Alumni-Spotlight - Alexandre Gatto, Fraunhofer IOF

The development of so called »Smart Functional Glass« at Carl Zeiss in Jena is 's focus. He started as an laser-expert at the Fraunhofer IOF.

»We're about even!« – Fraunhofer IOF alumnus Dr. Alexandre Gatto

The IOF alumnus Alexandre Gatto (left) hast more in common with the Nobel Laureate in Physics 2018, Gérard Mourou, than the discipline. Both got to know and appreciate each other at the Photonics Days in Jena 2019 for the first time.
© Privat
The IOF alumnus Alexandre Gatto (left) hast more in common with the Nobel Laureate in Physics 2018, Gérard Mourou, than the discipline. Both got to know and appreciate each other at the Photonics Days in Jena 2019 for the first time.
Smart Multifunctional Glass from Zeiss promises diverse and impressive applications.
© Carl Zeiss
Smart Multifunctional Glass from Zeiss promises diverse and impressive applications.
Gérard Mourou during his lecture at the Photonics Days 2019 in Jena.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Gérard Mourou during his lecture at the Photonics Days 2019 in Jena.

If in the next couple of years car windows or windows in trams display personalized information, respond to our gestures, or provide temperature readings, this could be one of the projects currently being worked on by Alexandre Gatto, Director of Microstructured Optics at Carl Zeiss in Jena, and his team. Gatto predicts the coming years will see the arrival of the first applications for smart glass, a technology that his team has devoted its energies to advancing over the last few years. The fact that Nobel Prize judges have so far overlooked Gatto's team for their awards is no reflection on the quality of their work, more of which later. From Marseille, Gatto moved to the Fraunhofer Institute for Optics and Precision Engineering IOF to take up a postdoctoral position, and, with a few brief in between stints elsewhere, the physicist has stayed loyal to the Jena location, the field of optics and also the IOF.


You have been working at Fraunhofer for more than five years. How did you end up at the IOF?

It was simple! After obtaining my PhD from the Institut Fresnel at Aix-Marseille University, I was looking for a position. Back then, there was an exchange program called Training and Mobility Research, which the Fraunhofer IOF also ran. The IOF already had a big reputation in my specialist field in those days, and there was an 18-month position available that matched my interests in a number of areas. I defended my doctoral thesis in Marseille, and then got straight on the plane to take a look at the IOF in Jena. Back then, the Institute wasn't as large as it is today, but, after extending my contract, I ended up staying there for 6 years.


What were your specialist areas?

One of the research aims for this EU-funded Training Mobility Research project was optical mirror systems for free-electron lasers, which have to be extremely robust. I did my doctorate on optical layers and joined the IOF's Coatings department headed by Prof. Norbert Kaiser. In the department we worked on special coatings for the UV/VUV segment. This involves using a synchrotron light source, which requires very large facilities, such as those located in Trieste or Berlin. The light from this source is enhanced in a mirror system. Due to the intense synchrotron light, extremely resistant coatings are required. We achieved good results in designing layer systems. But in addition to optical properties, the material matters. Following this project, I managed various industrial projects, also with different departments of the IOF, lastly as group manager for VUV Optical Coatings. For example, in the UV/VUV spectral range, I developed various processes as well as design coatings for the optical industry.


What is special about Fraunhofer?

It's Fraunhofer´s positioning, right at the half-way point between basic research and research for industry. And of course the working atmosphere is very good and extremely productive. For me, the Fraunhofer model is still the best link bridging research and application. The Fraunhofer model also offers many advantages to scientists who are graduating and want to go to the industry. For me personally, my time at Fraunhofer was the best possible preparation for then going on to the Zeiss Group in 2005.


Which skills from Fraunhofer do you still use today at the Zeiss Group?

I prepared for my current job by studying for a Master of Business Administration. A number of employees were given the chance to do this MBA program alongside their job. The program at Bradford University School of Management was very extensive, and things I learned still help me today in my role as a manager. At the same time, I actually also acquired quite a few projects for Fraunhofer – so we're probably about even. Siriously - I am very thankful for this opportunity, and I still regularly work with Fraunhofer on projects.


What made you opt to come to Germany?

In Germany, there's also the Max Planck Society, but there are hardly any comparable examples from other countries that you could name. Although there are research institutions with a similar focus for example in France or other European countries, they are nowhere near as successful – there is still nothing to really match it. On the other hand, we should ceep in mind, that also the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft wasn't set up overnight.

