Four New Virtual Institutes Under the Overall Coordination of DESY

Helmholtz Association announces funding of fourth project coordinated by DESY. The four „Virtual Institutes“ are to receive 720 000 Euro each spread over a period of three years.

Developing new methods for the investigation of materials with synchrotron radiation, studying the effect of intense flashes of X-ray radiation on single atoms, exploring the properties of plasmas, or investigating the interplay between particle physics and cosmology – these are the objectives of four “Virtual Institutes” coordinated by the DESY research center in Hamburg. By founding these institutes, which are run jointly by different centers of the Helmholtz Association as well as universities, the participating institutions intend to pool their know-how and focus their activities in these areas. With the funding of the fourth project approved in early June, all four projects coordinated by DESY have now been positively evaluated by the Helmholtz Association. They are to receive 720 000 Euro each spread over a period of three years from the “Impuls- und Vernetzungsfonds” – the “Initiative and Networking Fund” – of the Helmholtz Association.

The President of the Helmholtz Association is equipped with an “Initiative and Networking Fund” amounting to 25 million Euro each year. As a special control instrument within the framework of “Program-Oriented Funding”, this fund is helping the Helmholtz Association to complete its reforms quickly and efficiently. It is financed by money from the research centers of the Helmholtz Association earmarked especially for use in this fund. The aim of the Initiative and Networking Fund is to establish examples of best practice at individual Helmholtz Centres in the whole Association and to support in particular projects resulting from the program evaluations or consultations of the Helmholtz Senate. The three core areas for funding allocations are: networking with universities, international networking and promoting young scientists.

The second call for applications for the Initiative and Networking Fund took place in January 2004, the main emphasis of the funding lying on the so-called Virtual Institutes. The following four projects coordinated by DESY were selected for support:

  • The Virtual Institute „Development of In-situ Characterization Techniques for Polycrystalline Materials Using High-Energy Synchrotron Radiation” is run by the partner institutes DESY, the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of Munich. The aim of the project is to develop new methods for the investigation of polycrystalline materials using synchrotron radiation produced at DESY’s future X-ray radiation source PETRA III, and to improve existing measuring techniques. The institute is embedded in numerous collaborative research centers (“Sonderforschungsbereiche”) and special programs, and in the European Network of Excellence of the European Union’s sixth Framework Programme.
  • DESY, the Technical University of Berlin, and the universities of Frankfurt and Rostock have joined forces in the Virtual Institute „Atomic and Cluster Physics with Short Wavelength Radiation from Free-Electron Lasers“ to study the interaction of extremely intense X-ray pulses from these novel light sources with single atoms and clusters – tiny “lumps” made of many atoms. The goal here is to reach a deep understanding of the processes occurring during these interactions on the atomic and molecular level. This knowledge is of fundamental importance for all future experiments and applications of free-electron lasers in the X-ray range.
  • The free-electron laser for radiation in the vacuum ultraviolet and the soft X-ray range VUV-FEL, which will take up user operation at DESY in 2005, enables scientists to study hot, ionized gases, so-called plasmas. The insights in this area are especially important for resolving problems in astrophysics. Within the Virtual Institute „Plasma Physics Research Using FEL Radiation“, DESY and the universities of Rostock and Jena will investigate the possibilities of using so-called Thomson scattering for the diagnosis of these plasmas.
  • The interface between particle physics and cosmology is currently one of the main points of interest of fundamental physics. Within the framework of the Virtual Institute “Particle Cosmology”, theory groups at DESY and at the universities of Bonn, Heidelberg and Munich will study the origin of the cosmological matter-antimatter asymmetry and the connection between dark matter, dark energy and inflation. The general goal of the Virtual Institute is to understand global properties of the Universe on the basis of the laws which govern the structure of matter at the shortest distances.

In addition, DESY is participating in two more Virtual Institutes:

  • a joint project linking three Helmholtz Centers (HMI, GKSS, DESY) and four university institutes (TU Berlin, TU Clausthal, TU Dresden). Called “Photons and Neutrons for Advanced Materials”, the institute aims to develop the unique possibilities for the investigation of modern materials offered at electron storage rings and neutron sources;
  • and the institute „Asymmetric Structures for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell“, within which the Helmholtz Centers DESY and FZJ and the Universities of Bayreuth, Ulm and the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg collaborate under the overall coordination of GKSS to advance the development of fuel cells.

The Initiative and Networking Fund usually serves to kick-start a multi-institutional project run by one or more Helmholtz Centers and cooperating partner institutes with corresponding financial contributions by the participating institutions. If approved, the project is supported with money from the fund for a limited time, usually – in addition to the one-off kick-start payment – for a period of three to five years.

Until now, DESY has been very successful in applying for funding from the Initiative and Networking Fund. In the first call for applications in 2003, eight project proposals under the coordination of DESY were approved for support. Besides four “Joint Research Centers”, funding has meanwhile been received for six “Helmholtz Young Investigators Groups” promoting young scientists. In addition, DESY also received kick-start payment and support for the school labs “physik.begreifen” in Hamburg and Zeuthen and for a summer school in Dubna. Moreover, DESY is participating in additional projects coordinated by other Helmholtz Centers.