History of Institute of Solid State Physics UL

After the Second World War, University of Latvia continued the research in the field of solid-state physics initiated by Doc. Ludvigs Jansons. In 1960 Ilmars Vitols established the Laboratory of Semiconductor Physics Problems, and in 1968 the Laboratory of Ferro- and Piezoelectric Physics Problems was formed by Voldemars Fricbergs. Initially both laboratories were located in the main building of the University of Latvia. As the number of scientific staff members and students was increasing, soon enough the premises became too small and more space was needed. It was proposed to build a separate building for both laboratories, as well as for the Semiconductor Physics Department. Thanks to the hard work and persistence of Ilmars Vitols and the main engineer Olgerts Abolins, in 1975 a dedicated facilities building, Educational and Scientific Complex, was constructed on the bank of river Daugava in Ķengarags, a neighbourhood in Riga. This was the foundation for forming the Institute of Solid State Physics, University of Latvia (ISSP UL) in 1978. Juris Zakis was elected the first Director of the ISSP UL. 

Research of ionic crystals, glassy materials, ferroelectric materials and fundamental research of amorphous semiconductors, as well as development of measuring equipment for automatization of solid-state physics experiments were the main work-streams of the ISSP UL at the time. According to these research areas the following departments with several laboratories were formed: Department of Ionic Crystal Physics (Head of the Department – Ivars Tale), Department of Glass Physics (Head of the Department – Andrejs Silins), Department of Ferroelectric Physics (Head of the Department – Voldemars Fricbergs), Department of Semiconductor Materials (Head of the Department – Andrejs Lusis). For the purposes of addressing the general issues of experiment automatization, the Laboratory of Programmed Experiment was formed (Head of the Laboratory – Jurijs Kuzmins), and the Division of Electronic Computing Machines was formed to address the management of programmed experiments and processing of results (Head of the Division – Imants Grikis). The following units were formed: Mechanical Workshops (Head of the Workshops – Olgerts Abolins), Design Division (Head of the Division – Janis Straumens), Electric Engineering Division (Head of the Division – Edmunds Tardenaks), Cryogenic Station (Head of the Station – Ilmars Dunkurs).

The research directions did not change much over time, and by the late 1980s, the ISSP UL had become one of the biggest and most prolific physics centres in Latvia and USSR. Regular USSR, Baltic States and regional level conferences and workshops were organized by the ISSP UL, covering such topics as crystal physics, formation of defects in crystalline and glassy materials, ferroelectric materials, including transparent ferroelectric ceramics, solid-state ionics, automatization of experiments and development of training software.

In the beginning of 1990s, after the collapse of the USSR, the number of scientific and technical staff at ISSP UL dropped significantly, approximately from 290 to 150. Situation changed in 1993 when the ISSP UL was joined by approximately 20 members from 3 laboratories of the Institute of Physics of Latvian Academy of Sciences and by another 20 members from the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions of the Institute of Physics in 1999. In 1992 the Laboratory of Optical Materials was established and a new studies programme was formed – Optometry and Vision Science (Head of the Department – Ivars Lācis). In 2004, another laboratory joined the ISSP UL – the Laboratory of Organic Materials of the Institute of Physical Energetics of the Latvian Academy of Sciences (Head of the Laboratory – Inta Muzikante).

In 2000 Latvian contribution to the European fusion programme began. The Latvian Research Unit of the Association EURATOM-University of Latvia consisted of ISSP UL, Institute of Physics UL and Institute of Chemical Physics UL. The Association EURATOM-University of Latvia was established in December 2001 incorporating the existing cost-sharing actions into its work plan. Since then, ISSP UL is a coordinator of the Latvian Research Unit and is a part of the EUROfusion consortium agreement signed in 2014.

In 2001 Excellence Centre of Advanced Material Research and Technology (CAMART), a project developed by the ISSP UL, was granted funding in a competition organized by the European Commission. The mission of the Centre was to promote research and disseminate knowledge of modern functional materials and high technologies with special emphasis on application in microelectronics and photonics. It was realised by improving the links with other European centres and researchers, through networking and twinning arrangements.

Since 2005 ISSP UL has been a coordinator of several National Research Programs in Materials Science and Information Technologies: “Development of advanced functional materials for microelectronics, nanoelectronics, photonics, biomedicine and constructional composites, as well as related technologies” (2005-2009), “Development of novel multifunctional materials, signal processing and information technologies for competitive knowledge-based products” (2010-2013), “Multifunctional materials and composites, photonics and nanotechnology” (2014-2017).

In 2006, a conference on Functional Materials and Nanotechnologies (FM&NT) was organized by ISSP UL.  Stated as a local conference, the conference expanded into an international event, annually attracting more than 250 participants not only from the countries of Baltic sea region, but also from the rest of EU, USA, Brazil, Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Korea, Georgia, Turkey and other countries. The diverse country list is an indication of the importance of the conference for scientists working in various fields. For 7 years, FM&NT was organized by the Institute of Solid State Physics, University of Latvia. In 2013, the event moved to Estonia, and was organized by the Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, then returned back to Riga in 2014 and in 2015 was organized by the Vilnius University. Selected speakers and a good balance between the topics of the conference ensure its growing popularity.

In 2012, ISSP UL became a coordinator of ERDF project “National Research Centre of Nanostructured and Multifunctional Materials, Constructions and Technologies”. In the frames of the project, the infrastructure of ISSP UL has been substantially improved. In 2013 “clean room” facilities located at the premises of ISSP UL with total area ~800 m2 were built. Modern laser, VUV and Fourier spectroscopy equipment, X-ray diffractometer, photolithography and electron microscopy tools (SEM-TEM-FIB) were installed.

In 2015, a new tradition of internal scientific projects competition among young researchers as well as Master and PhD students was initiated.

In 2014 ISSP UL participated in Teaming call within Horizon2020 program for funding to upgrade the existing Centre of Excellence into CAMART2 – Centre of Advanced Materials Research and Technology Transfer. In the competition of total 169 proposals, CAMART2 project was the third best proposal selected by EC for the preparation of the Business Plan for the upgrade of the Centre of Excellence. The upgrade will enable efficient transfer of new materials and technologies into products for commercial and public benefits based on exchange of knowledge and synergy with innovation-intensive Consortium partners – KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Acreo Swedish ICT. Horizon 2020 financial support up to 15 MEUR (administrative costs, salaries etc.) will be granted for the implementation of the Business Plan. Currently the Business Plan is being evaluated by the EC and the results are due to mid-November 2016.

ISSP UL still is one of the leading scientific centres in Latvia and continues to fulfil its mission – to transfer excellence in material sciences and solid-state physics to highly educated people and innovation.