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Carl Zeiss is also working on incorporating functions such as cameras or sensors into the multifunctional glass panes. However, Alexandre Gatto, an IOF alumnus, confirms that it will be a few years before these functions can be purchased due to their high complexity.
© Carl Zeiss
Carl Zeiss is also working on incorporating functions such as cameras or sensors into the multifunctional glass panes. However, Alexandre Gatto, an IOF alumnus, confirms that it will be a few years before these functions can be purchased due to their high complexity.

How did you benefit from Fraunhofer?

As I already said, I learned a lot at the IOF. I acquired a lot of skills in the more than five years I spent as a project manager and group manager. They were my first management positions and my first professional experiences. In addition, I was able to gain experience abroad as well. That was really very exciting. More than anything, I was able to develop in a context that gave me a relatively secure basis from a financial perspective. So moving into professional life wasn't quite as big a jump as it might have been if I had gone straight into industry.


What are you mostly focused on today at ZEISS?

Of course, I'm still using many elements of what I experienced at the IOF, and I really did experience a lot there. In terms of methodology, it was excellent full-stock training, as I like to call it. But working in a corporation brings other challenges, and a large company functions differently to a Fraunhofer Institute. Of course, I'm required to understand the technological context of optical microstructures, but my current position is more about management responsibilities that I perform.


That brings us to our next question: What is your take on the next major trends?

In the commning years, we are going to see an increase in applications based on microstructured materials. What we have done up til now using lenses and mirrors can also be achieved by altering a surface or the underlying structure – such as projection or detection structures. At ZEISS we use the term 'smart multi-functional glass' here. This means that lenses or even cameras that are invisible by the eye can be 'built in' to a pane of glass, enabling gesture recognition or even eye tracking. Glass surfaces with these smart microstructures could be used in smart homes or commercial buildings, or for monitoring and measurement tasks. These microstructures could detect unauthorized intruders, display information, and filter sunlight at the same time, to name just a few possible applications. This is a unique technology that we are driving forward here at ZEISS in Jena.


When will we be able to buy these products?

We're still right in the middle of the development process. Of course, we are working on wide range of products with versatile applications. We're making the first prototypes with these kinds of functionalities, but we still have some major complexities to sort out. For certain projects, we can expect the first products to come out in two to three years' time. More complex projects are likely to last about five to six years before they come onto the market. And of course the projects are all confidential; so, unfortunately, I can't say too much about them yet. But we're talking about some really exciting projects with various different partners.


At the Photonics Days, which the IOF jointly organized, you met Nobel Prize winner Gérard Mourou, another famous son from your birthplace, Albertville!

It was a great evening. During the Photonics Days dinner, we talked with the President and CEO of the Carl Zeiss Group, Prof. Michael Kaschke, and with Prof. Gérard Mourou, the 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and also talked about certain projects at Carl Zeiss. Like me, Mr Mourou was born in Albertville. And so I had to roll out my joke. I told him that he had ruined my own chance of winning a Nobel Prize. Prof. Mourou was a bit taken aback. And then I explained to him that the probability of two Nobel Prizes for Physics being awarded to people from the same town were practically zero. Then we talked about Albertville and life there. We had a very lively chat. You could quickly tell that Mr. Mourou hails from the Alps, we share the same sense of humor.


Mr Gatto, thank you for this intresting conversation.  

1000. Mitglied im Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V.

Prof. Dr. Kurz begrüßt auf der Mitgliederversammlung des Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. Frau Dr. Edeltraud Leibrock als 1000. Mitglied.
© Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V./Martin Schindler
Prof. Dr. Kurz und Frau Dr. Edeltraud Leibrock

Immer mehr ehemalige Mitarbeitende der Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft schließen sich dem Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. an. Sie profitieren von einem hochkarätigen Netzwerk, Events, Messebesuchen, exklusiven Fraunhofer-Veranstaltungen sowie weiteren Vorteilen. Auf der jährlichen Mitgliederversammlung des Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V., die im Rahmen des 4. Fraunhofer-Alumni-Summits am 20. November in Berlin statt fand, wurde Dr. Edeltraud Leibrock, Partner und Managing Director der von ihr mitgegründeten Connected Innovations GmbH, als 1.000. Mitglied willkommen geheißen.

»Der Einladung in den Verein bin ich sehr gerne gefolgt. Es ist großartig, auf diese Weise aufgenommen zu werden«, erklärte die Unternehmerin. »Netzwerke wie der Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. sind ein wichtiger Beitrag für die Förderung von Innovationen, ich freue mich auf den hochkarätigen wissenschaftlichen und fachlichen Austausch.«

Zur Nachricht.

