Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt

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Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt
- PTB -

State level Federation
position Higher federal authority
Supervisory authority Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
founding 1887
Headquarters Braunschweig
Authority management Joachim Ullrich , President
Servants 1424 plus 127 trainees
Web presence
Headquarters in Braunschweig

The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt ( PTB ) is the national metrology institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with scientific and technical service tasks, a higher federal authority and a federal direct, unincorporated public law institute in the business area of ​​the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy .


With the NIST in the USA and the NPL in Great Britain, PTB is one of the leading institutes of metrology. As the national metrology institute in Germany, the PTB is the highest authority for all questions of correct measurement. In the Units and Time Act (Federal Law Gazette, year 2008, Part I, No. 28, pp. 1185ff., July 11, 2008), all of the tasks relating to the presentation and dissemination of units have been assigned to her. All legally relevant aspects of the units and the responsibilities of PTB are bundled in this law. Previously, all unit issues and the role of PTB were divided into three laws: the unit law, the time law and the calibration law.

The PTB consists of nine technical-scientific departments (two of which are in Berlin, namely Department 7 (temperature and synchrotron radiation) and Department 8 (medical physics and metrological information technology)). These are subdivided into around sixty departments with over 200 working groups. Your tasks are the determination of fundamental and natural constants , the representation , preservation and dissemination of the legal units of the SI , safety technology, supplemented by services such as the German calibration service (DKD) and measurement technology for the legally regulated area, industry and technology transfer. As the basis for its tasks, PTB conducts basic research and development in the field of metrology in close cooperation with universities, other research institutions and industry . PTB employs around 1900 people. It has a total budget of around EUR 183 million; In addition, around 15 million euros were raised in 2012 as third-party funding for research projects.

Atomic clock CS2 of the PTB

In the Units and Time Act, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt is also specifically tasked with disseminating the statutory time in Germany. In order to have a time base for this, it operates several atomic clocks (currently two cesium clocks and since 1999 and 2009 two cesium fountains ). The synchronization of clocks via radio is carried out on behalf of the PTB via the time signal transmitter DCF77 operated by Media Broadcast . With the Internet connected computer time can among other things, the three public NTP - time server refer PTB.

In Berlin-Adlershof , PTB operates the MLS (Metrology Light Source) electron storage ring for calibrations in the range from infrared (THz) to extreme ultraviolet (EUV).

Department 9.3 “International Cooperation” carries out German and international development cooperation projects in the area of quality infrastructure. These measures promote competitiveness, environmental and consumer protection in developing and emerging countries . The PTB's Metrological Information Technology department is also responsible for the type approval of gaming devices with the possibility of winning according to the Gaming Ordinance ( § 11 ff. SpielV). According to the Federal Voting Machine Ordinance , the PTB is also responsible for the type approval of voting computers ; however, after the Federal Constitutional Court declared the use of such voting machines to be inadmissible in a judgment of March 3, 2009, this is irrelevant.

PTB seal of approval

Weapons that may be carried with the small gun license , i.e. signal weapons , irritant weapons and alarm weapons , require a PTB test seal in order to be approved . These weapons are sometimes referred to as PTB weapons designated and carry the PTA or PTB-proof marks  F . (see also: Shelling Act )

Locations and structure

PTB's head office is in Braunschweig ( Lehndorf-Watenbüttel ), further locations are Berlin-Charlottenburg and Berlin-Adlershof . The departments 1–6 and Q are located in Braunschweig, departments 7 and 8 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Berlin-Adlershof houses the two electron storage rings BESSY II and Metrology Light Source (MLS); the latter is located there in the Willy Wien laboratory.

The PTB is managed by the Presidium in Braunschweig, which consists of the President, Vice President and one other member. Another governing body is the Directors' Conference, to which the heads of the departments belong in addition to the Presidium. The PTB is advised by a board of trustees with representatives from science, business and politics.

