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Germany is a Central European country covering an overall area of 357,022 km2. As of 2017 estimates, the country has a population of 80,457,737.
Germany’s social market economy is the largest in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. The economic status of the country has recovered from the recession phase that occurred between 2008 and 2009, by accepting both manufacturing orders and exports from beyond the Eurozone.
According to 2018 estimates, Germany’s GDP was $4.029 trillion. Of the total GDP, about 0.6% is contributed by the agricultural sector, 30.1% by the industrial sector, and 69.3% by the service sector, as per the 2017 estimates.
Germany’s economy is immensely boosted by the remarkable efforts in research and development in the science field. The advancement of novel technologies, such as nanotechnology, has excellent economic potential and there are numerous German companies committed to the development, distribution, and application of nanotech-based products.
Through the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Germany is working to develop an innovation-friendly atmosphere, supporting market-oriented innovation, research, and development projects.
The country is seeking to achieve these through its innovation method that will:
- Initiate 200 groundbreaking university-based business start-ups
- Offer seed finance for high-tech start-up companies
- Offer funding through the newly established European Angels Fund
- Launch new investment grants for venture capital
- Encourage medium- and small-sized businesses to innovate
- Introduce tax breaks for activities relating to research and development
Germany had 110,000 innovative companies and 34,000 research companies in 2011. It was ranked third in the EU Commission’s Innovation Union Scoreboard after Sweden and Denmark. The country is focused on preserving this position and, in the process, raising the number of research firms by 20,000 and inventive companies to 140,000 by the year 2020.
The following sections briefly introduce the major nanotechnology-related organizations in Germany.
The TUM Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology is dedicated to coordinating education and research in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology. A few of its research domains include nanosensors, nanophotonics, nanocrystalline semiconductors, and metallic nanostructures.
The organization examines the potential of nanotechnology by cross-linking nanotechnology capabilities from science, economy, and politics.
The organization supports novel activities in different enterprises and focuses on translating research results into new products and businesses. It supports research performed by companies and universities working toward the same objective of utilizing nanotechnology for upcoming developments.
The focus of this organization is on the study and analysis of nano-bioanalytics by creating strong collaborations between the science and business industries to ensure quick exploitation of research outcomes for the development of products, maximizing the nano-bioanalytical potentiality, and generating financial support.
This is a non-profit organization promoting research and development activities by bringing together research institutes, hospitals, universities, and companies.
The organization focuses on the funding of enterprises that deal with materials technology and nanotechnology. It plays a significant role in reinforcing the international innovative ability and competitiveness of numerous small- and medium-sized firms.
Fraunhofer Nanotechnology Alliance
This research organization serves to meet people’s requirements via its research activities and also by engineering and developing novel products and enhanced techniques. The organization handles applied research of direct utilities to public and private firms.
Germany is one of the most active nations in the world with respect to patent creation in nanotechnology, along with Japan and the United States. The following sections briefly introduce some of the key nanotechnology-focused companies based in Germany.
Accurion is focused on offering reliable, high-end, advanced technology for its two product lines—Active Vibration Isolation and Imaging Ellipsometry.
Aixtron manufactures metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) systems for various applications like photovoltaic materials, power electronics, and LEDs.
Anfatec specializes in developing, producing, and marketing scientific instrumentation for surface science, specifically scanning probe microscopes (SPMs) as well as components and controllers for SPMs.
AQUANOVA is a technological leader, supplying liquid solutions (solubilisates) and nanoscale encapsulation for pharmaceutical, cosmetics, health, nutrition, and general sectors.
Application fields of Attocube Systems include optical emission from carbon nanotubes (CNTs), nanogrippers and nanomanipulators, nanofocusing parabolic refractive X-ray lenses, and quantitative magnetic characterization on the nanoscale.
Bayer MaterialScience, a market and customer-oriented inventor company, is supporting the development of CNTs. For instance, currently, the own laboratories of Bayer MaterialScience are perfecting the low-cost industrial production of CNTs due to the constant increase in the need for smart, novel, and eco-friendly market solutions.
Center for Applied Nanotechnology (CAN GmbH)
CAN is a technology service provider that supports the use of innovative findings in chemical nanoanalysis and nanotechnology for research facilities and companies both in Germany and overseas.
