21. April 2021

From the physics lab to industry From the physics lab to industry

Start-up of researchers from the University of Bonn was selected for NRW-wide funding program

How do laser beams get the right shape? A question that occupies not just some fantasy heroes, but also physicists at the University of Bonn. In the course of their research, three of them have found a solution to the problem that is so practical that it has aroused the interest not only of the scientific community, but now also of industry experts: The start-up project "Midel Photonics" by Dr. David Dung, Dr. Christian Wahl and Frederik Wolf is one of twelve start-ups selected this year for the state-wide "HIGH-TECH.NRW" program.

Midel Photonics founders
Midel Photonics founders - Dr. David Dung, Frederik Wolf und Dr. Christian Wahl © Frommann/Uni Bonn
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During the 10-week so-called accelerator, the physicists received support from companies and universities in North Rhine-Westphalia over the past few months to adjust their business model and accelerate the development of their idea ready for the market. They were able to present their project to a broad specialist audience at the closing event, which was also attended by Dr. Johannes Velling from the NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy. The expert jury awarded them third prize for their presentation.

Laser beams are used in many processes

Getting laser beams into the right shape is extremely important in industry, as many processes today require lasers, for example when cell phones are manufactured or cars are assembled. However, each application requires a suitable tool, i.e. a round, square or ring-shaped laser beam. These shapes can be created with special components. The existing methods for producing such beam-forming components are currently very complex, expensive and take a long time. The method now developed in Bonn should make it possible to produce the suitable element for the desired laser beam shape in a single step within a few hours, making the process much more efficient and thus more sustainable.

The junior researchers developed the idea together with their mentor Prof. Martin Weitz, partly during their work on the "ML4Q - Matter and Light for Quantum Information" Cluster of Excellence, a cooperation of the universities of Bonn, Cologne and Aachen and Forschungszentrum Jülich. "The great thing is that our technology works simultaneously in research and in practice. Any progress we make in development is directly used for basic research in the laboratory next door," emphasizes Dr. David Dung. In this case, that means that the researchers use lasers to structure reflective surfaces in order to capture light and thus create special quantum systems.

Transfer from basic research to practice

The example of the three physicists and their idea shows how the transfer from university-based basic research to industrial application can be a success. However, there is still some work ahead - first the team wants to develop a prototype, which will then be ready for the market in the next year and a half. "The support we received from the accelerator is a great help to us," stresses Dr. Christian Wahl. The program includes, for example, networking with other start-ups, clarifying financing issues, practicing the right way to approach customers and developing initial sales strategies. "A successful start-up is only possible if the entrepreneurial aspects are also well prepared," says Frederik Wolf, who brings additional business management experience to the team through his dual degree in business administration.

Within the university, the prospective company founders are supported by the enaCom Transfer Center, which provides a link between research and industry.

The Cluster of Excellence “Matter and Light for Quantum Computing” (ML4Q)

“Matter and Light for Quantum Computing” (ML4Q) is a Cluster of Excellence funded in 2019 within the Excellence Strategy by the German Research Foundation (DFG). It is a cooperation by the universities of Cologne, Aachen and Bonn, as well as the Forschungszentrum Jülich. The aim of ML4Q is to develop new computing and networking architectures using the principles of quantum mechanics. Computing and networking power beyond anything classically imaginable would make quantum computers powerful tools in key areas such as materials design, pharmaceutics, or artificial intelligence. Quantum communication could be made effectively secure. ML4Q builds on and extends the complementary expertise in the three key research fields (solid-state physics, quantum optics, and quantum information science) at the partner institutions in order to develop the best hardware platform for quantum information technology, and provide comprehensive blueprints for a functional quantum information network.

Dr. David Dung
Institut für Angewandte Physik der Universität Bonn
Telefon: +49 228 73-60454

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