1000. Mitglied im Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V.

From Fraunhofer IPK back to Brazil as UNIDO ambassador - Dr.-Ing. Rodrigo Pastl

Dr.-Ing. Rodrigo Pastel
© private

Dr.-Ing. Rodrigo Pastl wanted to "learn just a little German" when he came to Berlin from Brazil in 2013. He stayed for almost five years and fulfilled his greatest dream at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology. Equipped with a "black belt" and the right mindset, he is now back home as a climate saver. He is an ambassador for the UNIDO economic program of the United Nations, optimizes biogas plants and he brings German technologies to the tropical region.

To the interview.

Alumni-Meeting - »E-Mobility, Connected Cars
& Autonomous Driving«

15. Oktober - München

Together with alumni of the University of St. Gallen and the HSG Alumni Club Munich, the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. invites you to the Fraunhofer headquarters in Munich on the topic "E-Mobility, Connected Cars & Autonomous Driving". With Prof. Andreas Herrmann, Director at the Institute for Customer Insight, University of St. Gallen (HSG), and Mario Trapp, Director of the Fraunhofer ESK, two internationally renowned experts will talk about new mobility and security concepts. Further lectures, a discussion round and exhibits from the Fraunhofer world on the subject of "autonomous driving" are planned. Networking and a flying buffet will conclude our prelude to "CONNECTING ALUMNI - Experience and Expertise in Dialogue". This series of events is organized by Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. in cooperation with alumni associations of universities and companies.

More details and registration here.

Academia meets Management - the first INNOVATIONLOUNGE

 More than 120 experts from research and management discussed the opportunities and risks of digitization in medium-sized businesses at the first INNOVATIONLOUNGE of the Fraunhofer Alumni e.V. in Munich. Under the motto "Intelligent networking and AI in production", alumni of the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. as well as employees of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft exchanged ideas with managers of Atreus GmbH, a provider of interim management, about current digital technologies in companies. In addition to presentations on the Fraunhofer research status in digitization and artificial intelligence, Andreas Widl, CEO of valve manufacturer SAMSON, showed how his company is implementing digital transformation and is already expanding its lead over its international competitors.

To the article.

The Fraunhofer alumnus that ist generating energy from ocean waves

© CalWave

Marcus Lehmann spent eight months at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft headquarters in Munich from the end of 2011. Today he runs a company that could make a decisive contribution to humanity's energy supply in the future. The company CalWave Power Technologies Inc., which was co-founded by the Fraunhofer alumnus and which he also chairs as CEO, is developing a power plant that generates electricity from ocean waves. In comparison to wind or solar energy, this process offers various advantages. If the energy of all ocean waves could be captured it would be possible to produce the amount of energy that was consumed worldwide in the entire year of 2008. It is estimated that by 2050 up to 10 percent of Europe's electricity requirements could realistically be covered by energy from the sea.  

The power plants of the young Californian enterprise float under the ocean's surface some distance away from the coastline. This has several advantages: Unlike wind turbines, these plants are under water and thus not visible. They can produce energy even during storms and do not depend on sun and wind. Above all, however, the energy yields from these power plants can be reliably predicted over a long period of time. CalWave Power Technologies was runner up to the U.S. Department of Energy's Wave Energy Prize and is a project of Cyclotron Road, a start-up incubator from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Continue reading!

IAP-Alumna Nguyen-Kim wins prestigious Friedrichs Prize

Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim
© © WDR / Thomas Kierok Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim

The Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. is proud to announce that the "Quarks" presenter, science journalist, chemist and Fraunhofer-IAP alumna Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim has won the Hanns-Joachim-Friedrichs-Award 2019 together with ZDF presenter Harald Lesch.

The jury was convinced by the "lively language and unbridled lust and curiosity" of the two journalists, with which they make even complex topics understandable for their viewers and users. Professor Alexander Böker, Head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP, congratulated the 31-year-old on his cosmopolitan attitude. Nguyen-Kim is particularly interested in science among the younger generation. 

To article.  

The New "Career Portal for Fraunhofer Employees"

Since May 2018, the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. has been offering the "Career Portal", the main focus of which is on supporting departing Fraunhofer employees in their further career development outside the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

It addresses Fraunhofer employees who will leave the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft within the next 6 months due to the termination of a temporary contract, and offers them a platform to hire their own applicants. Former Fraunhofer employees who have been alumni for some time can also use this portal. Access to these application profiles is restricted exclusively to the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. companies interested in highly qualified specialists.

Interested Fraunhofer employees and institute administrations can find further information in the Alumni section of the Fraunhofer Intranet and in the flyer following this text.

If you have any questions, please contact us:

Martin Schindler    
Speaker Alumni - Editorial Office and Career Portal
Phone: +49 89 1205-2158