Capsulution is a top nanotechnology enterprise specializing in the customer-oriented development of novel, market-oriented, and customized drug delivery solutions that seamlessly meet its customers’ requirements.
Capsulution is a spin-off of the Max Planck Society and a leader in the commercial utilization of new research outcomes from the area of nanotechnology. It is setting a new benchmark by using nanotechnology in the latest challenges of diagnostics, medical technology, and pharmaceutical therapy.
Carl Zeiss Microscopy
The Carl Zeiss group is a prominent organization of firms operating across the globe in the optical and optoelectronic sector. It is largely involved in the field of nanotechnology via its industrial metrology, semiconductor manufacturing, and microscopy business units.
Carl Zeiss Microscopy is a leading manufacturer of electron microscopes and light microscopes in the world. It produces compound light microscopes as well as an array of ion and electron microscopes, and fluorescence optical sectioning systems.
Carl Zeiss Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology has an extensive product portfolio spanning a broad range of major processes in microchip manufacturing, such as mask optimization and optical lithography. Chip manufacturers use Zeiss systems to create ever smaller, more energy-efficient, and faster microchips for each functional unit. In addition, Carl Zeiss has taken the first step into the future production of microchips with EUV lithography.
The business focus of Dreebit is fabrication, development, sales, distribution, and service of vacuum equipment and parts. It also focuses on facilities for nanotechnology and microtechnology based on electron and ion beam methods.
Evonik Industries is one of the top specialty chemicals companies in the world. Its specialty chemicals activities concentrate on high-growth megatrends, particularly nutrition, health, globalization, and resource efficiency. The company employs nanotechnology to improve processes and to develop novel products and efficient solutions. This way, it makes a significant contribution to enhance health, protect the environment, and make lives more comfortable.
According to Evonik Industries, nanotechnology presents immense opportunities to enhance the generation and storage of energy. This also includes areas like mobile electronics and surface refinement, abrasion-resistant ceramic components, cosmetics, and catalysts that reduce the use of resources and boost the efficiency of production processes.
Fries Research & Technology GmbH
Three-dimensional (3D) surface metrology systems are provided by FRT GmbH for both production and research. The core activities of the company include the production, development, and global distribution of measurement software and equipment for metrology measurement of surfaces with nanometer and micrometer resolution.
FRITSCH is a globally respected producer of application-oriented lab instrumentation. For years, FRITSCH instruments have been used across the world for sample preparation in research and industrial laboratories, particle size reduction, and particle size analysis.
FutureCarbon focuses on developing and producing carbon nanomaterials and their enhancement to produce primary products or carbon super-composites for additional processing by industry. Carbon super-composites are essentially a mixture of materials that expose the unique properties of carbon nanomaterials in the macroscopic realm of real applications. All the materials of the company are produced on an industrial scale.
GXC Coatings integrates the most optimized traditions of optics and chemistry, which were present at its site since the 19th century and which have been part of its shareholders legacy. In 2000, these enduring experiences led to the establishment of GXC Coatings. Leveraging the growth opportunities in nanotechnology, GXC Coatings created the first coating materials for glass surfaces.
Since 2003, GXC Coatings had fueled advancements in polymer surfaces and new fields of application in protection and safety sensors, and added optics and displays to the current range. In 2009, GXC Coatings launched new, long-lasting solutions for self-cleaning surfaces used in entirely new markets.
The main activities of Hielscher Ultrasonics are focused on developing and producing ultrasonic devices for use in industrial and laboratory applications. Ultrasonic devices developed by Hielscher Ultrasonics are currently utilized in production plants and laboratories in all continents across the globe. The company incorporates its ultrasonic devices in intricate ultrasonic systems, like wire cleaning systems.
Based in Saarbruecken, Germany, ItN Nanovation AG is one of the world’s top nanotechnology company creating next-generation water filtration systems for large industrial clients.
JPK Instruments is a top producer of nanoanalytical instruments, specifically based on optical tweezers systems and atomic force microscope (AFM) for life sciences as well as soft matter applications.
Kleindiek Nanotechnik is a young, customer-oriented high-tech company, committed to developing novel nano- and micro-positioning systems. Highly accurate positioning techniques are turning out to be increasingly significant because of miniaturization in micro-mechanics, optics, semiconductor technology, medicine, gene technology, and biotechnology.
