When atoms collide: the first Collaborative Research Centre

On 1.7.1983 the German Research Foundation (DFG) announces that it will award funding to the proposal “Polarisation and Correlation in Atomic Collision Complexes” of Bielefeld University (in cooperation with the University of Münster). Thus, Bielefeld University gains its first Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 216). The physicist, Professor Dr. Wilhelm Raith, who had organised the application to the DFG, is appointed the SFB’s coordinator.

Excerpt from the documentary “Innenleben einer Denkfabrik. Beispiel: Universität Bielefeld” (“Inner life of a think tank. Example: Bielefeld University”), broadcast by WDR on 10.01.1984.

Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FS 35

The topic of the SFB 216 was methodically defined: polarisation and correlation are physical values, which shed light on the structure and dynamics of atomic collisions. These atomic collisions were generated by the interaction of atomic collision partners and their decay was observed. Through special preparation of the atomic partners (polarisation) and by measuring the relation between the particles, which split apart (correlation) after the atomic collision starts to decay, very detailed information was obtained. In particular, this made critical comparisons with theoretical calculations possible.

During its existence, the SFB had a decisive influence on the research and teaching activities of the faculties of Physics and Chemistry, helping Bielefeld’s natural sciences to gain considerable international visibility.

The physicist Professor Dr. Wilhelm Raith demonstrates atomic collision complexes on a model.

Photo: Gerhard Trott
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01703

The SFB 216 established the good tradition of Collaborative Research Centres at Bielefeld University. Since the the approval of the research projects – the SFB 223 (Pathomechanisms of Cellular Interactions) in 1985 and the SFB 177 (Comparative History of the Bourgeoisie and Middle Classes) in 1986, there have always been at least two funded Collaborative Research Centres at Bielefeld University at any one time.

Ceremony after approval of the grant for the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 177. In conversation (from left to right): Professor Dr. Reinhart Kosselleck, H. Rebhahn (NRW Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research), Manfred Nießen (DFG) and Professor Dr. Jürgen Kocka.

Photo: Manfred Kettner
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 00888