Organizational chart of the PTB

The Federal Institute is divided into nine scientific departments:

  1. Mechanics and acoustics (location: Braunschweig) with departments for mass , solid mechanics , speed , gases , liquids , sound , acoustics and dynamics
  2. Electricity (location: Braunschweig); with departments for direct current and low frequency , high frequency and fields , electrical energy measurement technology , quantum electronics, semiconductor physics and magnetism , electrical quantum metrology
  3. Chemical physics and explosion protection (location: Braunschweig); with departments for metrology in chemistry, gas analysis and state behavior, thermophysical quantities, physical chemistry, explosion protection in energy technology, explosion-proof sensors and measurement technology, basics of explosion protection
  4. Optics (location: Braunschweig); with departments for photometry and applied radiometry , image and wave optics, quantum optics and units of length, time and frequency
  5. Production metrology (location: Braunschweig); with departments for surface metrology , dimensional nanometrology , coordinate metrology , interferometry on measuring standards, scientific device construction
  6. Ionizing radiation (location: Braunschweig); with departments for radioactivity , dosimetry for radiation therapy and X-ray diagnostics , radiation protection dosimetry , ion and neutron radiation , basics of dosimetry, operational radiation protection
  7. Temperature and synchrotron radiation (location: Berlin-Charlottenburg and Adlershof); with departments for radiometry with synchrotron radiation , cryophysics and spectrometry , detector radiometry and radiation thermometry, temperature , heat and vacuum
  8. Medical physics and metrological information technology (location: Berlin-Charlottenburg); with departments for medical metrology, biosignals , biomedical optics, mathematical modeling and data analysis, metrological information technology
  9. Legal and international metrology (location: Braunschweig); with departments for industrial metrology, legal metrology and conformity assessment, international cooperation, and the German calibration service

The presidential staff and press and public relations work as well as departments Z ( administration ) and Q ( scientific and technical cross-sectional tasks ) report directly to the Presidium . The latter includes the academic libraries and the technical service.


Two essential factors that led to the establishment of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (PTR) were the establishment of internationally valid, uniform dimensions in the Meter Convention of 1875 and the dynamic industrial development in Germany in the 19th century. The stagnation of scientific mechanics and instrument science in Germany had already become apparent during the Franco-Prussian War . More and more precise measurement technology was required for industrial production. The up-and-coming electrical industry under the leadership of the inventor and industrialist Werner Siemens had a decisive influence on the initiative to found a state institute for measurement technology to promote the national interests of science, trade and the military . In contrast to the units of length and weight, there were no recognized methods and standards in electrical metrology at that time. The lack of reliable and verifiable measurement methods for the representation of electrical (and other) units of measurement was a pressing scientific and economic problem.

In 1872 some Prussian natural scientists joined forces and demanded the establishment of a state institute to solve this problem. Because for industrial laboratories this task was scientifically too ambitious and also not lucrative, and classical teaching institutes were not up to the task either. The supporters of the "Schellbach memorandum" named after its author Karl Heinrich Schellbach included Hermann von Helmholtz and the mathematician and physicist Wilhelm Foerster . But Prussia initially rejected their demands.

Main building of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt shortly after its completion

It was not until a few years later, in 1887, that Werner Siemens, together with Hermann von Helmholtz, the “founding fathers” of PTR, succeeded in making their vision come true: the establishment of a research institute that would optimally combine scientific, technical and industrial interests. On March 28, the German Reichstag approved the first annual budget of the PTR - the establishment of the first state-funded, non-university large-scale research facility in Germany that combined free basic research with services for industry. Siemens made private premises in Berlin-Charlottenburg available to the Reichsanstalt . Under the direction of Theodor Astfalck , the buildings for the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt were constructed from 1887 to 1896. Hermann von Helmholtz became its first president. During this time the PTR employed 65 people, including more than a dozen physicists, and had a budget of 263,000 Reichsmarks.

In its first decades, the PTR managed to win over important scientists as employees and members of the Board of Trustees, including Wilhelm Wien , Friedrich Kohlrausch , Walther Nernst , Emil Warburg , Walther Bothe , Albert Einstein and Max Planck .

The PTR and the Birth of Quantum Physics

The first outstanding scientific achievement of the PTR was also closely associated with Max Planck. In order to decide whether electricity or gas would be more economical for Berlin's street lighting, the PTR should develop a more precise light intensity standard. In 1895 Otto Lummer and Wilhelm Wien developed the first cavity radiator for the practical generation of thermal radiation from black bodies . Their measurements of the spectrum of black body radiation were so precise that they contradicted Wien's law of radiation for long-wave radiation. This shook one of the pillars of classical physics at the time. The measurements led Max Planck to split the heat radiation into separate portions in an "act of desperation" - as he himself later put it - - the hour of birth of quantum physics .

