Leibniz IPHT is partner in the new graduate college “PhInt – Photopolarizable Interfaces and Membranes” at the University of Jena. Prof. Benjamin Dietzek-Ivanšić from Leibniz IPHT is the spokesman of the group. The German Research Foundation (DFG) will fund it with more than 5 million euros starting September 1.

We notice the effect of light when the sun warms us and makes the world a more pleasant place. But light is not only important for humans and nature. Light-driven processes also play an important role in modern technology – for example, in data processing or the use of light as an information carrier. Light is also an indispensable tool for microscopy and material production. It drives biological, chemical and physical processes. For example, it can be used to control the structure and function of materials.

Controlling Innovative Materials with Light

The new research training group “PhInt – Photopolarizable Interfaces and Membranes” at the University of Jena will focus on the fundamental interactions between light and new materials. The German Research Foundation (DFG) announced today that it will begin funding the group on September 1. The research network, which has applied for 5.8 million euros in funding over the next five years, will create 24 positions for doctoral students.

Interdisciplinary and communicative

In addition to the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT), the University Hospital Jena and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF are partners in the new research training group, which will be based at the Abbe Center for Photonics.

“PhInt is characterized by the close cooperation between researchers from materials chemistry, solid state physics, biophysics, physiology, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry and chemical education,” says spokesperson Prof. Dr. Benjamin Dietzek-Ivanšić, who heads the “Functional Interfaces” research group at Leibniz IPHT. “This creates new links between the various specialist areas, which form the basis for the highly interdisciplinary education of the PhD students at the college.PhInt attaches particular importance to the transfer of research content and science communication.To this end, chemical didactics will be directly integrated into the graduate program and a cooperation with the German Optical Museum will be established,” adds Dietzek-Ivanšić, who teaches as Professor of Molecular Photonics at the University of Jena.

Production of photoswitchable membranes and interfaces

Prominent examples of light-driven processes and structures include photosynthesis, light-to-energy conversion in photovoltaics, and light-driven molecular machines.In all these areas, it is necessary to understand the underlying interactions between light and materials in order to develop new materials with improved functionality.The new PhINT Research Training Group will intensively investigate such interactions.The goal is to fabricate and characterize photoswitchable membranes and interfaces.The focus will be on molecularly thin membranes and interfaces of solids such as silicon and glass. Emphasis will be placed on cross-material characterization of the molecular processes that lead to changes in the macroscopic properties of the materials. In addition, suitable methods will be developed and established to study the processes that take place at the molecular level and sometimes extremely rapidly. “Once these processes are understood, new application perspectives for light-controlled materials will open up, for example in photoswitchable optoelectronics and adaptive photosensors or in the control of cellular signaling processes and drug uptake by light,” says Prof. Dietzek-Ivanšić, looking far into the future.