Johann, what is your research about?

I am developing methods to enhance tungsten with tungsten fibres, in order make it less brittle. Tungsten is the foreseen wall material for fusion reactors, and its brittleness is still a serious problem.

How did you come to fusion science?

Well, I studied mechanical engineering and chose material sciences and aerospace engineering as major subjects. I have always wanted to work on something challenging and idealistic. As a student I had met Harald Bolt, who was then director for material sciences at IPP. I approached him about a PhD project and he referred me to Jeong-Ha You. The project and the environment at IPP appealed to me, so I started.

Is the international environment, that fusion science takes place in, important for you?

I carried out part of my PhD work within the European project FEMAS, whose aim was to connect fusion research with Europe’s materials scientists and their facilities. That was really good for me, because at IPP we do not really have the means to fabricate materials, but we have a material problem to solve. Through FEMAS I could build up a network across Europe and find the right collaborators for manufacturing and characterising our materials. The strong expertise in fusion materials embedded in such an international network is quite unique here at IPP.

With your new position, you will continue working in fusion research. Did the idea of working on a future energy source influence that decision?

It would be a lie to say that I had always wanted to do fusion research. But I am drawn to that idealistic idea, which is also somehow connected to Max Planck, that one should try to solve the really big problems. And the other fascinating aspect of course is the fact that we are trying to crack the hardest research problem one can possibly think of.

Do you have a dream job where you would like to be in, let’s say ten years?

Judging from my current situation, I would really like to continue doing materials research at IPP.