Institute of Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Image - Ukrainskyi fizychnyi zhurnal, 2022, no. 5.

Institute of Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Інститут фізики НАНУ; Instytut fizyky NANU). A scientific research institute at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and a leading center of fundamental research in the fields of experimental and theoretical physics in Ukraine. It was established in Kyiv in 1929 as the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Physics out of the physics chair of the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute. Incorporated into the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (VUAN) in 1932, it was renamed the Institute of Physics (IoP) of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in 1936. The founding of IoP coincided with the rapid developments in world physics, particularly the rise of relativity theory, the beginnings of quantum mechanics, the study of atomic nucleus and solid state, and the formulation of the theory of electromagnetic wave generation. IoP was created, together with several other scientific research institutes (among them the Ukrainian Institute of Physical Chemistry in Dnipropetrovsk, est. 1927, and the Ukrainian Physical-Technical Institute in Kharkiv, est. 1928), in response to the growing military and industrial needs of Soviet economy. By the end of the 1930s a number of research areas emerged in IoP, including physics of semiconductors (Oleksander Goldman, Vadym Lashkarov), theoretical physics (Leon Kordysh), electronics physics and physics of electrovacuum processes (Naum Morgulis), and X-ray and metal physics (Solomon Hertsriken). On the eve of the Second World War, IoP employed a staff of 122 people, including 36 scientists. It also had an experimental production workshop and published its own periodical Ukraїns'ki fizychni zapysky (1926–36).

During the Stalinist terror in the 1930s several of the institute’s prominent associates were repressed, including its founding director Oleksander Goldman (arrested in 1938 and exiled to Kazakhstan in 1939), the pioneering specialist in the physics of semiconductors Vadym Lashkarov (arrested in 1935 in Leningrad but allowed to work at IoP in 1939), and a specialist in quantum mechanics Lev Shtrum (accused of belonging to a Trotskyite-Menshevik group and executed in 1936 in Bykivnia). After Shtrum’s execution, his position in theoretical physics was offered to Nathan Rosen, a young but already famous American (and later Israeli) physicist and Albert Einstein’s collaborator. While in Kyiv, Rosen published an article in the world-renowned American science journal Physical Review and became the first ever physicist from IoP to get published in that periodical. During the Second World War, IoP was evacuated to Ufa, RSFSR, where it was joined by the staff of the Institute of Mathematics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR and the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. While in Ufa, the physicists worked predominantly for the needs of Soviet defense industry (communications, aircraft engine building, chemical mechanical engineering, etc.). The institute returned to Kyiv in 1944 and was quickly rebuilt. By 1953 it had several new buildings, including laboratories, production facilities, and residential quarters. New research areas were developed in the 1940s and 1950s, such as nuclear physics (Aleksandr Leipunsky, Mytrofan Pasichnyk), crystal physics (Antonina Prykhotko, Oleksander Davydov), and theoretical physics (Solomon Pekar, Kyrylo Tolpyho). The laboratory of metal physics was opened in IoP in 1946 and was reorganized as the Institute for Metal Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in 1955. An electrostatic generator was built in 1947, followed by the cyclotron laboratory in 1954, and nuclear reactor in 1960. Thanks to these installations, IoP added a new research field: plasma physics. At the same time, several of the institute’s research departments and laboratories gave rise to new separate scientific research institutes, among them the Institute of Metal Physics (1955), the Institute of Physics of Semiconductors of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (1960), the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (1966), the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (1970), and the International Center ‘Institute of Applied Optics’ (1994). Despite the transfer of many of the IoP’s leading scientists to the newly established institutes, new areas of research were added in the 1960s, such as quantum electronics and holography, nonlinear optics, and pyron detectors of radiation. IoP’s staff during that period included a number of prominent physicists such as Oleksander Kharkevych, Mykhailo Deihen, Vadym Diachenko, Petro Borziak, Viktor Yeremenko, Georgii Latyshev, Andrii Liubchenko, Oleksii Sytenko, and Oleh Snitko. Ironically, the period of the institute’s unprecedented growth was also the time of rising political repression in Soviet Ukraine. The institute’s physicists responded by taking a courageous public stand against it. For instance, in 1967 several of the institute’s working and former staff signed ‘The Letter of 139’ protesting the wave of political persecutions in the Ukrainian SSR. Among the 139 signatories was Vitalii Bondar, Oleh Sarbei, Petro Tomchuk, Ivan Dziub, Tolpyho, Sytenko, and Liubchenko (a Lenin Prize winner).

