History of the Institute

History of the IISB – from 1985 until Today

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB in Erlangen has established itself as an important center of applied research and development for electronic systems, power electronics, semiconductor technology, and materials development in the Nuremberg metropolitan region, Germany and Europe.

It was founded in 1985 when the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft took over the Erlangen-based "Zentrum für Mikroelektronik und Informationstechnik GmbH" and turned it into the Fraunhofer Working Group for Integrated Circuits AIS. Within this working group, there was the Department of Device Technology AIS-B, which became a Fraunhofer Institute (IIS-B) in 1993. However, IIS-B was still formally affiliated with its sister institute IIS-A, today's Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen-Tennenlohe. In the fall of 1994, IIS-B moved into a new institute building on the campus of the Technical Faculty in Erlangen. At the beginning of 2003, IIS-A and IIS-B became formally independent institutes and have since then the names "Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS" and "Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB".

The Pretzfeld Story

Semiconductors from the Franconian Switzerland

© Karl Heinz Loch
The cradle of silicon electronics: Pretzfeld Castle in the village of the same name in Wiesenttal in Franconian Switzerland

After the Second World War, the Siemens company was looking for new locations to replace the destroyed Berlin. Already in 1944, the well-known physicist Walter Schottky had moved with his family from Berlin to Pretzfeld, one of the reasons for the opening of the Siemens laboratory in Pretzfeld Castle in 1946 under the direction of Eberhard Spenke. It was a stroke of luck that with Schottky and Spenke – complemented by Heinrich Welker in Erlangen – several physicists of international standing came together in the region. Thanks to them, German semiconductor research achieved worldwide significance in the 1950s.

The decade from 1946 to 1956 was characterized by extremely dynamic progress. Important developments from Pretzfeld during this period include the process for obtaining hyperpure silicon, which is now used worldwide and known as the "Siemens process", and the manufacture of the first silicon power rectifier. In the early 1950s, various materials were also investigated with regard to their suitability for semiconductor devices, including the well-known germanium. However, germanium was not suitable for higher temperatures. Siemens-Pretzfeld – right on the money – opted for silicon, which then began its triumphant advance worldwide.

Foto der Kristallzieherei in Pretzfeld um 1955 mit Anlagen zur Einkristall-Herstellung durch das tiegelfreie Zonenziehen.
© Siemens
Photo of the crystal pulling plant in Pretzfeld around 1955 with equipment for single crystal production by the crucible-free floating zone technique
Fertigung von Leistungsbauelementen in Pretzfeld in den 1970er Jahren.
© Siemens
Production of power devices in Pretzfeld in the 1970s
Forschung zu Leistungsbauelementen am Fraunhofer IISB heute.
© Fraunhofer IISB
Research on power devices at Fraunhofer IISB today

Prof. Georg Müller on the History of Technology in Pretzfeld

A contribution from "Radio Gong"

Does all computer technology come from Silicon Valley? Not at all! What hardly anyone in this country knows: In an old castle in the idyllic village of Pretzfeld in Franconian Switzerland, important foundations were laid and inventions of global significance were made in the post-war period – and long before Intel and Co.

Prof. Georg Müller, founder of the renowned Erlangen Crystal Growth Laboratory and long-time head of the Materials Department at the IISB, talks about the famous "Siemens Process" and other pioneering achievements in semiconductor research that emerged from the Pretzfeld laboratories (in German).

Articles and Publications about Pretzfeld (in German)

Zeitschrift Fränkische-Schweiz-Verein e.V., 2020: "Von Franken in die ganze Welt – Wie auf Schloss Pretzfeld die Siliziumrevolution begann"

Zeitschrift "Elektronik-Praxis", 2019: "1953: Der erste Silicium-Einkristall"

Sonderausstellung KRISTALLE! im Museum Industriekultur in Nürnberg, 2017: Pressemitteilung und Video des Fraunhofer IISB

Dissertation Kai Christian Handel, 1999: Anfänge der Halbleiterforschung und -entwicklung

Siemens Zeitschrift, 1981: "Silizium - Werkstoff der Elektronik"

Siemens mitteilungen, 1974: "Frischer Wind im alten Schloß"

Sammlung verschiedener Scriptum-Artikel zur Halbleitergeschichte (historisches Archiv der Infineon Technologies AG)

Our annual reports provide further insights into the history of the IISB.


Read more about Pretzfeld, the true "Silicon Valley" in our brochure (in German).