Helmholtz Center Geesthacht - Center for Materials and Coastal Research

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The Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht - Center for Material and Coastal Research GmbH (HZG) is an interdisciplinary research center and was founded in 1956.

There are the following research areas:

  • Key Technologies (Advanced Engineering Materials, AEM)
  • Earth and environment (marine, coastal and polar research with infrastructure, MARCOPOLI)
  • Health (regenerative medicine)
  • Structure of matter (large devices for research with photons, neutrons and ions, PNI).

The two research reactors in Geesthacht belong to the former research .

The research center is financed by the federal government (90%) and the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Brandenburg (together 10%). About 750 people are employed.

The facility is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers , the largest German science organization.


The main location is in Geesthacht near Hamburg. The Institute for Materials Research, the Institute for Coastal Research, the Institute for Polymer Research, the central technical center and two research reactors are located here . The central administration is also located in Geesthacht.

The second location is in Teltow near Berlin. The Institute for Biomaterial Research is located there. It emerged on January 1, 2013 from the Center for Biomaterial Development of the Institute for Polymer Research.


The research and development work is carried out in three institutes with the following focuses:

  • Institute for Coastal Research
    • Influencing the coastal zone by global change
    • Recording of the current state of the coast and its changes
    • Reliable and inexpensive monitoring of the processes taking place in the coastal zone
  • Institute for Polymer Research
    • Development of biodegradable and biostable materials for the production of:
      • Scaffolds for the tissue engineering of tissues to enable the replacement of diseased, injured body tissue or body tissue removed during surgery with cultured, functional tissue
      • Adsorber and carrier materials for apheresis and for biohybrid organs to support or replace organ functions (organ assist systems)
    • Development of polymer-based multifunctional material systems for use in the chemical industry, biotechnology and other areas.
  • Institute for Materials Research
    • Novel lightweight materials based on magnesium and titanium aluminide alloys for traffic and energy technology
    • Composite and hybrid structures for lightweight construction through micromechanical characterization and modeling, novel joining technologies, integrity assessment of the structures over the entire life cycle with fracture and damage mechanics
    • Functionalized materials with a focus on storage materials for future hydrogen technology and biocompatible metal alloys
    • Material characterization with neutrons, synchrotron beams and electron microscopy
  • Institute for Biomaterial Research
    • Development of innovative, polymer-based biomaterials for applications in regenerative medicine
Interview by Holger Klein with press spokesman Torsten Fischer about research at the HZG.

Research priorities

Functional material systems

At the Institute for Materials Research, materials for lightweight construction in traffic and energy technology are developed. These new materials are intended to make cars and airplanes lighter and thus help to save energy. A special focus is on magnesium . This material is being specifically researched in the newly established Magnesium Innovation Center (MagIC). In the Institute for Polymer Research at the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, special membranes are being developed. a. to be used in emission-free power plants.

Coastal habitat

The coastal researchers have made the impact of global climate change on the regional level - especially for northern Germany and the Baltic Sea region - the focus of their work. They use modern monitoring methods for the coastal areas and develop these observation techniques further. The two research vessels " Ludwig Prandtl " and the measuring boat "Storch" are also used to investigate the water quality on site. Both ships can also be used to study the structure of the seabed.

Regenerative Medicine

At the Institute for Polymer Research in Teltow, scientists develop new biomaterials that are used in medicine. Important developments here include implants for so-called minimally invasive surgery and systems with which drugs can be specifically released in the body at the points where they are needed. Together with the Charité in Berlin, the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht operates the “Berlin-Brandenburger Center for Regenerative Therapies”.

Materials research with neutrons and photons

By means of synchrotron radiation and neutrons, the scientists succeed in examining materials, materials and biological systems non-destructively and displaying them in high quality in three dimensions. For this purpose, test facilities are operated, both at DESY in Hamburg on the accelerator rings DORIS-III (on the high-energy beamline HARWI II until the end of 2012) and PETRA-III, as well as on the research reactor FRM-II in Garching near Munich.

Training center

Every year, 50 people complete training in the following professions: industrial clerks, electronics technicians for devices and systems, technical draftsmen, industrial mechanics, cutting machine operators. The research center is one of the largest training facilities in the region.

Other facilities

School laboratory

As a member of the Helmholtz Association, the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht participates in the nationwide initiative “Science in Dialog”. The aim of this initiative is to get young people excited about science. In 2002 the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht opened the “Quantensprung” school laboratory.

In the school laboratory, pupils from all general schools can carry out experiments in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, geography and materials science, and the research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht should be brought closer to them in practice on experiment days. The offer is aimed mainly at upper school and 10th grade students.

Shallow water research ship Ludwig Prandtl

The Institute for Coastal Research has a shallow water research ship which, due to its shallow draft, is ideally suited for the tidal area of ​​the north German rivers and the Wadden Sea . The "Ludwig Prandtl" is mainly used in the North and Baltic Seas, estuaries and lagoon waters.

Measuring boat stork

The Institute for Coastal Research has the inland vessel “Storch”, which was and is used as a measuring vessel in the Netherlands and northern Spain after an extensive scientific and technical upgrade in 2004 .

