Impressive record after twelve years

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No. 286 - Bochum, 21.09.2011

Impressive record after twelve years

SFB 491 of the RUB and UDE: completion of the DFG funding

Major international conference gives an overview of the research results

“Magnetic heterostructures” is the title of the SFB 491, which explores the basic principles of future information and communication technologies - and thus successfully bridges the gap between semiconductors, superconductors and ferromagnets. The German National Science Foundation (DFG) funded the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) for twelve years from January 2000 to December 2011 with a total of approximately nineteen million Euros. A further five million Euros were added by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. This enabled researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the University of Duisburg-Essen to carry out nineteen different projects. At the closing conference from 27th to 29th September 2011, the project leaders presented their research results in the presence of the DFG reviewers. The conference was held in the RUB’s Conference Centre.

Programme on the Internet

Media representatives were cordially invited to the final conference. The full programme is available online at

Twelve years of successful cooperation

The speaker of the SFB 491 is Bochum’s experimental physicist Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hartmut Zabel (Faculty of Physics and Astronomy at the RUB); the deputy speaker is the experimental physicist Prof. Dr. Michael Farle of the University of Duisburg-Essen. An international panel of experts certified that the SFB 491 investigated “highly topical issues of global concern and visionary aspects”. With an excellent network of several working groups at both universities, based in the faculties of physics and electrical engineering, the researchers have achieved excellent work in a technologically pioneering and very challenging area of research.

Facts & figures

Some fifty scientists were involved in this research. The results are reflected in approximately 550 publications and in several patents. Over sixty dissertations have been written in the SFB 491. Numerous former doctoral students are now employed in the research laboratories of the local industries of the Ruhr area and beyond. Several former employees have now accepted professorships at other universities.

Internationally acclaimed research results

“The numerous research results of the SFB 491 have been highly acclaimed by international experts. The reputation of the research network has grown steadily since its inception”, said Professor Zabel. The outstanding results include the experimental and theoretical description of the interfaces between nano-magnetic layers. These form the basis for spintronic components, which make use of the intrinsic angular momentum (spin) of electrons in addition to its charge. Components such as spin valves, spin-lasers, spin-filters and superconducting tunnel junctions with ferromagnetic electrodes that enhance the tunnel current, are among the many applications of spintronics, and have played a central role in this SFB. In many areas, the researchers have accomplished pioneering work, especially in the development of new spintronic materials, the so-called Heusler alloys, which are half metal and half-semiconductor, and in the exploration of magneto-electric materials for spintronics, which enable the electrical switching of spin valves.

Plus factor: the promotion of women

The rapid worldwide development of research activities in the field of spintronics calls for international exchange. Among other things, the SFB 491 therefore invited numerous guest scientists, organised two major international conferences, sixteen workshops and four summer schools. The cooperation with Sweden was particularly intense. The young scientists received targeted support, especially the women, who benefitted from a whole series of gender equality measures. Twelve successfully completed their doctoral thesis, which was nearly twenty percent of all theses in the SFB 491. This is above the national average and reflects the successful advancement of women in science. Increasing the proportion of women in the STEM disciplines is a major concern of the German National Science Foundation.

Editorial journalist

Jens Wylkop
Press Office Ruhr University Bochum

Further information

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Zabel, Faculty of Physics and Astronomy at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Tel. +49 234 32 23649