A contribution to the history of the IOM

(Pre)History of IOM C. Bundesmann

The Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering (IOM) was founded on January 01, 1992. However, its roots date back some decades ago. Its foundation based on successful activities at research institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR (AdW), namely, the Institute of Stable Isotopes (1957-1970) and the Central Institute of Isotope and Radiation Research (1969-1991).

The German Academy of Sciences (later renamed to Academy of Sciences of the GDR) was re-opened in 1945 in the Soviet Sector. Similar to the Soviet Academy of Sciences, it was not only a society of elected scholars but was supposed to have also research institutes. As a consequence of a governmental decision to use nuclear energy for civil applications, two Physics institutes of the AdW were founded in the mid 1950s in Leipzig, the Institute for Applied Radioactivity and the Institute for Stable Isotopes [1,2].

History of the Physics Institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in Leipzig (and Berlin) [3].
Logo of the Central Institute for Isotope and Radiation Research

During a reform of the AdW, the later two and some other institutes merged into the Central Institute for Isotope and Radiation Research (ZfI) [4,5]. The main fields of work at the ZfI were isotope research, application of isotopes, radiation research, tracer research, radiation sources and radiopharmaceuticals. The work, which later led to the foundation of IOM, were done in the department of Ion Beam Technologies (head: Prof. Frieder Bigl) and in the department of Electron Beam Technologies (head: Prof. Reiner Mehnert)



Since the beginning of the 1970s, the department of Ion Beam Technologies had worked on the development and application of low-energy, broad-beam ion sources. One highlight was the fully-automated ion beam etching tool ISA with the reactive-gas ion sources ISQ 76/150 [6], which was developed in 1983/84 at VEB Hochvakuum Dresden in close cooperation with the ZfI. Special applications were the generation of angled polish with very small angles (minimal 0.0005°) for depth profiling or, as one of the first groups, reactive ion beam etching for microelectronics or for tailoring of optical surfaces. In the department of Electron Beam Technologies, among others, low-energy electron accelerators were developed and used for electron beam hardening or defect generation in semiconductors, polymers, or food. Furthermore, the fundamentals of selected radiation effects were studied. The works in both departments were very successful but, due to the political and economical limitations, could not be spread abroad.

The situation changed in 1989 when the wall came done. Soon after, a number of fruitful and still ongoing collaborations were initiated. However, there were also some fundamental changes in the organization of the ZfI and the whole research in the former GDR. With the reunification of Germany, it was agreed to transform the Academy of Sciences back to a society of scholars. Consequently, all institutes of the AdW had to be closed. The German Science Council was asked to evaluate all institute in order to identify research topics, which were of special importance and significance for integrating in the (West-)German research activities. As a consequence, several new institutes were founded. Some other works were integrated into already existing research institute or transferred to universities.



Fully-automated ion beam etching plant ISA 150. Source: HVD, 1985
Broad-beam ion source ISQ 150. Image: A. Schindler, 1990.

Based on the evaluation of the Science Council [8], it was suggested to found a new research institute, which deals with ion beam and electron beam technologies. The institute was called Institut für Oberflächenmodifizierung (IOM) and became a member of the research association Blaue Liste (English 'blue list'), which became later the Leibniz Association.

Founding director and head of the Department of Ion Beam Technologies became Prof. Frieder Bigl (in 1994 he became also the institute director). Vice director and head of the Department of Electron Beam Technologies was Prof. Reiner Mehnert.



Organisational structure of the IOM at its foundation in 1992. Source: IOM, 1992.

The IOM is today a well-established and respected partner for national and international partners from universities, research institutes and industry. This status would have been impossible without the dedicated and hard work of those, who laid the basis for the foundation of the IOM.



[1] W. Herrmann, Zehn Jahre Institut für angewandte Radioaktivität, Isotopenpraxis 2 (1966) 49; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10256016608551747

[2] J. Mühlenpfordt, Das Institut für stabile Isotope, Leipzig, Isotopenpraxis 2 (1966) 113; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10256016608551720

[3] UFZ, Leipzig Permoserstraße: Zur Geschichte eines Industrie- und Wissenschaftsstandorts, Passage-Verlag Leipzig, 2001, ISBN 9783932900617

[4] K. Wetzel, 15 Jahre Zentralinstitut für Isotopen- und Strahlenforschung der AdW der DDR – Ein Überblick, Isotopenpraxis 20 (1984) 365; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10256018408623380

[5] K. Wetzel, H. Hübner, 20 Years Central Institute of Isotope and Radiation Research – A Review of the last 5 Years, Isotopenpraxis 25 (1989) 421; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10256018908624174

[6] F. Bigl, Ionenstrahlätzen – Verfahren und Ausrüstungen für die Mikrostrukturierung, Isotopenpraxis 22 (1986) 430;DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10256018608623720

[7] Wissenschaftsrat, Stellungnahmen zu den außeruniversitären Forschungseinrichtungen der ehemaligen Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR auf dem Gebiet der Physik (März 1991), Wissenschaftsrat, 1992