The Justus-Liebig University of Giessen was founded in 1607 by landgrave Louis V. of Hesse-Darmstadt. It is the second largest university of the federal state of Hesse (more than 28.000 students in winter semester 2017/18, 5500 employees including 400 professors). Its teaching and research portfolio is organised in 11 faculties covering the complete spectrum of subjects including all natural sciences, social sciences, law, and medicine. JLU has around 90 formal agreements for partnerships, cooperative programs, and exchange progammes worldwide. In addition, JLU cooperates with 18 universities in North America and 9 universities in Australia under the auspices of Hesse’s state partnership program.
The Institute of Experimental Physics I (IPI) is the largest of five physical institutes in the Faculty of Physics, Mathematics, Computing and Geo-Sciences. Its two research foci lie on solid-state physics as well as atomic, plasma, and space physics. The expertise of the condensed-matter division covers fabrication, nanostructuring and processing of materials as well as diagnostics and spectroscopy for comprehensive materials characterization. Fabrication techniques include molecular-beam epitaxy, atomic-layer deposition, and ion-beam and conventional sputtering techniques. The fully equipped clean room enables various 2D and 3D lithographic techniques and etching for structuring of materials on the micro and nanoscale. The diagnostics include photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), X-ray diffraction (XRD), secondary ion-mass spectrometry (SIMS), atomic force microscopy (AFM) as well as ductile profilometry, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and steady-state as well as ultrafast optical spectroscopy ranging from the UV to the THz regimes. The latter division covers a wide spectrum of research topics, for instance, fundamental atomic and molecular collision processes, complex plasma experiments at the international space station (ISS), and ion thruster development.
The electric propulsion (EP) research at JLU dates back to the pioneering work of Prof. Horst Löb in 1962, when the idea of an ion propulsion system using an RF discharge was born. This was the starting point of RIT technology. During the following years, fundamental processes behind RIT have been investigated, diagnostic and optimisation work as well as various applications have been tackled, and components such as the neutraliser and the vaporiser/isolator-system have been developed. The initial R&D-work focussed on a 10-cm ioniser diameter RF-thruster (RIT-10), which reached the state of a laboratory prototype towards the end of the sixties. Then, during the course of Giessen EP activities, a "RIT-family" with ioniser diameters of 2.5, 4, 10, 15, 20, and 35 cm has been developed, studied, optimised, and tested. Benefiting from this heritage, the EP group at IPI has an extensive experience, for instance, in the design, construction, and operation of test stands, ranging from single purpose test stands in small vacuum chambers to the full scale 30m3 Jumbo vacuum facility.
The EP team of IPI presently consists of seven people: 2 researchers (permanent staff), 3 PhD students and 2 Master students. Moreover, the scientific team is assisted by 1 engineer (mainly responsible for technical drafts) and 1 technician (responsible for the test facilities).