European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Joint Max Born Institute - Amplitude Phd Program

Final Report Summary - JMAP (Joint Max Born Institute - Amplitude Phd Program)

The Joint Max Born Institute – Amplitude Phd Program (JMAP) was conceived as a European Industrial Doctorate (EID) project, whereby 4 ESRs would be engaged in collaborative research on the development and application of state-of-the-art laser equipment by both parties. The project was born from a long-standing collaboration between MBI and Amplitude, which had already existed for close to a decade prior to the project. Before JMAP, MBI and Amplitude had collaborated on (1) high-power amplification with retention of the carrier envelope phase, (2) optical parametric amplification using fiber lasers and/or thin disk lasers as pump systems, and (3) peak contrast improvement in ultra-high intensity Ti:Sappire systems. Hence the PhD programs for 3 of the 4 ESRs that were to be hired in JMAP were related to extension of these activities. A 4th topic of joint interest was identified in the development of intense mid-infrared laser systems, given that this is an area where Ytterbium lasers produced by Amplitude can play a useful role as the pump laser system. Mid-infrared lasers are of high interest for appliciations in fundamental research at MBI, as well as at the University of Geneva, which joined the project as an Associated Partner.

Within the project period, JMAP managed to accomplish virtually all of its research goals. Within WP1, the CEP-stability of an Amplitude laser system was substantially improved, thus permitting the main goal of this effort, the generation of isolated attosecond laser pulses. Moreover, the work in WP1 led to a much improved understanding of the many factors affecting the CEP-stability of amplified femtosecond laser systems.
Within WP2, very substantial progress was made on the development of mJ-level thin disk lasers as potential pump sources for high repetition rate OPCPA, and an OPCPA system was realized that will shortly reach the required output characteristics that are needed for applications in attosecond science. The project led to much improved understanding of spatio-temporal couplings in OPCPA.
Within WP3, large progress was achieved in the development of high energy (up to 65 mJ/pulse achieved in the project) disk lasers for use in filamentation studies. Beside the laser development, first applications of the laser in filamentation provided novel insights into the optimal way to distribute the laser energy over multiple pulses.

Finally, within WP4, experiments were performed on understanding and improving the peak-contrast in multi-TW Ti:Sapphire lasers. The connection between the peak contrast and the value of the B-integral of the amplifier was established, and it was discovered that the peak contrast may be adversely affected by the excitation of coherent phonons in the Ti:Sapphire material.
As such, one may conclude, that the JMAP project led to numerous new insights with considerable benefit to various of the commercial laser development activities that Amplitude is engaged in, as well as to the fundamental research activities that are pursued by MBI.

Having said this, the JMAP project should by no means be considered a success. The European Industrial Doctorate (EID) concept whereby ESRs spend at least half of their time with the industrial partner and up to half of their time with the academic partner caused massive complications for MBI and Amplitude, and for several of the ESRs, and eventually led to the decision of Amplitude and MBI to remove two of the ESRs from the project (i.e. Amplitude and MBI made money available to be able to support these ESRs without them having to comply with the strict demands of the JMAP project, in order to be able to finish their PhDs.).
The difficulties that the ESRs faced were two-fold:
1) Originally, it was foreseen that all ESRs would recruited by MBI and that the project would be administered in its entirety by MBI. This plan ran into difficulties when one of the ESRs who was to be recruited was German, whereas another ESR (from Nepal) had already studied long enough in Germany to be considered German by EU rules. Despite the fact that it was clear that, like the other two ESRs (from France and from Russia), these two ESRs would spend at least half of their time in France, we were not allowed to recruit these two ESRs at MBI, but instead we were forced to recruit these ESRs in France. In addition to significant difficulties with French authorities (who could be convinced only with great difficulty and effort that these two students were recruited for positions for which no equally qualified French citizens could be hired), this led to a situation where there was a very substantial gap between the salaries received by the students recruited by Amplitude and the students recruited by MBI (as a result of the substantially different country-correction factors used by the EU). Given the unfairness of this situation (after all, all four students were embarking on a virtually identical program, all spending the same amounts of time in Germany and France), Amplitude and MBI arranged in their consortium agreement that all students would be paid at the (higher) French level, and moreover arranged a compensation arrangement for the costs associated with repeated changes in their primary location which were required by the project, for which the EU format had not made any arrangements.
2) In the course of the project problems arose with the supervision of two of the ESRs at Amplitude. The reasons for these problems were many-fold, and included changes in the planning of the research work at Amplitude as a result of significant, novel, commercial developments, as well as changes in the research staff available for supervision of the ESRs, as a result of the re-location of the original supervisor to the US branch of the company, and the virtually immediate pregnancy leave of his successor. Despite very significant efforts on all sides, and at the request of the ESRs, Amplitude and MBI jointly reached the conclusion that it would be in the ESR´s best interest if they would be allowed to complete their work at MBI, under the supervision of highly motivated and available MBI senior scientists. However, permission to implement this solution was denied by the EU, given that it would have lifted the fraction of time spent by these two ESRs at MBI over 50%. Having been a strong supporter of the Marie Curie programs throughout my entire scientific career (prior to JMAP I coordinated several larger Marie Curie networks), I remain appalled at the utter disregard of the ESRs interests that is reflected in this decision. Following this decision, MBI and Amplitude have decided to remove two ESRs from the JMAP project, in order to allow them to complete their PhDs (on the basis of a salary provided by MBI and Amplitude) working fully at MBI. A failure to make this decision would with a very high likelihood have led to the ESRs giving up on their PhD.

While finishing their PhDs at MBI, the ESRs have still been involved in a very successful outreach activity. Supported by the educational organization MINT Impuls eV and the FU-Berlin, they ran a series of workshops with students at the Berlin Metropolitan School (BMS), discussing with the students their research and their career development (in particular, how they had come to study physics and why they chose to pursue a PhD), as well as performing joint experiments. As a result of these outreach activities more than 95% of the participating high school students reported that the probability that, in their later life, they would pursue a career involving STEM-elements, had been increased.

In conclusion, the JMAP project was scientifically very successful, and will shortly lead to the successful completion of the PhDs of the ESRs involved. However, these successes were accomplished despite massive administrative complications that had to be surmounted and very substantial additional costs to both partner organizations, and despite major frustrations that had to be faced by several of the ESRs. As such, it is questionable whether MBI and/or Amplitude will, in future, expose ESRs to this format again.

Please visit the Project Website for further information.