is true for silicon carbide. Instead of exploratory research on poor quality and initially poorly understood semiconductors, we now work on the basis of almost perfect materials and secured knowledge. The way of working in the lab: no comparison!

But there is one constant: as one hears, the employees have identified themselves very much with our chair already at that time and felt very comfortable!

Old and new international companions will join you in celebrating the anniversary at a scientific symposium. Why did you choose the theme “Silicon Carbide as Quantum-Classical Platform” for this occasion?

Heiko Weber: Always exploring new questions is the essence of science. As an early mover, we have spent almost four decades researching the semiconductor silicon carbide. The resulting electronics are now a multi-billion market and make a major contribution to the energy revolution.

Now this material again holds amazing twists and turns: we are convinced that we can interleave forward-looking photonic quantum technologies with classical technologies on silicon carbide. We have invited colleagues from all over the world to the symposium on this topic, which is just emerging. Now it’s really getting started!

What topics and developments are currently driving the chair?

Heiko Weber: We are conducting research on three major topics: In the just newly founded FAU Profile Center “Light.Matter.QuantumTechnologies“, we have created ideal conditions to advance our research on silicon carbide as a quantum classical materials platform together with colleagues.

A second thematic block is fundamental research on molecular materials, where we are particularly interested in low-dimensional systems, incidentally in the FAU profile center “New Materials and Processes“. Here we collaborate very successfully with colleagues in chemistry.

Our latest baby is just becoming another megatopic: modern research data management. At the LAP, we are developing concepts in the national consortium FAIRmat that prepare data-driven science in solid-state physics.

Let’s look into the crystal ball together: What do you hope for the chair and research when the next generations celebrate another anniversary in 75 years?

Heiko Weber: We are convinced that data-driven science will soon become very, very important and will develop unimagined dynamics. We have the utmost confidence that solid-state physics will still have new questions and surprises in store for us then.

And we would hope that even then the people at the chair will still be doing research with great joy and enthusiasm.

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