New structure and new physics

In 1914, PTR President Emil Warburg lifted the division into a physical and a technical department and divided the PTR into specialist departments for optics, electricity and heat with purely scientific and technical subdivisions. Under Warburg's successor Walther Nernst , the Reich Institute for Weights and Measures was also incorporated into the PTR. A newly established department took on extensive tasks for calibration and the associated measurements of length, weight and volume. The task profile thus essentially corresponded to that of today's PTB: The PTR was supposed to ensure the uniformity of metrology and its constant further development through its own research and development and services based on it. In terms of content, the PTR devoted itself to so-called New Physics during this time . These included u. a. research on the newly discovered X-rays , new atomic models, Einstein's special theory of relativity , quantum theory (based on the work on the black body mentioned above) and research into the properties of the electron. Scientists like Hans Geiger , who set up the PTR's first radioactivity laboratory, were involved in this research . Walther Meißner succeeded in liquefying helium , which led him to discover the superconductivity of a number of metals. Together with his colleague Robert Ochsenfeld, he discovered a few years later that superconductors have the property of displacing an externally applied magnetic field from their interior - the Meißner-Ochsenfeld effect .

The PTR in the Third Reich

With the appointment of Johannes Stark as President on May 1, 1933, the ideology of National Socialism found its way into the PTR. The staunch advocate of German physics completed various research projects on topics of modern physics that he described as "Jewish", including mainly work on quantum physics and the theory of relativity . Stark also tried to enforce the leadership principle at the PTR by dissolving the board of trustees in 1935 and taking over its competencies himself. Jewish employees and critics of the NSDAP (such as Max von Laue ) were fired. Von Laue participated in the re-establishment of the PTB after the Second World War . Albert Einstein , who had already been kicked out of the board of trustees before its dissolution, broke off his contact with the PTR / PTB.

Under Stark and from 1939 under his successor Abraham Esau , the PTR devoted itself to armaments research . A newly established laboratory for acoustics should research not only general, but also military application areas. This included the acoustic location of guns, the military use of ultrasound and the development of encryption methods . PTR researchers also developed acoustic mines and a steering system for torpedoes based on the sound field of a moving ship. The PTR was also closely linked to the armaments industry of the Third Reich through its classic metrological tasks. Since exact dimensions are a basic requirement for the manufacture of military equipment, the Reichsanstalt assumed a key role in armaments production and defense technology. The extent to which the PTR also participated in the German nuclear weapons project is controversial. It is known that before his time as PTR president, Abraham Esau headed a research group on nuclear fission until August 1939. He later took over the "nuclear physics department" in the Reich Research Council , which from the spring of 1942 was in charge of the German uranium project . Shortly afterwards, Hermann Göring placed the working group under the former PTR physicist Kurt Diebner of Department V for Atomic Physics at the PTR. Esau was given the title of “Reichsmarschall's representative for nuclear physics”, an office which he relinquished to Walther Gerlach at the end of 1943 .

In order to avoid the Allied bombing raids , the PTR was relocated to various locations in Germany in 1943 on the initiative of the President and Thuringian State Councilor Abraham Esau, such as Weida and Ronneburg in Thuringia and Bad Warmbrunn in Lower Silesia. The PTR buildings were badly damaged in the attacks on Berlin. In 1945 the Reichsanstalt was effectively broken up and scattered all over the country.

The re-establishment of the PTB in Braunschweig and other PTR successors

From around 1947, in addition to the PTR in Berlin-Charlottenburg, successor institutions were set up for the Soviet occupation zone in East Berlin and in the Bizone and later Trizone . With the benevolent support of the British military government , parts of the old Reichsanstalt were relocated to Braunschweig. The former PTR consultant for theoretical physics, Max von Laue, had ideas for this start-up already during his internment as part of Operation Epsilon in Farm Hall . In 1947 he was able to convince the British authorities to make the former aeronautical research institute in Völkenrode near Braunschweig available for the PTR's successor. The first president was Wilhelm Kösters , long-time director of Department 1 in Berlin, in 1948 , who was followed by numerous former PTR employees from Berlin, Weida and Heidelberg to Braunschweig. The new facility was named Physikalisch-Technische Anstalt (PTA) and, since April 1, 1950, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt ; In 1953, the West Berlin PTR was incorporated into this as "Institut Berlin" while maintaining Berlin's four-power status .

In the GDR , the German Office for Weights and Measures (DAMG) was established with its headquarters in Berlin. After several renaming in the last GDR years, it was called the Office for Standardization, Metrology and Goods Testing (ASMW); the name already indicates that it had more extensive tasks than the PTB of the FRG , namely tasks in the field of standardization , quality assurance and the field of activity of the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM).

