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PTB Annual Report 2020


Keep your distance, follow the rules on hygiene, wear a face mask, and air rooms regularly – with these rules that are new to us all and that all of you helped us to implement consistently at PTB, we have taken control over the SARS-CoV-2 virus at PTB! Apart from a short hard lockdown in our Berlin Institute during the early weeks of the pandemic, we were able to keep our operations going to the greatest possible extent. The infections at PTB were and are at a comparatively low level: In 2020, a total of 22 members of our staff were infected with COVID-19, and these infections occurred almost exclusively outside PTB. We were able to perform our central services and to make progress with our many ongoing research projects. This was all accomplished by introducing flexible operating modes, upgrading our room ventilation concepts, and massively expanding the ways we work from home. We also faced a steep learning curve on how to use our e-files and how to carry out videoconferences, and we found countless creative ways of resolving issues relating to the things we do every day.


My very special thanks go to PTB’s extremely committed Crisis Management Team, as well as to all of you for your discipline, for your understanding, and your sensible and considerate behavior. In the last 12 months, we put a lot of effort into internal communication. This included updating our intranet page, letters from the Presidential Board of PTB, intense communication between the Presidential Board and the division heads, as well as setting up a dedicated corona hotline. It was possible to reach the hotline at all times, and one of the roles it took on was that of PTB’s “inhouse health authority” – it correspondingly traced the contacts in each individual case of COVID-19.

Despite – and perhaps even because of – COVID-19 and the reduced amount of traveling, we found the time to think fundamentally about the future of metrology and to set the course for the important issues of the future. There are many often “disruptive” developments in society, the economy, and not least in metrology that are no longer just situated within a single, narrowly restricted subject area or are limited to individual measurands. In the future, a large number of sensors and measuring procedures will rather be linked in autonomous vehicles, in the supply networks in the “city of the future”, and in “customized medicine”. Hundreds or even thousands of units of measuring data will be the basis for decisions that are prepared using artificial intelligence procedures. All of this means it is necessary to characterize and understand things metrologically, and it is also necessary to think holistically. With this in mind, we elaborated a proposal for an Innovation Center for Systems Metrology (IZSM) together with PTB’s Advisory Board (Kuratorium). In November 2020, this proposal was submitted to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), backed by a recommendation from the whole of the Kuratorium. This groundbreaking concept is going to help PTB tackle future metrological challenges in its role as one of the world leaders in metrology. In collaboration with PTB, the IZSM will contribute to considerably reducing the development cycles for disruptive technologies, strengthening the innovation capabilities of Germany, and increasing confidence throughout the world in innovative networked products that are “made in Germany”. More than 130 years after PTB’s predecessor, the PTR (Imperial Physical Technical Institute), was founded (a predecessor which crucially helped to make the words “made in Germany” synonymous with “quality”), PTB is taking another courageous step towards shaping the future!

Issues such as digitalization, renewable energies, “green” hydrogen, quantum technologies, medical physics, and biochemistry are going to play a crucial role in this future. We have addressed these issues with our steering groups and have pooled all the activities PTB is undertaking on these topics. With this preparatory work as a basis, we and our partners from the region launched the “Quantum Valley Lower Saxony” in record time. Together we want to realize a quantum computer within the next five years, basing our research on technology that has been developed at PTB and with funding amounting to € 25 million from the state of Lower Saxony and the Volkswagen Foundation. Along with the further development of our Quantum Technology Center, we are at the forefront of such future technology!

In addition, all of our cross-sectional issues were also prominently positioned in the German government’s economic stimulus package, so that we were well prepared and able to immediately put forward detailed proposals to support this stimulus package. A substantial total of approx. € 90 million has been estimated as the amount needed to realize this stimulus package. Whether our proposals will be accepted remains to be seen. The additional funds for the above-named issues would certainly signify a great chance – not only for the further development of Germany, but also for the further development of PTB.

Just how much our ideas, our potential, and our proposals are heard, specifically in the fields of politics and the economy, is also a question of communication. This is why we sought advice on this from an external agency last year. They helped PTB to fine-tune its mission, its values and its core messages in order to identify more exactly who PTB’s key stakeholders are and to discuss possible communication measures. Apart from the Presidential Board and the heads of the organizational units, it was especially PTB’s staff, all of you, who actively took part in this process. This consisted of a large number of interviews, several in-house workshops, and two events centering on PTB’s mission which were held in both Braunschweig and Berlin. A big thanks goes to all of those who contributed to these events so much.

