Axel Pichlmaier new Technical Director

On July 1, Dr. Axel Pichlmaier takes up the post of Technical Director of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz research neutron source. The 51-year-old physicist brings with him experience from neutron research as well as from reactor operation and nuclear supervision.

Dr. Axel Pichlmaier brings with him experience from neutron research as well as from reactor operation and nuclear supervision. © FRM II / TUM

With clarinet and in traditional costume Dr. Axel Pichlmaier enriched the summer festival 2016 at FRM II. © FRM II / TUM


The initial spark for Axel Pichlmaier's career was given by Professor Dr. Klaus Schreckenbach in 1992 in the lecture “Nuclear Solid State Physics” at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Schreckenbach found a working student in Axel Pichlmaier among the listening students in the field of basic research with neutrons at the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France. After his diploma thesis at the prototype positron source at the Atomic Egg, Pichlmaier finally did his PhD on ultracold neutrons within the framework of a collaboration between the TUM and the ILL, also under Professor Schreckenbach.

Now Axel Pichlmaier follows in his doctoral supervisor’s the footsteps, who was the first Technical Director of the FRM II from 1999 to 2005.

International experience

Axel Pichlmaier brings to the position of Technical Director not only scientific experience, which he further developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, and the Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland. In 2008, Axel Pichlmaier returned to his native city Munich with TÜV Süd as an expert in reactor physics. From there he moved to the research neutron source of the TUM in 2011, where he was simultaneously head of the department for reactor operation and shutdown operation of the Atomic Egg. When the ILL was looking for a deputy head of reactor operations with around 100 employees in 2018, Axel Pichlmaier moved to France once again. Axel Pichlmaier also likes to travel in other countries privately, but mostly by bicycle. He also plays clarinet and saxophone in various music groups.

Service for science

Now Pichlmaier returns to the FRM II and is looking forward “to the cooperation with the competent colleagues”, whom he still knows well from his seven years of work at the FRM II. The new Technical Director mentions as objectives to continue operating the FRM II safely, “as a service for science” at the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum. He also wants to make greater use of synergies between the European neutron sources, especially FRM II and ILL.

Big projects are waiting

According to Pichlmaier, the FRM II had been handed over by his predecessor Dr. Anton Kastenmüller “in perfect condition”. Kastenmüller's second term of office as Technical Director of FRM II ended in March 2020 after five years according to rotation. “In ten years, Dr. Anton Kastenmüller has rendered outstanding services to the safe operation of the FRM II,” said the Scientific Director of the FRM II and MLZ, Prof. Dr. Peter Müller-Buschbaum. He also expressly thanked Dr. Heiko Gerstenberg and Roland Schätzlein, who had provisionally taken over the Technical Management from April until Pichlmaier took office. In addition to safe operation, Pichlmaier and his more than 110 employees are also responsible for the supply of fresh fuel, the disposal of spent fuel elements and fuel conversion : major projects with far-reaching significance for FRM II.