Since 1992, Klocke Nanotechnik has been developing its Nanomotor technology, which means it had ventured into the market even before it was established. Klocke Nanotechnik’s initial microgripper was introduced in 1994, when there was nothing to grip. Currently, the company can gain from this long-time experience with associates across the globe.
LayTec is a leading market leader in the area of in-situ metrology for laser and LED production. It provides optical and other non-destructive, in-line, and in-situ metrology solutions for use in thin films. Since 2008, the company has also been promoting its established know-how for research and development beyond the semiconductor sector. These sophisticated in-line metrology solutions are developed and improved for large-area deposition methods like organic, polycrystalline, and amorphous thin-films.
NanoFocus AG develops, manufactures, and distributes measurement technology as well as software packages for defining technical surfaces. The company’s products include 3D and 2D scanning profilometers, in-line inspection systems, and confocal measurement systems.
Nanoscape specializes in supplying porous, nanocrystalline materials. The company develops customized application solutions for current CleanTech markets. In particular, Nanoscape delivers the following products:
- Encapsulation and triggered-release technology
- Ready-to-use coating formulations, suspensions, and dispersions
- Innovative porous materials with nanometer particle size
- Customized surface modifications and functionality
Nanoscribe deals in laser lithography systems, enabling the development of real 3D micro and nanostructures predicated on two-photon polymerization in UV-curable photoresists. Uniquely designed photoresists add to the exceptional performance in 3D microfabrication. The fundamental technology of direct laser writing (DLW) is a robust platform developed for a wide range of applications like life sciences, material research, (opto)electronics, photonics, and micro-optics.
This high-tech, precision machining company makes the tiniest devices at the nanoscale. The company supplies to top semiconductor producers across the globe and also to all the industries that need ultra-precision components.
Omicron NanoTechnology is a leading company supplying analytical instrumentation solutions for research and development of nanotechnology. The company develops novel instruments that deliver excellent performance, and integrate analytical tools into advanced multi-technique analytical systems utilizing its “multi-technique” philosophy.
Particular develops nanoparticles from nearly all solid materials scattered in organic solvents or water. With the help of a physical laser ablation process, these nanoparticles attain a very high surface activity and purity.
Physik Instrumente (PI) specializes in manufacturing motion control and nano-positioning systems that offer the highest precision.
When PI introduced piezoelectric nano-positioning technology nearly four decades ago, the usual customers were universities and research laboratories working on Fabry-Perot interferometers, laser cavity tuning, and filters. Not many envisioned that whole industrial sectors like biotechnology or semiconductor manufacturing would come to rely on the advancement in nano-positioning. Now, even the precision machining industry has started to depend on nanometer-level positioning systems.
PlasmaChem produces nanomaterials, ultra-thin film, plasma, vacuum, and detonation technologies, and also explores their use in technical and biomedical fields.
In science and industry, RETSCH instruments are used for preparing samples for many different analytical techniques, and also for particle size analysis in the context of quality monitoring and production control.
The innovative Planetary Ball Mills of RETSCH both meet and exceed the need for rapid, reproducible grinding down to the nano range. These mills are employed in the most challenging tasks, ranging from colloidal grinding to regular sample processing and sophisticated materials development.
SENTECH Instruments GmbH specializes in developing, manufacturing, and marketing sophisticated quality instruments for photovoltaics (offline and inline measurement tools), thin-film metrology (ellipsometer, spectroscopic ellipsometer, and reflectometer), and plasma process technology (ALD, plasma deposition systems, plasma etcher, and custom-made solutions).
SÜSS MicroTec is known for supplying process equipment for microstructuring in the semiconductor sector and associated markets. The company’s portfolio covers a detailed range of solutions and products for photomask processing, wafer bonding, and backend lithography, supplemented by micro-optical components.
Sympatec specializes in developing, manufacturing, and selling an extensive range of advanced instruments for particle size analysis, such as ultrasonic extinction, laser diffraction, image analysis, and photon cross-correlation spectrometry. The Sympatec product range is mainly used in cement, pharmaceutical, food and beverages, chemical products, research and development, plastics, mineral raw materials, metal and magnetic powders, and inorganic raw materials.
WITec has proven itself as a market leader in the area of nano-analytical microscope systems, such as SNOM, AFM, and Raman.
Nanotechnology Research and Education
The following sections list some of the top academic institutes in Germany providing research programs and courses in nanotechnology and nanoscience.
