Logo of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt


“PTB‘s central mission and the demands it places on itself are to make available an innovative metrological infrastructure at the highest international level in Germany to promote Germany‘s export-oriented high-tech economy, to meet the demands of a complex society and to support science that is operating at the cutting edge worldwide.” This is what is stated in the “Agreement on Objectives” for the years from 2015 to 2019 between the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie – BMWi) and PTB, which was signed on 12 January 2016 by State Secretary Machnig and me. Both this agreement and the newly developed “Work and research program 2015 to 2017” thus clearly define PTB‘s medium-term guidelines focusing on “Innovation and industry”, “Energy and the environment”, “Humans and health”, “Legal and international metrology” as well as “The new System of Units”.

The main focus in 2015 was to set up PTB not only thematically but – above all – structurally in such as way that it can meet its future challenges. A real estate concept was thus developed for PTB’s approx. 80 buildings in Braunschweig and Berlin. This concept envisages numerous refurbishment measures for buildings, power and water networks, and for airconditioning systems. Based on this, a master plan for PTB’s construction and refurbishment work from 2016 to 2035 was developed, which sets out the order in which 19 new buildings that are needed will be constructed.

Additional structural measures were directed at the areas covering managerial staff and the job satisfaction of PTB employees. The first “PTB Forum” supporting communication between staff and PTB’s Presidential Board took place on 17 September 2015 with its theme being “Fixed-term employees at PTB: Perspectives and opportunities”. During the forum, joint discussions were held on the critical importance for PTB of undertaking fixed-term research of the highest level. Employees on fixed-term contracts are offered a variety of prospects: The suspension of job cuts means long-term perspectives at PTB occur more frequently; a broad-based trainee program means the opening up of new chances for the best young members of staff; and collaborating with universities, industry and research institutes means that new possibilities for further employment result.

Three excellently attended“Führungskräftetage” (one-day management meetings) on topical issues are a new element of management training at PTB. In addition, “Assessment Center” evaluations, specially designed for PTB, were introduced. They are supposed to help identify potential areas for improvement and to equip managerial staff for everyday working life.

Not least, PTB’s family-friendliness has been further strengthened by setting up a Family Office. After an extensive audit by “berufundfamilie”, PTB was officially certified as a family-friendly employer in May 2015.

The legal framework conditions, which have been markedly altered by the new Mess- und Eichgesetz (Measures and Verification Act), have led, among other things, to the foundation of the Konformitätsbewertungsstelle (KBS) (the Conformity Assessment Body) at PTB. PTB heads the Regelermittlungsausschuss (the Rule Determination Committee) and the Ausschuss der KBS (AdKBS) (the Committee of the Conformity Assessment Bodies) and as such continues to hold a prominent position in legal metrology in Germany. This new structure is expressed in the newly formulated Charter of PTB and in the newly defined role of the Vollversammlung für das Messund Eichwesen (General Assembly on Metrology and Verification).

PTB provides services at the highest level, e.g. in the sector covering the largest torques. The “Zentrum für Windenergie” (Center for Wind Energy), which is being supported by the BMWi with almost €10 million, will further consolidate PTB’s top worldwide position in this sector. Other examples of highly specialized services include coordinate metrology, conformity assessment and the certification of speed measuring instruments, the characterization of radar signals in air-traffic control, the intrinsic safety of grid connections in potentially explosive atmospheres of the processing industry, the ensuring of patient safety in clinical imaging procedures, and the traceable measurement of the smallest impurities in water or from environmental pollution through radioactivity. These services can only then be performed reliably and promptly if PTB undertakes its own intensive research in all these fields.

Research is thus a crucial element of PTB’s “innovation cycle”. It is the actual “source” of future developments and makes us an attractive partner for technology transfers. The newly established “TransMeT” Program which was launched under the leadership of PTB, is following exactly that last-mentioned purpose and has begun very successfully with eight projects being supported. Test load standards for the traceable characterization of electric power grids, reference materials for characterizing terahertz signals, as well as software architecture for the stable and secure grid connection of medical devices are some examples of such projects.

PTB’s competence in research is being further strengthened by consistently expanding our collaboration with universities. A professorship in “Fundamental Theory for Metrology” and a junior professorship in “Metrology of Functional Nanosystems” were jointly set up with the Technische Universität Braunschweig (TU Braunschweig). Constructing the shared building for the Laboratory for Emerging Nanosystems (LENA) started in 2015. Initiated by PTB, the QUANOMET Cooperation between the TU Braunschweig and Leibniz Universität Hannover – initially supported by the Federal State of Lower Saxony with €1.5 million annually for five years – was successfully called into life. QUANOMET is supposed to advance the connection between quantum metrology and nanometrology. In Berlin, a basic agreement with the Technical University will soon be completed. It is aimed at forming the foundation for initial joint appointments in the fields of medical imaging, secure grid connections of measuring devices and heat flow measurements. In 2016, under the slogan “MetroSommer 2016 – Dein genauester Sommer” (MetroSummer 2016 – Your most accurate summer) PTB is, for the first time, offering a summer program for students to excite excellent young scientists about metrology.

The European Metrology Programme for Innovation and Research (EMPIR) started successfully in 2015. In the first calls for research, PTB succeeded in acquiring approx. 30 % of the funds available for the 28 Member States. In the years from 2014 to 2020, a total of roughly €600 million is available to secure European metrology’s leading international position. In the future, creating networks for metrology – and in particular for metrological services in Europe – will be essential. Here, networks, particularly those initiated and led by PTB, are trailblazing. There is, for instance, MATHMET which coordinates mathematics and statistics in metrology, along with TraCIM, a platform for Internet-based software validation for metrological evaluation algorithms.

As in the years before, PTB’s researchers achieved very many outstanding results: For the first time ever it was possible to compare two optical clocks over large distances – to be exact between Braunschweig and Paris – with the highest accuracy worldwide. What is more, PTB’s ytterbium ion clock is now ticking with a relative measurement uncertainty of only 3 · 10–18, a figure which had not yet been reached internationally. These are both important steps in realizing the second up to one hundred times more precisely in the future. The smallest currents were measured with an accuracy which had previously been unattainable by counting individual electrons in single-electron pumps and by using ingenious error correction. The Planck constant was measured with the second lowest uncertainty in the world in the Avogadro project and work on determining the Boltzmann constant was advanced with great promise. In this way, PTB was able to maintain its key role in the upcoming revision of the International System of Units. High-precision measurement series at the Metrology Light Source (MLS) imaged molecular orbitals; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and measurements of magnetic signals visualized reactions at the brain’s centers of hearing which were induced by actually “inaudible” infrasound.

While I was on several business trips abroad, I was able to assure myself once again of the highest level of recognition that PTB enjoys throughout the world. On the occasion of my visit to the National Metrology Institute in Thailand, more than a hundred guests from the fields of industry, research and metrology were invited to an event in the presence of the Minister of Science and Technology the German Consul and the Economic Attaché.

I would like to thank all staff members for their strong commitment and their effort, not least in the public presentation of PTB on the new Internet pages and at the “IdeenExpo” fair. All of you contribute to PTB acting at the forefront of metrological services and research nationally and internationally and thus to PTB living up to the demands stated in its “Agreement on Objectives”.