Construction of a new centre for top-class research of solid states physics commenced

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On 14 August 2019, the foundation stone of a new building of a top-class centre in the area of solid-state physics has been laid in the presence of significant personalities of Czech science and politics. The new building will constitute a part of the premises of the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences (FZU CAS) in Prague 8 – Ládví. The new centre will facilitate new knowledge acquisition which will contribute not only to understanding the essence of processes in modern materials and nanostructures, but it will also be applicable to the development of new materials, components and applications. The impact of the project can be expected in various areas of technology, power engineering and medicine.

During the event, speeches were given by the President of the Czech Academy of Sciences Eva Zažímalová, Vice President of the Czech Academy of Sciences for 1st Research Area Jan Řídký, the Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček, Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports for the Management of the EU and ESIF Division Václav Velčovský, the representative of the European Commission Josef Schwarz and the Director of the FZU Michael Prouza. The ceremonial act was joined by Viktorie Součková from Bogle Architects author team and Aleš Kézr, Director of the Division J – Bohemia of OHL ŽS, which is the general contractor of the construction. As part of the event, there has also been an exhibition introducing the new building and the SOLID21 research project, within which the construction is executed.

Foundation stone laying ceremony. From left M. Prouza, J. Řídký, V. Součková, E. Zažímalová, K. Havlíček, V. Velčovský, J. Schwarz, A. Kézr.

SOLID21 (Solid State Physics for 21st Century) project has been in progress since 2018 and has been supported by more than half a billion crowns from the Operational Programme Research, Development and Education as part of the Excellent Research call. At the new workplace, successful FZU scientific teams which deal with current scientific and technical challenges of the 21st century in the fields of nanoelectronics, photonics, magnetism, functional and bioactive materials and plasma technologies will join forces. For that purpose they will use modern physical laboratories designed for sets of top-class instruments which will enrich the existing capacities of the Institute of Physics – the new building will be able to house up to 30 laboratories, e.g. fully equipped bio-laboratory or a complex of plasma laboratories. The building is planned to be completed in spring 2021.

„We are eagerly waiting for the construction to be finished,“ said Michael Prouza, the director of the FZU, just before the ceremonial tapping on the cornerstone. “It is absolutely necessary to have top equipment for Solid particles, a scientific field dealt with by more than half of the researchers at the Institute of Physics. We have excellent scientists, whose outputs are promptly recognized by the most prestigious journals and we are obliged to provide them with any relevant conditions,” emphasised the director of the largest institute of the Academy of Sciences.

The building has been designed at a well-known studio Bogle Architects which has already participated in designing the building of the ELI Beamlines Centre in Dolní Břežany, which gained several awards in architecture competitions, e.g. the first place in Grand Prix in a new building category.

“The new building is maximally adapted to the demands of extremely sensitive instruments and studied materials. For the purpose of vibration minimization the laboratories are located on the ground floor or in the basement and each laboratory is accommodated to its respective purpose. For example, the space for work with UV sensitive materials has to be equipped with yellow lighting and on the windows, yellow filters will be installed to prevent undesirable photo-chemical reactions,” says Erika Zikmundová, the FZU representative for the construction.

The scientific area of solid-state physics is one of the fastest developing areas of physics – a predominant part of the current revolutionary technical innovations has arisen from it and it is distinguished by a very short period of the implementation of the new findings. The most significant, widely used discoveries of modern solid-state physics include for example transistors, lasers and photovoltaic cells and most recently also LED lighting technology. These discoveries caused a technological revolution and they significantly influenced our lives and the world around us. The basic research falling within the field of solid-state physics belongs among the key activities of the FZU and it has a rich tradition there.

“We are greatly delighted to see that one of the Institutes of the Academy of Sciences has been involved in a project with sufficient funds to cover the construction of the new building as well as, to a large extent, its instrumental equipment,” said Eva Zažímalová, the president of the Academy of Sciences, introducing the ceremonial act attended by the employees of the FZU and their colleagues from the neighbouring Institutes.

The significance of basic research for the development of society as a whole was emphasised by Karel Havlíček, the Minister of Industry and Commerce. “If we wish to achieve the ambitions identified in the Innovation strategy by 2030, we need to invest now already, I would even say ‘crazily’ invest, into research, science and innovation,” summed up the minister. It is necessary to start with the fields we are strong at; physics being one of them – and the Institute of Physics has been – without question – the carrier of the success of Czech science in the field of physics,” said the minister – who is also a vice-president of a government Council for research, development and innovation – paying a compliment not only to the scientists present at the ceremony.

The foundation stone of the new building is created by the so called touchstone, a flint of dark colour, which by its hardness symbolizes the demanding nature of solid state physics. The origin of the stone also refers to the connection of the Institute of Physics with Prague 8 – the stone comes from the nearby hill Ládví where it was mined for the production of primitive stone tools already in prehistoric times. The picture shows the stone in its original location.

The perspective for the development of the Institute of Physics in the key area – in association with the construction of the new building – was also pointed out by Jan Řídký who was, as a former director of the Institute, the first initiator of the existing SOLID21 project. “I invited my colleagues to discuss this topic for the first time on the 15th July 2015; at that time HILASE was practically finished and ELI was at an advanced state of completion,” said the vice-president of the Academy of Sciences to recall the very beginning of the project which is expected to produce a top research centre in a two-years' time.

Follow the progress of construction of the new building – image from the last full hour.

SOLID21 incorporates five separate research programmes:

Physics for Material Engineering programme will develop capacities of the institute in studies of special and functional materials the properties of which can be influenced by the change of external physical conditions – e.g. materials with shape memory, alloys with extended lifetime or liquid crystals. The application of these materials ranges from medicine to communication technologies.

Within Nano-electronics programme we develop modern trends in electronics. In some of them, the FZU is already a workplace with world-wide influence. The new laboratories will enable further development of transistor-free electronics based on the use of quantum phenomena in molecules and atoms. In this respect, promising trends include not only spintronics or quantum cellular automata, but also other approaches opening ways to fast electronic components and computers with low energy consumption.

Within Photonics and Energy Transformation programme an excellent workplace in international comparison is emerging. Its main aim is the research of new technologies and materials for efficient conversion and storage of energy – for example, research and development of luminophores for solid-state light sources, scintillation materials for ionizing radiation detection, or photovoltaic and thermoelectric energy conversion research. The focus thus corresponds to the aims of Strategy AV21 of the Czech Academy of Sciences and will enable deeper collaboration with leading world laboratories in the USA, Japan, CERN and also HiLASE, a laser centre focused on the application which is part of the FZU.

Also, Physics for Bio programme incorporates significant scientific capacities working across the Institute of Physics. Their aim is to study the influence of various physical factors on biological systems including new developmental technologies. Their main, but not the only, content of work is the development of technologies for medicine, specifically imaging methods and transportation of medicine using nanoparticles.

Plasma Technologies programme continues in the FZU tradition of research and use of low-temperature plasma. Possibilities of low-temperature plasma in the creation of thin films and layered nanostructures are studied. In cooperation with other research programmes, we optimize the process of thin film application which is significant for the use in photonics, photovoltaics, electronics, optics, in the production of sensors and in other areas.