PTB’s mission focuses on three values in particular: precision, objectivity, and a passion for measurement. We want to continue to fill these three values with life in the coming year – and we will unfortunately still be doing this under “corona conditions” for quite some time. We will, however, also overcome these challenges together. Hopefully we will be able to put important concepts for the future into practice with funds from the economic stimulus package, and perhaps we will be able to take the first steps towards setting up the IZSM. We can expect 2021 to be an exciting year which is rich in opportunity!

Prof. Dr. Joachim Ullrich
Präsident der PTB

News of the Year 2019

News of the Year 2019News of the Year 2019

After an intensive preparation phase and following the recommendation of the entire Kuratorium (Advisory Board), PTB has filed an application for the creation of an Innovation Center for Systems Metrology with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. This groundbreaking concept is to help PTB tackle future metrological challenges in its role as one of the world leaders in metrology. ...

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PTB, together with other research partners and companies, has launched the GEMIMEG-II project in order to maintain the high quality level of the “made in Germany” label in the digitalized world, too. This project has received funding worth 12 million euros from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Under the designation “Secure and robust calibrated measurement systems for...

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Within the scope of the energy transition (or “Energiewende” in German), an intensive search for areas suitable for constructing new wind turbines is being undertaken; air navigation facilities (VORs) and new wind farms are competing for suitable locations. By means of a forecasting method developed at PTB, it is now possible to determine with much greater accuracy the extent to which wind energy...

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The formats of measurement data used in new digital environments, such as the Internet of Things and cyberphysical systems, must be flawless and free of ambiguity for both people and machines alike. Digital applications such as those used in healthcare or for domestic meters would be absolutely unimaginable if the data formats used were not reliable. To this end, PTB, together with partners from...

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Scientists from PTB have developed a facility for generating and testing very high DC voltages for future “power highways”. This facility is the first one worldwide that is modular and can easily be transported. This will contribute to making the power grid fit for the energy transition, as in the future, power will no longer be transported only by means of the well-established AC power technique,...

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PTB in Braunschweig and the Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg hosted the 13th International Symposium on Hazards, Prevention and Mitigation of Industrial Explosions in July 2020. Instead of the planned on-site meeting, the hosts managed to organize a virtual discussion forum at short notice with 575 scientists participating from 38 countries. The large number of participants showed how...

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Understanding dark matter, which makes up the major part of the matter in the universe, is one of the most important unsolved issues of physics today. It is assumed that dark matter is not evenly distributed in space, but that it concentrates in the form of lumps or layers through which the Earth can move. Researchers from France, the UK and from PTB have been investigating whether the transition...

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From fundamental physics related to Einstein’s special theory of relativity to fundamentals of metrological applications in the nanometer range – the bandwidth of this year’s Helmholtz Prize is considerable. The Helmholtz Prize, which recognizes outstanding scientific and technological research for precision measurement in physics, chemistry and medicine, is awarded every second year. Three...

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Within the scope of a project involving several divisions of PTB, a semi-automated bag valve mask (TaBea – short for German Teilautomatisierter Beatmungsbeutel) was developed under the auspices of Division 5 as an auxiliary ventilation device for disaster management. This development was initially prompted by the emergency situation at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The...

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PTB has been working intensively on developing and metrologically characterizing single-photon sources for quantum radiometry. This has been done in collaboration with research partners in European metrology research programs (e.g. EMPIR). Within the scope of the ongoing EMPIR project titled “Single Photon Sources as New Quantum Standards” (SIQUST), a newly developed single-photon source based on...

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From Divisions (German only)

From DivisionsFrom Divisions

Mechanik und Akustik (Abteilung 1)

Elektrizität (Abteilung 2)

Chemische Physik und Explosionsschutz (Abteilung 3)

Optik (Abteilung 4)

Fertigungsmesstechnik (Abteilung 5)

Ionisierende Strahlung (Abteilung 6)

Temperatur und Synchrotronstrahlung (Abteilung 7)

Medizinphysik und metrologische Informationstechnik
(Abteilung 8)