The former Institutes for High-Energy Physics and for Applied Physics at the University of Heidelberg have recently joined forces to become the new Kirchhoff Institute for Physics. The Institute was named after Gustav Robert Kirchhoff who carried out his fundamental work on radiation laws and spectral analysis in Heidelberg more than 100 years ago.

At the formal inauguration on 2 November 1999, Kirchhoff Institute director Karlheinz Meier presented an overview of the wide spectrum of teaching and research. These activities cover pure research areas like experimental particle physics and low-temperature physics as well as applications and interdisciplinary work in biophysics, medical physics, microelectronics and computer science. The new institute is participating in a couple of particle physics experiments at DESY and CERN. It also hosts the Heidelberg ASIC integrated circuit laboratory founded and operated by three physics institutes in Heidelberg.

The merger has already initiated fruitful co-operations between applied and pure science. Particle physicists have developed microelectronic light sensor chips with fast integrated-signal processing, for applications in ophthalmology, based on experience with particle physics detectors. The low temperature group, lead by Siegfried Hunklinger, detects very low-energy photons, with unprecedented resolution, using a magnetic probe at very low temperatures.

The Kirchhoff Institute employs about 120 people in two separate buildings. The inauguration was preceded by the laying of the foundation stone for a new institute building, to be equipped with modern infrastructure: cleanroom facilities, experimental halls, workshops and lecture halls. The building should be complete in the summer of 2002.