Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft  

Historical Review of the Fritz-Haber-Institut
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Content   1. Foundation of the Institute   2. The First World War   3. The years 1919-1933   4. National Socialism and the Second World War  
5. The early years after the Second World War   6. Incorporation into the Max-Planck Society   7. Development into a surface and interface science research center     

7. Development into a surface and interface science research center

In October 1958 Rudolf Brill was appointed director of the institute and in March 1959 he succeeded Max von Laue as chief institute director. Brill headed the institute until the spring of 1969. Amongst other subjects, his was engaged in studies of catalytic properties for heterogeneous reactions which were investigated using X-ray diffraction methods and kinetic measurements. He took a particular interest in catalysts used in the ammonia synthesis as well as in hydrogenation and oxidation catalysts. From 1955 to 1964 three new buildings on Faradayweg 16 were added to the institute, housing Ueberreiter's group and taken over later by the departments of Profs. Block and Hosemann. The buildings had been used previously by the Max-Planck Institute for Silicate Research housing a group working on micromorphology of silicates.

In November 1969 Heinz Gerischer was appointed to succeed Brill as chief institute director. He headed the Department of Physical Chemistry and initiated research in the areas of electrochemistry, photo electrochemistry, and fast reactions. His department focused also on studies of solid surfaces under ultra-high vacuum conditions and their interaction with gases. Further, exploiting the low temperature technology already developed by von Laue at the institute, a research program on matrix isolation spectroscopy was started. Here the transition between atomic and metallic properties in clusters was investigated. When Gerischer was appointed, Jochen H. Block became Scientific Fellow of the institute. He had been hired by Brill in 1966 and had built up his own department in which kinetic processes on metal surfaces were studied using field electron and field ion microscopies. In 1974 a new building for electron microscopy was completed. This building was constructed in particular to isolate Ruska's ultrahigh resolution microscopes against external vibrations.

During this period two internal reorganizations were carried out (1974 and 1980). In 1974, the institute was restructured to consist of three sections which were to combine their collaborative efforts: Physical Chemistry (directors: J. H. Block, H. Gerischer, K. Molière), Structure Research (directors: R. Hosemann, Kurt Ueberreiter), and Electron Microscopy (director: E. Ruska until 1974). H. Gerischer remained the chief institute director. In 1977 Elmar Zeitler was appointed Scientific Fellow and director at the institute as successor of Ernst Ruska.

After the retirement of R. Hosemann, K. Molière, and Kurt Ueberreiter in 1980 a second reorganization introduced a collegiate structure for the institute with stronger emphasis on surface and interface science. In November 1980 Alexander Bradshaw was appointed Scientific Fellow and director at the institute heading the Department of Surface Physics. Since 1976 he had built up his own group in the Department of Physical Chemistry, with emphasis on the spectroscopy of solid surfaces and on the study of chemisorbed molecules. In 1999 Bradshaw accepted the request to become chief director of the Institute for Plasma Physics of the MPG in Garching and Greifswald, and in 2002 his Department of Surface Physics was terminated.

In 1977, on the initiative of the Fritz-Haber Institute and the German Federal Institute of Standards (PTB) planning started for a synchrotron-radiation light source in Berlin. A company (BESSY) was founded in 1979 to build and operate the necessary electron storage ring. Members of the company included the Max-Planck Society, the Hahn-Meitner Institute, the Fraunhofer Society, and the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg as well as four industrial companies. The Fritz-Haber Institute provided the Scientific Director and was also concerned with administration in the initial phase. Bradshaw was appointed Scientific Director of BESSY in 1981 and again in 1988 after the tragical death of his successor Ernst-Eckard Koch. Since the start of experimental activities at BESSY in 1982 the radiation source has been intensively used by various groups at the institute. The new storage ring BESSY II, starting to operate in 1999, plays also a prominent role in the research program of the institute.

In 1986 Gerhard Ertl succeeded Gerischer as director of the Department of Physical Chemistry and was appointed Scientific Fellow at the institute. His research interests focus on structure and chemical reactions at solid surfaces.

In 1986 Ernst Ruska was awarded the Nobel price for his scientific achievements in connection with the development of the electron microscope.

A joint Computer Center (Gemeinsames Netzwerkzentrum, GNZ) for the Fritz-Haber Institute and the Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics was opened in 1986, initially providing computer services such as cpu resources, networking, software, mailing, purchase consulting etc. for all members and visitors of both institutes. In 2002 this computer center was renamed "Gemeinsames Netzwerkzentrum der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Max-Planck-Institute, GNZ)" assuming responsibility for all network components connecting the old and recently founded Max-Planck institutions (12 altogether) of the Berlin and nearby Brandenburg region.

In July 1988 Matthias Scheffler was appointed Scientific Fellow of the institute and director of the newly opened Theory Department. The department specializes in surface theory as well as solid state research, quantum chemistry, and computational physics.

Shortly before the retirement of Elmar Zeitler in 1995 Robert Schloegl was appointed Scientific Fellow of the institute. The Department of Electron Microscopy was closed and a new Department of Inorganic Chemistry was established. This department concentrates on heterogeneous reactions on inorganic surfaces. Oxidation reactions of carbons and metals are studied as well as a range of heterogeneous catalytic processes involving partial oxidation and dehydrogenation steps. The goal of this experimental research is to bridge the gap between surface physics and surface chemistry. To this end, a range of in-situ analytical techniques and synthetic efforts were established to create realistic model surfaces with defined catalytic functions. The tradition of electron microscopy has been continued with the installation of two new commercial high-resolution transmission electron microscopes in 1996.

After the unexpected death of Jochen Block in 1995, Hans-Joachim Freund became director of the Department of Surface Reactions and was appointed Scientific Fellow of the institute. The department was renamed into Department of Chemical Physics, its objectives being studies of adsorption and reaction on solids, in particular, on oxide surfaces.

In 2002 Gerard Meijer was appointed as a new director at the institute, and he installed the new Department of Molecular Physics. Respective renovations and rebuilding started in autumn 2002, and the new department is expected to be operational in autumn 2003.

  Matthias Scheffler
  (This text is based on several sources, including H. Gerischer and E. Henning.)

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Wed, 28. Mar 2012
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