Research | IKZ | 23-09-2020

From crystal to prototype

Undisputedly, the Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (IKZ) enjoys worldwide recognition when it comes to growing crystalline materials – especially volume crystals. But they are not resting on their laurels.

Growth of an aluminium nitride (AlN) crystal | Photo: IKZ

After a successful Leibniz evaluation, the institute is now pursuing a broader research and development strategy under the leadership of its new director Thomas Schröder.

“Our central goal is to become the world’s leading European institute for science & technology plus service & transfer in the field of innovative crystalline materials,” Thomas Schröder says. IKZ will therefore be further expanding its cooperation with universities, non-university research institutes, and industry. “Only through successful partnerships can we develop crystalline materials up to the maturity of key components for electronic and photonic technologies.” These are urgently needed to meet the major challenges facing society, for example in the fields of climate protection, health, or artificial intelligence.

Three materials – three examples:

With gallium oxide (Ga2O3), IKZ is currently developing a new material that can increase efficiency and eliminate major heat losses in the conversion of energy in power electronics.

According to WHO, half of humanity has no access to clean drinking water. Battery-powered UV light-emitting diodes made from aluminium nitride (AlN) could be used as very simple local measures to sterilise water and disinfect surfaces, even in crisis areas.

Sensors based on indium phosphide (InP) will enable autonomous vehicles to detect traffic jams ahead, even around corners, and react accordingly. They will achieve this by enabling the image recognition systems in different cars to communicate with each other at light speed.

When it comes to innovations in crystalline materials, the institute is very well positioned, says Thomas Schröder. The institute has outstanding expertise in the areas of tailored crystal growth, characterisation, and simulation of numerical systems and processes. “We cooperate not only with manufacturers, such as PVATePla, BESTEC, and Aixtron, to build state-of-the-art growth plants, but also with renowned crystal suppliers, such as Siltronic, FCM, and Kistler, to convert research breakthroughs into innovative crystal products.”

When it comes to innovations achieved with crystalline materials, Schröder still sees great development potential at IKZ. “There are many people in science and industry who need crystalline materials for developing applications – to answer fundamental questions in device physics, for example, or even to develop new technologies. For this, they need to order small batches of special crystalline materials with precisely defined and reproducible properties. Until now, this has been a bottleneck in our capacities.” Accordingly, many economic opportunities have been missed. “Our colleagues in China, Japan, and Korea tend to be strategically better positioned in this respect. In the future, we want to take a big step ahead of them, in friendly competition, to promote technological sovereignty in Europe.”

Thomas Schröder is therefore committed to increasing the translation of basic research into products in the coming years. “We want to be able to provide academic and industrial users with prototypes so that new technological developments can be made.” IKZ will in future stand for Science & Technology plus Service & Transfer. “We call it ST Squared for short.”


Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (IKZ)
Stefanie Grüber
Press and Public Relations
Phone +49 30 6392-3263