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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

An intensive search for new battery solutions is underway to support the spread of electromobility. Researchers at PTB examined the aging process of lithium-sulfur coin cells during cycling.

As the transformation to electromobility gathers pace, so too does the search for alternatives to the lithiumion batteries used today. One candidate is the lithiumsulfur battery. Its advantages include the fact that sulfur is inexpensive, environmentally friendly and abundant. Moreover, the theoretical energy density of these cells is considerably higher than that of current lithium-ion batteries....

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Nanopartikel können in Impfstoffen eingesetzt werden, um Wirkstoffe zu transportieren. Das von der PTB und der LUM GmbH zum Patent angemeldete Analysemesssystem kann diese Partikel genau charakterisieren und auch bei sehr hohen Ausgangskonzentrationen kleinste Größenunterschiede bis in den Nanometerbereich hinein ermitteln. (Abbildung: Adobe Stock /weyo)

Nanoparticles are real allrounders. In the field of medicine, for example, one interesting application involves using nanoparticles to deliver drugs deep into the body to precisely where they are needed. For such purposes, it is essential to acquire the most accurate information possible on the concentration of these minute particles. However, nanoparticles place great demands on the measuring...

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Rapid tests to detect the coronavirus are familiar to everyone by now. The analytic performance of numerous other microbiological tests, however, must also be of high quality. (Photo: Shutterstock)

PTB instituted a new working group to intensify and extend research activities in the field of quantitative nucleic acid analysis. To fight against antimicrobial resistance, sepsis (within the scope of EMPIR projects) as well as SARS-CoV-2, research and development work is conducted with the aim to provide metrological support for the quality assurance of testing procedures and thus, among other...

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For the exhaust examination of Euro 6/IV diesel vehicles, counting particles in diesel exhaust gas will become mandatory as of 2023. Vehicle workshops must prepare for this new type of examination. (Photo: Matt Boitor / Unsplash)

Improved air quality in city centers and climate protection – counting soot particles is to become an integral part of the exhaust examination of diesel cars within the scope of mandatory vehicle inspections in Germany (HU/AU). Based on the particle number density in diesel exhaust gas, it is possible to check whether the particle filter of a car is still in working order, and if so, how well it...

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Measuring fast brain currents noninvasively has shown for the first time a clear variability from one stimulus to the next (lines), both in the temporal course of the action potentials (displacement of the blue and/or red vertical bands) and in their intensity (color intensity). (Figure: Charité, Gunnar Waterstraat)

Processing information in the brain is one of the most complex operations in the human body. Disruptions in this processing often result in serious neurological diseases. Investigating how signals are transmitted inside the brain is therefore the key to a better understanding of various diseases. Our brains process information via slow and fast brain currents. To examine fast currents, it has,...

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Weight set with high-precision weights which is used at the Ghana Standards Authority’s mass laboratory (Photo: GSA / Iso Concepts)

Companies in Ghana that wish to participate in international trade or that aim to achieve international certification must often send their measuring instruments abroad for calibration, which is both expensive and time-consuming. An international cooperation project launched in 2021 aims to make traceability to national standards possible in Ghana to a larger extent than has been achieved until...

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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)