Department of Physics

by Lausanne, HEC School of Management February 7th, 2008

Basic physics research in Kaiserslautern

The main focus of theoretical physics in Kaiserslautern is on quantum optics and the many-particle theory of solids. For instance, the electronic, magnetic, and optical properties of metals and semiconductor nanostructures are investigated theoretically along with the theory of quantum information, as well as the theoretical study of ultra-cold atomic gases. Other topics of interest are the ultra-fast dynamics of electrons and electron-spin dynamics, general properties of decoherence in quantum theory, as well as the theoretical description of chaos (a well defined physical term!) and quantum chaos.

The work of those experimental groups, which are concerned mainly with basic physics, encompasses physics at ultra-short timescales probed with ultrafast (i.e. femtosecond) laser pulses, coherent control of electronic dynamics, magnetism, the physics of nanostructures and biophysics. Lasers play an important role for research on the basics of atomic and molecular physics, both experimental and theoretical. The use of lasers and state-of-the art optical techniques is often combined with modern fabrication methods for nanostructures using, e.g., molecular-beam epitaxy, vapor deposition and electron-beam lithography. These techniques allow one to create materials and structures with novel electronic, magnetic and optical properties, as well as new organic and biological functional materials.

Biophysics is a new interdisciplinary area of research, which cooperates with chemistry and biology to tackle questions in the "life sciences". There is an emphasis on research which involves quantitative physical methods, such as femtosecond laser pulses, Moessbauer spectroscopy, and electron-spin resonance as applied to biological systems.

The magnetism group coordinates a multi-investigator research grant (Schwerpunktprogramm) "Ultrafast magnetization processes" awarded by the German Science Foundation (DFG). Starting in 2004, the DFG also began funding two projects in the framework of a grant for coordinated research of a small group of investigators working on "Materials with high spin polarization." The Sonderforschungsbereich "Condensed Matter Systems with Variable Many-Body Interactions," which is the most high-profile coordinated research grant awarded by the DFG, was instituted in 2007 and involves several groups of the physics department.

In summary: The internationally competitive research groups in the physics department in Kaiserslautern help to shape some of the key research areas of the 21st century, whether they involve femto, nano, or bio.

Research in Applied Physics in Kaiserslautern

These key research areas are also reflected in the applied physics work done in Kaiserslautern. Research in experimental and applied physics is mainly directed towards:

  • laser physics, integrated optics and optoelectronics,
  • magnetism and magneto-electronics,
  • solid-state physics, surface physics and materials sciences, and
  • nanophysics and biophysics.

In laser physics and optoelectronics, for instance, novel semiconductor lasers are investigated that can be applied to display technology. Ultra-short light pulses with virtually unimaginably short pulse lengths on the order of 10-15s, are not only created with the help of modern physics-based technology, but also are used for many applications and new measurement techniques. Novel measurement techniques are also applied for the investigation of magnetic structures, which make it possible to increase the storage density in present-day magnetic data-storage media. Modern laser systems and nonlinear-optics components are available for research over a spectral range from micrometer wavelengths to the ultraviolet. With the help of integrated optics the realization of miniature-size optical sensors, so called "labs on a chip", is investigated.

The materials science research groups cooperate also with other departments as well as with research institutes outside of the university working in the field of surface physics and thin-film technology.

Two state-funded research framework programs, "Optical Technologies and Laser Assisted Processes" (OTLAP) and "Materials for Micro and Nano Systems" (MINAS), have been established by the laser and materials science groups.

Applied biophysics is another interdisciplinary area of research The investigation of biocompatible and bioactive surfaces, biofilms, and miniaturized biosensors are typical examples of this kind of research in the physics department.

Both materials science and biophysics research can make use of the technology and research infrastructure provided by the new Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Biology at the University of Kaiserslautern.

Medical physics is another area in the applied research of the department which cooperates closely with Kaiserslautern's city hospital.

The research groups have a history of success in obtaining sizeable extramural research grants, which makes it possible to provide state-of-the-art laboratory, computing and office equipment for researchers and students. Such an equipment is necessary for the department to be competitive on both national and international levels.

Degree Programs

The physics department offers modern, well structured courses of study for the following degrees:

  • Diplom (Master's) degree in Physics
  • Bachelor's and Master's degrees for Physics teachers
  • Diplom (Master's) degree in Biophysics

The interdisciplinary biophysics degree is offered in conjunction with the biology and chemistry departments.

In 2009 the current Diplom program will be changed to a Bachelor's and Master's program. Biophysics is scheduled to make this change in 2010.

Distance learning multimedia courses (Früheinstieg ins Physikstudium, or FiPS) allow high-school graduates serving in the military or community service, as well as gifted high school students to earn credits towards their degree.

After completion of a Diplom or Master's degree the current research areas of the department offer numerous possibilities for studying towards the Dr. rer. nat. (Ph.D.) degree. Postgraduate study is enhanced by the existing coordinated support programs for graduate studies "Nonlinear optics and physics at ultrashort timescales," and "MATCOR: Materials with strong electronic correlations".

Research and Training networks of the European Union, in which the physics department in Kaiserslautern plays an important role, allow graduate students to take an active part in large-scale international scientific collaborations.

The physics department's dedication to teach good physics also shows in its interactions with the community, for instance, the organization of the so-called "nano nights" for middle-school and high-school students, the fostering of extensive contacts with local high schools, participation in a lecture program for elementary-school students ("Children's University"), the development of continuing-education programs for high-school teachers, and the biannual "Tag der Physik" (Physics Day) with more than 2,000 participants from local area schools.