Growth and reunification

The young PTB grew rapidly in the years after its re-establishment - both in terms of personnel and financial resources. The scientific profile on metrological terrain was expanded, as was the services for industry, particularly in the form of calibrating measuring devices. This led to the establishment of the German Calibration Service in the 1970s , which delegated service tasks to accredited private laboratories ( DAkkS laboratories for short ) and enabled PTB to limit itself to demanding measurement tasks.

From 1967 to 1995 the PTB operated the research and measurement reactor in Braunschweig , which was used primarily as a neutron source for basic research and not for research into nuclear energy . From 1977 to 1989, PTB was primarily concerned with this controversial topic through its task of "safeguarding and final storage of radioactive waste " before it was spun off from the Federal Agency with the establishment of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection . Division 6 deals with ionizing radiation in general today. This also includes a highly sensitive trace measuring point for radionuclides, which has been measuring radioactive substances in air near the ground for 50 years.

After the " turning point " there was also a "metrological reunification" in 1990. The PTB took over parts of the Office for Standardization, Metrology and Goods Testing (ASMW) of the GDR, including 400 employees alone, as well as the Berlin-Friedrichshagen location as an additional branch office (now abandoned). Other parts of the ASMW became part of the BAM . Despite a phase of staff cuts after the strong expansion as a result of reunification, the PTB is today one of the largest national metrology institutes in the world. As such, it is responsible for the representation and dissemination of the physical units and promotes the worldwide uniformity of metrology.


The approximately annually published magazine of PTB measures can be subscribed to free of charge or downloaded from the PTB website. It contains articles that are intended to be generally understandable and instructive on all aspects of physics.

In addition, the PTB publishes the scientific news paper PTB-news three times a year . On four pages it contains news from the fields of work and deals with the basics of metrology, applied measurement technology for industry, medicine and environmental protection, measurement technology for society and international affairs. The PTB news appears in German and English.

The PTB-Mitteilungen are the metrological specialist journal and official bulletin of the PTB. They appear four times a year and contain original scientific contributions and overview articles on metrological topics from PTB's areas of activity. Each issue is dedicated to a specific topic. As an official bulletin, the magazine has a long tradition that goes back to the beginnings of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (founded in 1887). In the "Official Announcements" section, which has now been discontinued, the current device tests and approvals from the areas of calibration, testing and health, radiation protection and safety technology were published.

In the Reich Institute for Weights and Measures, picture probably published in 1928
Reich Institute for Weights and Measures, February 1931


Presidents of the PTB and the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (Berlin-Charlottenburg):


PTR and PTB employees included Udo Adelsberger , Walther Bothe , Kurt Diebner , Gerhard Wilhelm Becker , Ernst Engelhard , Abraham Esau , Ernst Gehrcke , Hans Geiger , Werner Gitt , Eugen Goldstein , Ernst Carl Adolph Gumlich , Hermann von Helmholtz , Fritz Henning , Friedrich Georg Houtermans , Max Jakob , Hellmut Keiter , Dieter Kind , Hans Otto Kneser , Friedrich Wilhelm Kohlrausch , Wilhelm Kösters , Bernhard Anton Ernst Kramer , Johannes Kramer , August Kundt , Max von Laue , Carl von Linde , Leopold Loewenherz , Otto Lummer , Walter Meidinger , Walther Meißner , Franz Mylius , Walther Hermann Nernst , Robert Ochsenfeld , Friedrich Paschen , Karl Scheel , Matthias Scheffler , Adolf Scheibe , Harald Schering , Reinhard Scherm , Johannes Stark , Ulrich Stille , Ida Tacke , Wolfgang Trapp , Gotthold Richard Vieweg , Richard Wachsmuth , Emil Warburg , Wilhelm Vienna .

Institutions in other countries

Cesium atomic clock "CS 4" from PTB. Commissioned in 1992. Exhibit in the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum since 2005 .

