At CENIDE, around 400 scientists organized in over 65 research groups conduct research into diverse topics relating to nanotechnology. The following highlights of 2014 and 2015 give an insight into the main research areas within CENIDE.

Dynamic Processes in Solid-State Bodies 

The dynamics of elementary excitations in solid-state bodies, on surfaces or in nanoparticles or nanostructures are investigated with the highest time resolution at CENIDE. The researchers use extremely short laser pulses (in the femtosecond range) in order to observe the resulting dynamics of the electrons and the crystal lattice by means of spectroscopy, dispersion and microscopy. Their work involves a number of unparalleled experimental techniques that are instrumental in gaining a better understanding of the fundamental processes taking place in energy conversion and energy transport at the nanoscale. 

Priority Programme 1391 “Ultrafast Nanooptics”, for example, is concerned with the interaction of broadband coherent excitations with nanostructures. In this area of research, coherent control, propagation, non-linear response and nanoantennas are examined in microscopic detail: the researchers at the UDE use non-linear photoemission microscopy to investigate the temporal dynamics and non-linear interaction of plasmon polariton waves with self-assembled silver or gold islands. Through the world’s fastest microscope, they can observe how a plasmon wave travelling at 98 percent of the speed of light disperses, is reflected and focused in a gold island just 1/100 mm in size. 

Gas-Phase Synthesis 

The synthesis of nanoparticles in the gas phase makes it possible to fabricate ultrapure, tailored materials in scalable procedures. CENIDE investigates all aspects of gas phase processes and has extensive expertise in fundamental experiments, the development of specialized measurement technology, modelling and simulation and in scaling-up and the synthesis of nanoparticles on a scale relevant to practical application.

This is where the work of the new DFG Research Unit 2284 “Model-based scalable gas phase synthesis of complex nanoparticles” began in 2015: it aims to determine under which rules it is possible to predict the success of highly specialized nanofabrication. The first step in this process is to produce isolated nanoparticles, which in a second stage are combined into more complex structures. The resulting structures should then reliably exhibit the properties relevant to the specific area of application. The DFG is providing 2.6 million euros in funding for the first three-year project phase. The coordinator of the Research Unit is the winner of the Leibniz Prize, Prof. Dr. Christof Schulz.


In magnetism, the focus of interest at CENIDE is the fabrication and highly specialized characterization of new materials and hybrids from microscopic to macroscopic length scales, and ab initio modelling. Ultrathin metallic and oxidic films, nanoparticles and molecular nanomagnets all have an important role to play as components for modern hybrid systems.


More than one million euros are being invested, for example, in research projects at the UDE to explore the use of solid-state bodies in cooling. In DFG Priority Programme 1599 “Caloric Effects in Ferroic Materials: New Concepts for Cooling”, the physicists and engineering scientists from CENIDE were very successful in 2015 with their proposals for the second funding period. They are united in their work by one particular topic: novel materials for refrigerators and air-conditioning systems. Existing systems are harmful to the environment or heavy on energy consumption. Magnetic or electrically polarized solid-state bodies, known as ferroic materials, are an alternative that operate without climate-damaging or combustible gases, and the systems are more effective.


Biomaterials are natural or synthetic substances that are in contact with biological systems, such as in the fascinating field of nanobiophotonics. At CENIDE, this interaction is studied on materials, surfaces, particles and macromolecules. The main research area benefits from the pooling of expertise in the materials and biological sciences (colloids, macromolecules, proteins, imaging) and the chemical and physical sciences (synthesis, magnetism, photonics).

2014 saw the official inauguration of the new Collaborative Research Center SFB 1093 “Supramolecular Chemistry on Proteins”, which is receiving some seven million euros in funding from the DFG. Five CENIDE members are leading projects within the SFB in which methods from supramolecular chemistry are used to address specific protein functions and biological questions. The teams work hand-in-hand to conduct this interdisciplinary work: first, the chemists construct new tweezers for protein molecules. These are then used by the biologists to investigate biochemical mechanisms. Based on their findings, the medics in turn draw new insights for the diagnosis and combating of disease. Their work benefits from the comprehensive range of characterization methods available to them, such as in modern instrumental nanoparticle colloid analysis (AUZ, DLS, NTA, ADC, AFFF), combined with the DFG Core Facility ICAN “Interdisciplinary Center for Analytics on the Nanoscale” for surface analysis of solid-state materials.

Nano Energy Technology

CENIDE’s interest in this area concerns how nanomaterials can be exploited for the benefit of energy technology, especially in energy conversion and storage. The ultramodern Nano Energy Technology Center (NETZ) research building provides researchers with the facilities and 400 m2 of space to explore this question. The basis for their work is a system for the synthesis of nanomaterials in the gas phase on a scale relevant to applications in areas such as thermoelectrics, catalysis, photovoltaics, lithium-ion batteries and light emitters (LEDs).

In 2014, Dr. Gabi Schierning received the NRW Innovation Award in the “Young Researcher” category for the development of a thermoelectric generator to convert heat into electrical energy and made from environmentally friendly material. Working with other UDE scientists, her team developed the thermoelectric generator using nanostructured silicon rather than materials used to date, such as tellurium or lead, which are rare and expensive or harmful to the environment.