Technical center

In a large research center such as the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, test facilities, experimental facilities, measuring and research devices are required that cannot be purchased in stores, but often have to meet unique, specific scientific and technical requirements. In the technical center, these devices are developed for the scientists according to special specifications and manufactured in the adjoining workshop. The technical center and workshop are located on the premises of the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht. This guarantees immediate support for scientists and their research and development programs. Most of the trainees at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht are supervised in the design, electronics and central production departments of the technical center.

German climate computing center

The German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) is a central service facility for the needs of German climate research and is financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research . It operates the most modern high-performance computers, data servers and the high-performance computer system for earth system research (HLRE). The Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht is a partner in the DKRZ and uses its computing capacities and the like. a. for complex climate model calculations.

State collection point

On the site of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht there is an interim storage facility for radioactive waste with negligible heat generation. In Geesthacht, on the one hand, operational waste from the research reactor is temporarily stored, and on the other hand, the facility serves as a state collection point for the four northern German coastal states for waste from medicine, research and industry.


The GKSS Research Center Geesthacht GmbH was founded in 1956 as G ompany for K ernenergieverwertung in S chiffbau and S chiffahrt mbH in Geesthacht district crumbs founded. The founders included the marine mechanical engineer Kurt Illies and the nuclear physicists Kurt Diebner and Erich Bagge , who had worked on the development of German nuclear weapons during World War II.

The main project in the 1960s was the nuclear-powered general cargo ship Otto Hahn , which was launched in 1964 and served research purposes until it was decommissioned in 1979. Since the abandonment of follow-up projects, shipbuilding no longer plays a role in the work of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, and the former abbreviation GKSS has not been dissolved.

Between 1958 and 2010 the GKSS operated the research reactor Geesthacht -1 (FRG-1) with an output of 5 MW. A second research reactor called FRG-2 with an output of 15 MW was operated between 1963 and 1993. The neutrons produced in the reactors were used for material-physical and material-scientific investigations. Until 1987, they also enabled studies on the subject of reactor safety.

On October 18, 1983, around 40 millicuries of radioactive iodine were released at the GKSS , which, according to the research center, did not endanger the population. On September 12, 1986, there is said to have been a fire on the premises, which could have led to the release of radioactivity.

From 1982 to 1994 the company operated the GUSI (GKSS underwater simulation system). Several manned dives were carried out in the pressure chambers of the facility to a depth of up to 600 m. The dives were used to research underwater welding work at great depths. The pressure chambers were large enough to accommodate even small submarines that were tested in unmanned diving attempts at a depth of up to 3,000 m. The system was dismantled in 2004 and continued to be used in the Karlsruhe Research Center.

On November 1, 2010 the GKSS was renamed the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht - Center for Material and Coastal Research GmbH .

Sources and individual references

  1. ^ Resonator podcast of the Helmholtz Association : The Helmholtz Center Geesthacht (episode 18, October 31, 2013)
  2. a b Institute for Materials Research. (No longer available online.) HZG Online, archived from the original on January 12, 2011 ; Retrieved September 18, 2010 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.hzg.de
  3. ^ Helmholtz Center Geesthacht Outstation at DESY. HZG, accessed on January 14, 2018 (English).
  4. Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Outstation at FRM II. HZG, accessed on January 14, 2018 (English).
  5. The shutdown of the research reactor FRG-1 and new perspectives for materials research. In: press release. GKSS Research Center Geesthacht, June 28, 2010, accessed on January 14, 2018 .
  6. Knaur Weltspiegel, ISBN 3-426-07670-5
  7. ^ V. Krause: Collection of links on the subject of leukemia clusters in the Geesthacht area. Investigations, studies and announcements on the subject of Elbmar Schleukemia. crause.de, accessed on September 18, 2010 (as of April 2006).
  8. Dagmar Röhrlich : The leukemia children from Krümmel. The futile search for an answer. Deutschlandfunk , August 14, 2005, accessed on September 18, 2010 .
  9. And nobody knows why ... ZDF report on the leukemia cases. castor.de, April 2, 2006, accessed on September 18, 2010 .
  10. Wolf Wetzel : State Secret: An almost perfect crime. Friday , August 11, 2006, accessed November 24, 2012 .
  11. Wolf Wetzel: Forbidden experiments? The puzzle of the globules. Friday , May 11, 2007, accessed November 24, 2012 .
  12. Willi Baer , Karl-Heinz Dellwo : Better to be active today than radioactive tomorrow III - The cancer cases in the Elbmarsch / The GAU in Fukushima. In: Willi Baer, ​​Karl-Heinz Dellwo (Ed.): Library of Resistance. Vol. 23, Laika-Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-942281-02-7 .


  • M. Renneberg: Founding and development of the GKSS Research Center Geesthacht . Campus Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3-593-35134-X
  • D. Paul, B. Philipp: 80 years of polymer research in Teltow-Seehof - 20 years of the Institute for Chemistry at GKSS . GKSS 2003, ISBN 3-00-011356-8

Web links

Coordinates: 53 ° 24 ′ 16 ″  N , 10 ° 25 ′ 35 ″  E