New professor: Bernhard Urbaszek

Focus on interaction between light and ultrathin materials


Since september, Bernhard Urbaszek has taken up a professorship in hybrid quantum systems at the department of physics. Previously, the 48-year-old was research director at the CNRS in Toulouse, France. We asked Professor Urbaszek a few questions on his debut.

Professor Bernhard Urbaszek

Why should students be interested in your topics? What is exciting about your topics?

We explore the interaction between light and matter on materials that are only one layer of atoms thick, such as graphene or molybdenum disulfide. The strong interaction with light gives different colour contrasts for films of one, two or three monolayers. So even with a normal optical microscope, the film thickness can be determined with atomic precision.

Not only the initial experiments, but also the production of the ultra-thin samples is robust and simple: the samples are made from crystals from which we simply peel off these thin layers with adhesive strips. Since electrons in these atomically thin layers can only move in two dimensions and not in three, the physical properties of these 2D materials are fundamentally different from the thicker 3D crystals.

In the long term, we are aiming for these atomically thin material combinations to be used in electronics, optics, energy conversion and quantum technologies due to their unique and controllable properties.

At TU Darmstadt, interdisciplinary research is a key issue. Where in your field of work are there links to other disciplines?

Our projects will benefit from cooperation with other departments at the TU: We are researching new materials and many microscopy techniques and processing techniques from the materials science will help us. The samples will be integrated into modern microelectronics components, with know-how from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology. The surface quality of the atomically thin samples is important for energy and electron transfer, a topic for collaboration with chemistry. The family of 2D materials is very large (several thousand candidates) and many functionalities have been predicted with algorithms based on machine learning – a field that will help us in many aspects, for example for the optimisation of 2D materials in photonic structures.

Which TU department would you like to spend a day in? Why?

Direct visits to other departments at the TU were very limited due to the pandemic. I am therefore very much looking forward to personally visiting the various departments and seeing the research capacities and projects of my new colleagues in person.