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Optical Design & Engineering

Heraeus celebrates 150th birthday of inventor Richard Küch

SPIE Newsroom
20 August 2010

Richard KüchDr. Richard Küch (August 30, 1860 - June 3, 1915) stands out among the many talented researchers in the history of Heraeus for the number and diversity of the processes he discovered and created for industrial and medical applications. In 2010, SPIE Corporate Member Heraeus (Hanau, Germany) is celebrating the 150th birthday of the genius inventor with events and companywide initiatives.

Holding doctorate degrees in chemistry and physics, Küch brought a broad base of expertise with him when he was invited to join the company as a scientific researcher in 1890. The times were ripe for new discoveries. Industrialization was in full swing when brothers Heinrich and Wilhelm Heraeus brought on board a friend from their school days to join the company they had taken over from their father. The company gave Küch free rein for his ideas, which enabled him to conduct research in many directions, bring new developments to life, and forge contacts between Heraeus and the scientific community.

Just as Heraeus was important for Küch, the discoveries he made were crucial to the company's success and growth. Heraeus received its first patent in 1891 for a process developed by Küch for gilding sheet platinum. Starting in 1896, Heraeus began optimizing ceramic colors containing precious metals such as bright gold, bright platinum, and burnished gold. Then in 1899, Küch succeeded in producing bubble-free, high-purity quartz glass. The process he created for melting rock crystal using oxyhydrogen blowpipe technology led to the start of quartz glass production at Heraeus. The mercury vapor quartz glass lamp made its debut in 1904, and it became the market leader as the Höhensonne -- Original Hanau® artificial sunray lamp (pictured at right).

Küch's developments are still used in the industrial world and in everyday life. These include platinum alloys for the chemical industry. High-purity quartz glass in terms of optical fibers has made the Internet possible, and enables as a lense material the production of microchips that are getting smaller all the time. The standardized platinum resistance thermometer was also created by Richard Küch (1906). Temperature measurements are still conducted using the process he developed, for example in the steel industry for monitoring the quality of molten steel. Modern sensors in thin-film technology are used to control temperatures in cars and kitchen ovens.

Heraeus website