Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie

Visitors of BESSY II at the Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen campus in Adlershof during the Long Night of the Sciences.

At its two campuses – Wannsee and Adlershof – the HZB operates two large-scale scientific facilities for basic physics research: neutron source BER II at the Wannsee campus provides neutrons for research and synchrotron radiation source BESSY II allows for material analysis using brilliant, coherent light from the terahertz to the X-ray range. Each year, this research infrastructure is used by approx. 3,000 visiting scientists.

Of the HZB’s total 1,144 employees. About 800 are working at the Berlin-Wannsee campus and an additional 300 at the Berlin-Adlershof campus. The total budget amounts to approx. 146 million Euros. The HZB is a member of the Helmholtz Association, which comprises a total of 18 research institutes.

The HZB is working closely with the Berlin-Brandenburg university system. Every single institute and department within the different HZB research areas is headed by a professor who holds an appointment at one of the universities in Berlin or Brandenburg. The research areas are complemented by junior research groups as well as joint HZB-university research groups and “Joint Laboratories”.

Some 100 Ph.D. candidates from different Berlin-Brandenburg area universities are currently working towards their degrees while conducting research at the HZB. Beyond the Berlin-Brandenburg region, the HZB is partnering with some 400 different German and international universities, research institutes, and companies. Another of the HZB’s commitments is to job training. Every year, the Centre employs approx. 50 trainees through one of its 12 job training programmes.

Each year, approx 7,400 people from all around the World come and visit the HZB to learn about the work that is being done at the research centre and to find out about the different research facilities. The HZB also assumes an active role in the Long Night of the Sciences Berlin and is involved in Girl’s Day, a nationwide action day. The HZB’s “Looking into Matter” School Lab offers project days for students grades 5 through 13 on topics ranging from magnetism and solar energy to light and colours. As part of the lab, students work independently to explore scientific topics outside of the classroom setting.

Research using large-scale equipment


BESSY II aerial view, HZB, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen campus at night, © euroluftbild.de/Robert Grahn

The Helmholtz Center operates two scientific large-scale facilities for research on the structure and function of matter: research reactor BER II for neutron experiments and synchrotron radiation source BESSY II, which generates highly brilliant synchrotron radiation from the terahertz to the X-ray spectrum.

Both facilities are equipped with highly specialized sample environments. Experiments can be performed under the most sophisticated conditions like high magnetic fields, extremely low temperatures, or high pressures. The instruments’ continued refinement at the two large-scale facilities is one the Center’s main jobs.

Through its user service, each year, the HZB provides some 3,000 visiting scientists who hail from some 35 different countries with access to some of the most unique measuring methodologies. For many research questions, it i’s a huge advantage to be able to study different material samples using both neutrons and synchrotron radiation: By combining these two complementary methods, a more complete picture of matter is obtained.

The HZB operates two additional large-scale facilities for external institutions: an accelerator for the Charité used to produce proton beams for eye tumor therapy (at the Wannsee campus) and the Metrology Light Source, an optimized storage ring for the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, the national metrology institute (at the Adlershof campus).

Materials for tomorrow’s energies

Iron oxide based nanostructures. At the Institute for Solar Fuels, HZB scientists are working on developing new material systems capable of storing energy from sunlight by converting it to chemical energy as efficiently as possible.

Highly specialized materials and combinations of materials are the basis of our civilization and of Germany as a high-tech location. Just how efficiently energy and resources can be utilized depends to a large degree on the research and study of new material systems.

HZB scientists investigate the origins of the macroscopic properties of materials and their underlying microscopic structures and processes. They are working on atomic and magnetic structures of solid bodies, their internal dynamics, the transitions between different states of order, and the relationships between their structure and their properties.

A major focus is on the study of next-generation solar cells – with new material classes and innovative device design – as well as the generation of chemical energy carriers like hydrogen with the help of sunlight (solar fuels). Long-term goals include efficient and competitive thin film solar cells and multispectral cells that can be produced without the use of rare or ecologically harmful component parts. In the area of thin-film solar cells, the HZB is already one of the largest research institutes in all of Europe. Not only do HZB teams continue to develop new materials, they are also working hand in hand with partners from industry in trying out innovative technologies.

Other important topics include material systems for IT, materials with superconducting phases, and thermoelectrics. Many topics from material research are placing high demands on measurement precision and thus also help move along the development of methods and instruments at the HZB.


Two methods – one goal: penetrating the secrets of nature with photons and neutrons