IoP boasted of the largest number of officially registered scientific discoveries among Soviet research institutions—six, including the experimental discovery by Naum Morgulis and P. Marchuk of the phenomenon of thermoemission conversion of thermal energy into electricity (1949); the so-called Rashba effect named after the institute’s scientist Emmanuel Rashba, who studied a momentum-dependent splitting of spin bands in bulk crystals (1959); the discovery by Petro Borziak, Oleh Sarbei, and R. Fedorovych of ‘the phenomenon of cold electron emission during the passage of current through the island metal layers’ (1965); the experimental discovery by Oleksander Davydov and Antonina Prykhotko of ‘the phenomenon of splitting of nondegenerate molecular terms in crystals having two or more molecules in a unit cell,’ the so-called ‘Davydov’s splitting’ (1966); the discovery by Sarbei of ‘the phenomenon of ambiguity of the anisotropy of the semiconductor crystals’ properties due to the peculiarities of their band structure’; and the discovery by Solomon Pekar of ‘the phenomenon of propagation of additional light waves in crystals’ along with the creation of the theory of polarons. The institute’s physicists were awarded the highest prizes of the USSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and independent Ukraine, including the Lenin Prize, four State Prizes of the USSR and 18 State Prizes of Ukraine (before and after 1991), as well as prizes of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and various international awards. Several designs developed in IoP were implemented in Soviet industry, including metal cryostats, bolometers and electrotopograph used in space research, cryosurgical instruments, lasers, and pyroreceivers. In particular, until the early 1970s the institute’s own research production enterprise, in response to the needs of more than fifty industrial plants in the USSR, produced high-sensitivity FESS photo cells based on silver sulfide. In the early 1980s the institute’s production enterprise was transformed into a special technological-design office (SKTB) of physical instrument-making that searched for practical uses of scientific discoveries and designs made in IoP. The products of applied research that were put to practical use included pyroelectric radiation detectors, lasers of various types and uses, and cryomedical instruments. By the mid-1980s almost a half of the institute’s staff (around 1,200 in total) worked in the SKTB. IoP took an active part in the liquidation of consequences of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster.

During the period of an acute economic crisis of the late 1980s through the 1990s, IoP saw dramatic cuts in the state funding of its programs, especially in the field of fundamental research. The situation somewhat improved with the inauguration of the State Foundation of Fundamental Research in 2001, as well as with a wider availability of grants in science and technology from international societies and foundations (among them the American Physical Society, Soros Foundation, Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, and the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) Global). Nonetheless, a number of institute’s leading scientists left for the West where they found employment in different public and private research institutions. But this also strengthened collaboration between IoP and Western institutions, which led to the creation of new fields of research at the institute, such as optics and physics of liquid crystals (Yurii Reznikov) and molecular electronics (Vasyl Nazarenko). Physicist Oleksander Marchenko, who worked for a long time in France, returned to IoP in 2013 to head the department of physical electronics. For many decades, IoP has also maintained close relations with Kyiv’s leading institutions of higher education. For instance, many of the institute’s scientists, including Leon Kordysh, Naum Morgulis, Oleksander Davydov, Vadym Diachenko, Aleksandr Lashkarov, Mytrofan Pasichnyk, Solomon Pekar, Oleksii Sytenko, and Kyrylo Tolpyho, were professors at Kyiv National University. This practice continues today, as a number of institute’s physicists create new departments, give lectures, and supervise graduate students at Kyiv National University, Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine, the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, National Aviation University, and Kyiv Academic University at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

IoP has 17 research departments (including gas electronics, optical quantum electronics, molecular photoelectronics, photoactivity, photon processes, adsorption phenomena, optics and spectroscopy of crystals, physics of biological systems, physics of crystals, theoretical physics, and others), 5 laboratories (among them radiation technology, ferroelectrics, and cryogenics technologies), Laser Femtosecond Complex, a graduate program, a special technological-design office (DSKTB) of physical instrument-making, and scientific library (with 300,000 volumes, including 182,000 periodicals). The institute’s staff of 450 includes more than 300 scientists (among them 3 academicians and 8 corresponding members of the NANU) who conduct research in the following priority areas: physics of nanostructures; theoretical and experimental studies of quasiparticles; physics of liquid crystals and polymer environments; fundamental studies of the interaction of laser radiation with matter; studies of adsorption and electronic phenomena and phase transitions on the surface of solids; study of ion beam and methods of their operation; and physics of biological systems. In 2018 IoP was recognized as the leader of science in Ukraine in the field of ‘engineering and technologies’ according to Scopus Awards Ukraine.

The institute’s main building is officially designated (1998) ‘an architectural monument’ (landmark), as ‘one of the best examples of the architectural heritage of Ukraine in the postwar period,’ and in recognition of the monumental painting of its dome, made in encaustic technique by the Ukrainian artist Mykola A. Storozhenko. IoP publishes the periodical Ukraїns'kyi fizychnyi zhurnal/Ukrainian Journal of Physics (67 vols, 1956–). The institute has been directed by Oleksander Goldman (1929–38), O. Myseliuk (1938–41), Heorhii Pfeiffer (1941–4), Aleksandr Leipunsky (1944–9), Mytrofan Pasichnyk (1949–65), Antonina Prykhotko (1965–70), Marat Shpak (1970–87), Mykhailo Brodyn (1987–2006), Ihor Soloshenko (2006–7), Leonid Yatsenko (2007–18), and Mykhailo Bondar (2018–).

Instytut fizyky NAN Ukraїny: 80 rokiv (Lviv 2009)
Bondar, Mykhailo; Nehriiko, Anatolii; Riabchenko, Serhii, ‘Istoriia i siohodenniia Instytutu fizyky Natsional'noї akademiї nauk Ukraїny (do 90-richchia vid chasu zasnuvannia Instytutu),’ Visnyk Natsional'noї akademiї nauk Ukraїny, 2 (2019)
The Institute’s official website:

Serhiy Bilenky

[This article was updated in 2022.]

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