Obituary Professor Gessner

On 25 May 2016 the director of our Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS

Prof. Dr. Dr. Prof. h. c. mult. Thomas Geßner

suddenly and unexpectedly died at the age of 61 years.

Professor Geßner was at the same time full professor of the chair of Microtechnology of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology and director of the Center for Microtechnologies of the Technische Universität Chemnitz. Thanks to his active commitment, the Technikum Mikroelektronik founded in 1979 in cooperation between ZMD and the Technische Hochschule Karl-Marx-Stadt was re-established in 1991 as Center for Microtechnologies and additionally oriented towards microsystem technology.

Professor Geßner’s scientific activities were not only characterized by the initiation of new fundamental topics but also by his ambition to transfer scientific results to application-relevant research and new products. Consequentially, he turned towards the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. In 1998, together with the director of the institute Professor Reichl he established a department at the Fraunhofer Institute Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Chemnitz. In the following years, the department directed by him developed into the Chemnitz branch of the Fraunhofer IZM. In 2008, this branch obtained the status of a Fraunhofer research institution. Under the direction of Professor Geßner, management and staff worked so dynamically that since 2011 Fraunhofer ENAS is able to act as an independent institute. Fraunhofer ENAS was an essential component for the establishment of the Chemnitz Smart Systems Campus.

Since 2005, Professor Geßner worked in Saxony and on national and international level on the integration of microelectronics, microsystem technology and other components into intelligent systems, so called Smart Systems. His name, like no one else’s, represents different activities in the context of Smart Systems, especially in Europe. Professor Geßner not only belonged to the founders of EPoSS, the European Platform on Smart Systems Integration, but he also launched the Smart Systems Integration Conference and Exhibition in 2007. This scientific conference was successfully established under his direction as chairman and developed into a competitive international conference.

In the course of the past 17 years and more, Professor Thomas Geßner has made a great contribution to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in all his fields of activities. These fields of activities comprised the whole range of the activities of a leading scientist in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. This included excellent scientific achievements and their comprehensive and effective publication, the assumption of professional and staff-related managerial responsibility, and the continuous promotion of talents and junior scientists. An essential aspect was the initiation and the support of strategic cooperation with very different partners from industry, science and politics in order to further develop the applied sciences and to efficiently support German business in the context of concrete projects and orders.

Thomas Geßner was born in 1954 in Karl-Marx-Stadt. He studied physics at the Technische Universität Dresden and received a doctor’s degree at the Department of Natural Sciences. He received his postdoctoral lecture qualification in 1989 at the Technische Universität Karl-Marx-Stadt, now Technische Univerität Chemnitz. Thomas Geßner is the author of more than 900 publications, and he filed 136 patents in 48 patent families. For his merits, in 2014 he was honoured with the Fraunhofer Medal and the Medal of Honour of the Technische Universität Chemnitz.


Further milestones of his career:

After his studies, he initially worked in the field of applied nuclear physics at the Central Institute of Nuclear Research of the Academy of Sciences in Rossendorf. Afterwards he worked at the Technische Hochschule Karl-Marx-Stadt in cooperation with the Dresden Center of Microelectronics ZMD. He managed several projects with the industrial partner ZMD in the fields of the development of molybdenum polycide technology for 1 Mbit DRAM circuits and salicide technology for 4 Mbit DRAM circuits. In 1987, he became the head of the department of thin film deposition and ion implantation in the Technikum Mikroelektronik of the Technische Universität Karl-Marx-Stadt (today Chemnitz). In 1991, he re-established the Technikum Mikroelektronik as Center for Microtechnologies and became its director. In 1993, he was appointed full professor for microtechnology at the Technische Universität Chemnitz. From 1994 to 1997, he was prorector for research at the Technische Universität Chemnitz, and from 2006 to 2009, he was dean of the Department for Electrical Engineering and Information Technology.

Thomas Geßner’s expertise was much asked for, both nationally and internationally. This reflects itself in his membership in boards of the European Union and in national and international institutions. So he was a member of the Science Council of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1998 to 2004. From 2003 to 2009, he got involved with the evaluation committee of the senate of the Leibnitz Association. Additionally, from 2008 to 2013 he participated in the committee for research facilities of the Science Council. Since 1999 Professor Geßner was member of the coordination board of the German Scientific Organisations (KOWI) in Brussels. He was full member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig, and from 2002, he was member of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech).

Since 2008 Professor Gessner was Principal Investigator within the WPI-AIMR (World Premier International Research Initiative - Advanced Institut for Materials Research). He established an international research group at the Tohoku University. Since 2012 Professor Gessner was directing together with Professor Esashi the Fraunhofer Project Center “NEMS / MEMS Devices and Manufacturing Technologies at Tohoku University”, the first Fraunhofer project center in Japan. 

In 1999, he was appointed Advisory Professor at the FUDAN University of Shanghai and in 2003 at the University of Chongqing. Additionally, in 2007 he became visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Peking.

Furthermore, Professor Geßner got involved with different regional, national and international associations and with the industry. He supported the exchange between different disciplines, and also between science and arts.

With Professor Geßner we not only lose our dedicated and visionary director of our institute and the internationally recognized scientist, but also the human being Thomas Geßner.

Our thoughts are with his family, especially with his wife, his two children and his beloved grandchild.


Professor Thomas Otto, Professor Stefan Schulz and Professor Karla Hiller on behalf of all of the staff of the Center for Microtechnologies of the Technische Universität Chemnitz  and the Fraunhofer ENAS


We would appreciate a contribution to the book of condolence located in the foyer of Fraunhofer ENAS. If you wish to send a personal letter to his family please send it to the institute.