Center for Applied Nanotechnology
The center caters to research institutions and companies, providing contract research and development services in the field of nanotechnology. A few of their projects include:
- Development and improvement of nanostructured composite materials for innovative systems for generation and storage of energy
- Clinical diagnostics of Diabetes—In Vivo Imaging of Beta cell Receptors by Applied NanoTechnology (VIBRANT)
The university supports nanotech study via the Center for Nanoscience, which, in turn, supports and coordinates interdisciplinary studies in the nanoscience field in the Munich area and consolidates nanoscale research activities from the fields of medicine, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and biophysics.
Jacobs University of Bremen
The university supports study and research in the area of nanotechnology through the NANOFUN Research Center for Functional Materials and Nanomolecular Science. The Center uses basic molecular and theoretical knowledge to develop functional nanostructures and materials. The research domain of nanomolecular science and functional materials extends into numerous disciplines.
University of Kassel
The university supports nanotechnology-based research and study through the institutes mentioned below:
- Institute of Nanostructure Technologies and Analytics works on research and development of optical as well as optoelectronic devices with micro and nanostructure technologies, focusing on application-oriented fundamental research.
- Center for Interdisciplinary Nanostructure Science and Technology (CiNSaT) develops nanoscience activities in association with the departments of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, natural sciences, mathematics, and philosophy. CiNSaT focuses on theoretical analysis, synthesis, and characterization and application of nanostructures.
The university provides an interdisciplinary bachelor’s program in Microtechnology and Nanostructures that covers important aspects of physics with engineering sciences. The program focuses on miniaturization and emphasizes on the development of an interdisciplinary technique to interpret and use nanostructured and microfabricated systems.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
The Center for Functional Nanostructures performs studies on nanostructures with biological, optical, electronic, and energy storage and conversion functions. Nano-electronics, nano-photonics, nano-energy, and nano-biology are the research areas of this center.
University of Konstanze
The university performs studies in the field of nanotechnology via the Collaborative Research Center 767 Controlled Nanosystems, the objective of which is to explore the interaction between nanostructures and their macroscopic setting and also among themselves. A few of their project areas are given below:
- Time-dependent transport in correlated electron nanostructures
- Terahertz quantum optics with semiconductor nanostructures
- Optically controlled phonons in nanostructures
- Structural control of nano-scale model systems
University of Hannover
The university performs studies in the area of nanotechnology via the Institute for Solid State Physics. The Nanostructures Group of the institute promotes nanotechnology-based studies through several research facilities, such as the following:
- The Laboratory of Nano and Quantum Engineering
- The Center for Quantum Engineering and Space-Time Research
- The School for Contacts in Nanosystems
CeNTech offers the infrastructure to enable direct and interdisciplinary associations between the faculties of the University of Münster. It performs studies on the development of novel nanotechnology-based innovations that can be advanced up to the product level.
Scientists from the Institute of Material Science at Kiel University (KU) and the Institute of Polymer Research at Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) had recently reported an article on the research study that described the way a membrane with proteins and polymer fibers can be developed into a filter for very small, nanoscale particles in aqueous solutions.
The scientists discovered how protein goes through a change underwater, and the materials, thus obtained, have the ability to capture all the metal nanoparticles at the time of the filtration process.
BASF is a top chemical company, which has been conducting the Dialog Forum Nano since 2008. The aim of this forum is to support transparent communication relating to nanomaterials. BASF uses this forum to establish itself as a company that employs groundbreaking technologies to create novel products. It also presents excellent communication about these latest technologies with representatives from industry, research institutes, environmental and consumer organizations, churches, and labor unions.
The 2012 Nanotechnology Conference held in Düsseldorf aimed to encourage members in Germany and Texas to enhance the market potential for nanotechnology. Such latest findings in the area of nanotechnology and the initiative undertaken by several research centers, educational institutions, and companies to promote the importance and awareness of nanotechnology underscore the fact that Germany is indeed a nanotechnology center and will remain so in the coming years.
At present, more than 700 research groups and university departments are studying nanotechnology, with more than 50% of these groups and departments pursuing studies in the materials sector.
Germany is a nation that embraces and encourages technology and innovation. It is committed to spearheading research, interpreting how this helps in driving the economy. With the extent of research activity happening in this country, advances in nanotechnology will undoubtedly continue in the years to come.
This article was updated on the 29th April, 2019.