The beginning is made...

Foundation of the "Laboratory for Aerosol Physics and Filter Technology" (LAF) at the "Gesellschaft für Kernforschung mbH Karlsruhe" at today's KIT Campus North

The first director of LAF was Prof. Wolfgang Schikarski, who was also one of the very first board members of the German Association for Aerosol Research (GAeF).

In 1975, LAF had already 45 employees ("Bericht über die Tätigkeit der Institute und Abteilungen: 1975", Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe, No 2275, page 65).

The first aerosol chamber and model

LAF_ASA_lab KIT/Archiv
ASA Laboratory with the first aerosol and smog chamber

First version of the aerosol model "Nach Unfall Atmosphäre" (NAUA) to investigate the time behavior of radioactive aerosols in the post-accident atmosphere. In the model, the water vapor condensation on particles and the aerosol decomposition processes coagulation, diffusion and and sedimentation as well as thermophoresis were included. (from "Bericht über die Tätigkeit der Institute und Abteilungen: 1975", Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe, No 2275 )

The pioneering sentence...

...from director Schikarski and three attentive and enthusiastic employees initiated the idea to build up a much larger aerosol chamber.

pic_Schikarski KIT/Archiv

"We could actually need a really big smog chamber." (Prof. Schikarski)

finding_AIDA_vessel KIT/IMK-AAF

Two years later, in 1988, a suitable vessel for the new big chamber was found. Later in 1993, the vessel was transported to the workshop to add connectors and flanges.

COSIMA is born

The Computer Simulation of Aerosols (COSIMA) model simulates the structural and optical behavior of fractal particles. The model is a further development of the PARDISEKO models (Bunz, 1984).
The COSIMA, NAUA as well as the NACHE (NAUA and chemistry) models were used to perform preliminary studies for the new AIDA chamber.

The COSIMA model was further developed until 2013 and in 2013 also a web application of COSIMA was published.

An era comes to an end

After 18 years as director of the LAF I, Prof. Wolfgang Schikarski says goodbye. His successor becomes Prof. Ulrich Schurath.

Separation, realignment, new opportunities...

Parts of LAF I are affiliated as section "Atmospheric Aerosol Research" (AAF) to the "Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research" (IMK), which was founded in 1985.

The construction of the AIDA chamber

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STARK research reactor, which was in operation from 1965 to 1975. (photo from 1961)
argonaut_reactor KIT/Archiv
Inside the safety containment of the reactor with the concrete stone wall to shield the core. (photo from 1965)

The Schnell-Thermische Argonaut Reaktor Karlsruhe STARK research reactor, which was already dismantled in 1975, is being rebuilt. Its shell now serves as the hall for the new large aerosol chamber AIDA.

Deconstruction of the interior and floor of the former research reactor and construction of the new housing for the AIDA vessel.

construction_AIDA KIT/IMK-AAF
argonaut_reactor KIT/IMK-AAF
The AIDA vessel, which was found in 1988 on the site of today's KIT Campus North, gets a thermostated housing as a result of which the hall is not high enough. Therefore, the roof of the hall was removed and an additional floor was added.
construction_AIDA KIT/IMK-AAF
Attachment of the roof extension for the inner vessel housing and insertion of the vessel

In 1997, the AIDA aerosol chamber was inaugurated and first experiments were done on so called Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs).

First international campaign at AIDA

In 1999, the very first international campaign on soot aerosol took place at the AIDA aerosol chamber.

How the AIDA aerosol chamber became a cloud chamber

pic_laser KIT/IMK-AAF

The standard instrumentation of the AIDA chamber was extended by a Tunable Diode Laser absorption spectrometer to measure the water vapor content inside the chamber. With this innovation it was now possible to observe also cloud formation especially the heterogeneous ice nucleation on different aerosol particles.

New head of institute - new research areas

Prof. Schurath retires and Prof. Thomas Leisner takes over from him. Thomas Leisner is also Professor at the Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Heidelberg.

Two groundbreaking intercomparison campaigns

The evolving research field of cloud formation and cloud ice nucleation in the field and in the lab showed the need of an intercomparison campaign for humidity sensors (AQUAVIT) and for ice nucleating particle (INP) counters (ICIS07). The latter campaign was already attended by 37 participants from 13 different international institutions.

The new laboratory for cloud microphysics

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ASA Laboratory with the first aerosol and smog chamber
pic_paulfallen_lab KIT/IMK-AAF
New cloud microphysics laboratory

The ASA-laboratory is being rebuilt for the new cloud microphysics laboratory of Prof. Leisner. In the new laboratory, the freezing process of single cloud droplets is observed with an electrodynamic balance technique.

The old gives way to the new

nanoscience KIT/Markus Breig

The FAUNA facility (on the present meadow between building 326 and 327) for the investigation of nuclear aerosols in the project "Schneller Brüter" is deconstructed.

The FAUST facility (white building on the right of figure 1) is rebuild for the new "Atmospheric Nanoscience" laboratory. In 2010, first ice nucleation experiments on nano-sized particles in mesospheric condition were performed with the new instrument TRAPS.

The AAF goes into the field

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First measurements at the Schneefernerhaus station on the Mt. Zugspitze.
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First aircraft measurements with the newly developed SID-3 instrument during the MACPEX campaign over southern U.S. and during the VERDI campaign in the Arctic.

We need more space

Remodeling and new construction of Building 322 for a new larger workshop, more office space and laboratories.

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Reconstruction outside...
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...and reconstruction inside.
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Setup of the new gas tanks.
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In 2015, the rebuilt and new building 322 is ceremonially inaugurated.


The novel PHIPS instrument developed at IMK-AAF was modified to be mounted at the HALO research aircraft from DLR. The PHIPS-HALO is an airborne probe for the stereo-imaging of individual cloud particles and the simultaneous measurement of the polar scattering function of the same particle.

Series of international intercomparison campaigns

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2015_fin02 KIT/IMK-AAF

After about 10 years of the last intercomparison campaign at the AIDA cloud chamber, starts a series of two new intercomparison campaigns on aerosol mass spectrometers (FIN-01) and on ice-nucleating particle (INP) counters (FIN-02). 41 participants from 14 institutes were involved in the FIN-01 campaign and even 116 participants from 38 institutes in the FIN-02 campaign.

AIDA chamber becomes mobile

prototype_pine KIT/IMK-AAF

The prototype of the novel and unique mobile version of the AIDA cloud chamber PINE is ready. Later, a technology transfer project between IMK-AAF, University of Leeds and Bilfinger Noell GmbH is founded to further develope and commercialize the PINE cloud chamber.

commercial_pine Bilfinger Noell GmbH

I'm going on a trip and I'm taking: an aerosol container.

2016_aerosolcontainer KIT/IMK-AAF

For our field activities, the new mobile and modular container for comprehensive measurements of e.g. aerosol particle concentrations and composition is ready.

The first mission for the container is the "AeroTram" campaign in Karlsruhe and surroundings.

The AIDA family grows

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Setup of the shell of the new chamber.
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Insertion of the vessel into its shell.

The new cloud chamber AIDAdynamic (AIDAd) is setup in the new laboratory. With the new chamber we are able to investigate cloud and ice formation in rapidly rising air parcels. In 2020, first ice nucleation measurements were performed.

AIDA becomes illuminated

aida_sunsimulator KIT/Markus Breig

To investigate aerosol and cloud processes under the influence of sunlight, on top of the AIDA vessel a sunlight simulator was mounted. The simulator covers the entire solar spectrum, from sunrise to sunset.