See also


  • Hermann von Helmholtz : Counting and measuring, from an epistemological perspective. Original publication in: Philosophical essays, dedicated to Eduard Zeller on the occasion of his 50th anniversary as a doctor. Leipzig 1887. Fues' publishing house. Pp. 17-52. Digital edition: Heidelberg University Library, 2010.
  • Johannes Stark (ed.): Research and testing. 50 years of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1937.
  • H. Moser (ed.): Research and testing. 75 years of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt / Reichsanstalt. Vieweg, Braunschweig 1962.
  • Jürgen Bortfeld, W. Hauser, Helmut Rechenberg (eds.): 100 Years of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt / Federal Institute 1887–1987. (= Research - Measure - Check. Volume 1) Braunschweig 1987, ISBN 3-87664-140-3 .
  • David Cahan: Master of Measurement. The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in the German Empire. Wirtschaftsverlag NW, Bremerhaven 2011, ISBN 978-3-86918-081-6 .
  • Ulrich Kern: Research and precision measurement. The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt between 1918 and 1948. Wirtschaftsverlag NW, Bremerhaven 2011, ISBN 978-3-86918-082-3 .
  • Dieter Kind: The challenge of metrology. The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt and the development since 1945. in: Research - Measure - Check. Wirtschaftsverlag, Bremerhaven 2002, ISBN 3-89701-902-7 .
  • PTB: The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (PTR) in Thuringia , Volume 123, Issue 1, March 2013. ( online PDF 13.9 MB )
  • Rudolf Huebener, Heinz Lübbig: A Focus of Discoveries. World Scientific, Singapore 2008, ISBN 978-981-279-034-7 .
  • Rudolf Huebener, Heinz Lübbig: The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. Their importance in building modern physics. Vieweg + Teubner, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-8348-1390-9 .
  • Brigitte Jacob, Wolfgang Schächen, Norbert Szymanski: Buildings for Science - 125 Years of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt / Federal Institute in Berlin-Charlottenburg 1887–2012. JOVIS Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86859-163-7 .
  • Imke Frischmuth, Jens Simon (ed.): Metrological reading book. Measurement art at PTB - in the past, in the present and for the future . Wirtschaftsverlag NW, Bremerhaven 2012, ISBN 978-3-86918-301-5 .

Web links

Commons : Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Change at the top of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt. idw , December 19, 2011, accessed on May 3, 2017 .
  2. Federal Budget 2020 - Section 12 - Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Federal Ministry of Finance, accessed on August 27, 2020 (overview of positions / vacancies: pages 187–189; trainees: page 190).
  3. PTB Annual Report 2014 Chapter: Facts and Figures , p. 38f. (PDF; 1.1 MB) on
  4. Chronology of the atomic clock era at PTB. Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, November 29, 2010, accessed April 1, 2011 .
  5. Time synchronization of computers using the "Network Time Protocol" (NTP). February 10, 2016, accessed August 21, 2017 .
  6. Technical cooperation of the PTB
  7. BWahlGV § 2 (2). (PDF) (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on September 23, 2015 ; Retrieved May 3, 2017 .
  8. Federal Returning Officer. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on January 30, 2016 ; Retrieved May 3, 2017 .
  9. Structure & departments . Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  10. see article on the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in Meyer's large conversation lexicon (1905) at
  11. ^ Karl-Eugen Kurrer : 125 years of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt. momentum magazine, accessed on July 15, 2020 .
  12. Entry in the Berlin State Monument List , accessed on June 26, 2020
  13. ^ Helmut Rechenberg: Helmholtz and the founding years. (PDF) In: PTR / PTB: 125 years of metrological research. PTB-Mitteilungen, 2012, issue 2, p. 9.
  14. Jörg Hollandt: The black body and the quantization of the world. (PDF) In: PTR / PTB: 125 years of metrological research. PTB-Mitteilungen, 2012, issue 2, p. 12 f.
  15. a b PTR and PTB: 125 years exactly - history of an institution. (PDF) (No longer available online.) PTB, archived from the original on June 15, 2017 ; Retrieved May 3, 2017 . 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 /
  16. ^ Ulrich Kern: Research and Precision Measurement. The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt between 1918 and 1948. Bremerhaven 2011, p. 267.
  17. Dieter Hoffmann: The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in the Third Reich. (PDF) In: PTR / PTB: 125 years of metrological research. PTB-Mitteilungen, 2012, issue 2, p. 30 f.
  18. ^ Ulrich Kern: Research and Precision Measurement. In: The Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt between 1918 and 1948. Bremerhaven 2011, p. 265.
  19. Katharina Zeitz: Max von Laue (1879-1960): its importance for the reconstruction of German science after the Second World War . F. Steiner, 2006, ISBN 978-3-515-08814-5 ( [accessed on August 21, 2017]).
  20. PTB press releases: 50 years of searching for traces
  21. standards of the PTB
  22. ^ PTB news
  23. PTB communications. June 28, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017 .
  24. Press & News. May 3, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017 .
  25. ^ History of the PTB and PTR in 125 years of metrological research , PTB Mitteilungen 2/2012, doi : 10.7795 / 310.20120299 .

Coordinates: 52 ° 17 ′ 43 ″  N , 10 ° 27 ′ 49 ″  E