Established over 250 years ago, the physics faculty at the University of Würzburg has been at the very forefront of international research for at least 130 years. The faculty’s position as world leading in physics research was first established with the discovery of X-rays by W.C. Röntgen in 1895. This discovery was awarded with history’s first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901 and since that date, the faculty has added 5 additional Nobel Prizes to its collection. The most recent one, that of K. von Klitzing for the discovery of the quantum Hall effect in 1985, still plays a large role in shaping our faculty’s current research.
Indeed, building on the expertise, methods and infrastructure used in that research, our faculty’s continued to explore novel phenomenology in condensed matter, and our efforts were rewarded in 2007 with a groundbreaking discovery when the Molenkamp group demonstrated the Quantum Spin Hall Effect in a HgTe heterostructure, the first experimental realization of a topological insulator. This event marked the birth of the field of topological insulators and topological and correlated matter, perhaps the most dynamic and exciting field of research in physics today, which now includes a wide range of topologically non-trivial and/or correlated systems beyond topological insulators, such as Weyl semimetals, correlated Kondo materials, and topological superconductors, potential Majorana fermion materials.
Multiple international awards including the Europhysics-, Buckley- and Physics Frontiers-prizes have underlined our faculty’s role as worldwide leaders in this field. Building on this success, the faculty has recently added two significant pieces of ‘satellite’ infrastructure and support element to its research activities in this field:
- The faculty successfully applied for the status of “cluster of excellence”, a prestigious awarded reserved for the best faculties in Germany in all fields of research. This cluster is called ct.qmat.
- A attached research institute, called the Institute for Topological insulators, is currently under construction, and will open in 2021, offering a modern research infrastructure with some capabilities for processing of topological materials which are unique in the world.
While this focus on topological and correlated materials currently represents the largest part of our faculty’s effort, it is far from being our only research activity. The faculty, which comprises 15 research chairs (33 professors) also has significant research efforts in many other areas, both within and outside of condensed matter. These include research into energy physics, medical applications, quantum and nano-photonics and optoelectronics, imaging technologies and particle and astrophysics.
These efforts include a focus on the development of technologies for renewable energy harvesting, nano- and biophotonics, molecular electronics, quantum communication, spintronics and imaging techniques covering the spectroscopic range from radio waves (NMR) to X-rays. Our research also covers theoretical and experimental particle physics, theoretical and observational astrophysics and astronomy, as well as quantum field theory and string theory. In particular, we carry out both theoretical and experimental precision analyses of the Standard Model in view of finding deviations and signals for new physics. Major topics in astronomy are high-energy astronomy and the study of cosmic particle accelerators, as well as dark matter. Moreover, we investigate the AdS/CFT correspondence, its applications and its relations to quantum information and quantum gravity.
As above, these activities are also supported by ‘satellite’ facilities:
- The ZAE Bayern center of energy research.
- MRB Research Center
- North Bavarian Research Cluster for Astronomy and Astroparticle Physics
- Center for Mathematics, Information Technology and Natural Sciences Didactics (M!ND-Center)
- Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (FhG IIS) and Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC)
All areas of research are conducted in a collaborative spirit between the chairs, bringing together the individual specializations of each researcher whenever appropriate to tackle any challenge. In particular, a joint experimental and theoretical effort to research is a key element of our faculty’s strategy.
These efforts have let to us publishing, on average more than fifty papers in high-impact journals such as Nature, Science and Physical Review Letters per year, and an addition ~200 in more specialized journals. It has also allowed us to collaborate with leading groups at the top universities and research institutes around the world, including for example, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Riken, the Max Planck Society and NASA. It has also allowed us to be successful in applying for funding for our research, which, in additional to the existing infrastructure, is supported by multimillion Euros of government grants annually.
Our faculty’s pallet of available tools and infrastructure is as broad as our research spectrum, and indeed, allows for a completely in-house idea-to-paper approach, where all aspects of a research project can typically be carried out within our faculty. This implies that while our international collaborations are invaluable to the exchange of ideas, we are not dependent on them to execute our research, allowing us to act swiftly and decisively when new research opportunities present themselves.
Indeed, the infrastructure at our faculty, all of which is open to students at the Master’s and PhD level (and often to senior undergrads), covers the full range of modern research, and includes:
- Extensive growth and material synthesis facilities (including chemical methods, pulsed laser deposition, and one of the largest molecular beam epitaxy systems in the world) to produce novel materials in house and not be dependent on material suppliers.
- State of the art clean room facilities for device fabrication including full optical, laser, electron and ion beam lithography processing lines, allowing for processing of devices down to the >10 nm scale.
- Optical and spectroscopic characterization systems including angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, spin-polarized scanning tunneling spectroscopy, electron and nuclear spin resonance spectroscopy and resonant X-ray spectroscopy, as well as electron microscopy.
- Imaging and inspection of samples including atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and tunneling electron microscopy.
- Kits for transport/electrical characterization at the highest levels of precisions, at temperatures ranging from above room to below 10 mK, and in magnetic fields up to 18T.
- Structural characterization including X-ray reflection and diffraction techniques and beam-line methods.
- Access to the gamma-ray telescopesystems MAGIC and CTA and the gamma-ray telescope FACT
- Computational infrastructure and codes including methods and packages for k.p and ab initio modelling, and field-theoretical, many-body theory, Monte-Carlo and holographic methods.
All chairs at our faculty enthusiastically welcome Master students into their research teams. More details of the specific research being conducted in each chair can be found at the chairs individual web pages.
Experimental Physics and Didactic
Chairholder: Prof. Dr. Sven Höfling
Theoretical Physics and Astronomy
Chairholder: Prof. Dr. Karl Mannheim