Functional Surfaces and Coatings

Customized properties through coatings

Surfaces and coatings play a decisive role in the function and performance of optical components and systems. Through surface treatment and coating, new optical and functional properties can be realized precisely. We develop solutions to problems along the entire process chain, both in the laboratory and in cooperation with companies in the coating industry and end users.

Our services

  • Design of suitable surface, layer and material structures
  • Coating of thin single layers up to complex interference layer systems
  • Development of technologies for coating and nanostructuring
  • Technology transfer from laboratory to industrial applications
  • Surface and layer characterization, comprehensive and application-oriented
  • Resistance tests and failure analysis
  • Development and implementation of practical and scalable process chains



Our research groups

Our technological developments are currently being driven in the following groups:


Coating of Plastic Optics

Our team has been developing individual functionalizations for polymer and glass optics - especially nanostructured antireflective coatings - for more than 25 years.


Conformal Coatings

We realize homogeneous layers for complex shaped substrates as well as micro- and nanostructures with atomic layer deposition (ALD).


Coating for Space and Precision Optics

At Fraunhofer IOF we develop and manufacture optical and functional coatings from the XUV to the IR spectral range.


Surface and Coating Characterization

Our team performs roughness analyses of surfaces and layer systems as well as characterizations of optical (scattered light, absorption, spectrophotometry) and functional (wetting, haptics, laser damage) properties.

In addition, we work together in cross-group and cross-departmental agile teams to find and implement the optimal solution for complex tasks for our clients.


Extensive competencies and special expertise at Fraunhofer IOF


Functional coatings and surfaces are essential components of optical systems. Extensive expertise exists in the design of optical coating systems, in the development of coating processes for different applications and in the characterization of surfaces and coatings. Highly reflective coating systems for optics in the EUV and X-ray range as well as the functionalization of plastic surfaces deserve special mention.

We can also offer outstanding experience in the following areas:


Coating technologies at Fraunhofer IOF


In order to effectively develop solutions for a wide range of applications and requirement profiles, especially in the field of optical components and systems, Fraunhofer IOF has a broad pool of coating processes at its disposal, ranging from commercially available industrial facilities to customized individual solutions.

The possible diameters of the components to be coated range from small microlenses with a few millimeters to large mirrors with diameters of up to 500 mm. The most important coating technologies currently are:

  • (Plasma- and ion-assisted) vapor deposition
  • (Magnetron-) sputtering
  • Atomic layer deposition
  • Sol-gel coating
Technical equipment in the Fraunhofer IOF laboratory.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Magnetron sputtering system Nessy at Fraunhofer IOF.

Analysis methods at Fraunhofer IOF


An essential prerequisite for these developments is a comprehensive pool of analysis and characterization methods as well as solid interfaces to the design and production of optical components and systems. Both commercial tools and special in-house developments are used. Our key focus areas are:

  • High-resolution methods for the analysis of roughness and morphology (atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, white light interferometry, laser scanning microscopy)
  • Analysis of optical properties (spectrophotometry, highly sensitive angle-resolved and total scattered light measurement)
  • Analysis of functional properties (wetting analysis, adhesive strength, scratch resistance / tribology, environmental resistance)

We develop and apply methods which are highly sensitive and allow maximum gain of knowledge. They should, however, also be economical and practicable. Additionally, we especially strive for standardization and resilient integration into certified process chains. We are an active member in VDI committees and in DIN/ISO TC 172/SC 9 “Laser and electro-optical systems”.

In addition, we develop customized scattered light-based measuring systems and sensors, which allow a highly efficient, contactless and fast determination of roughness and defects. The systems can be used in a wide range of applications - from machine components to optical surfaces and can be directly integrated into existing manufacturing processes.

EUV collector in ALBATROSS: setup of a collector substrate for scattered light measurement.
© Fraunhofer IOF
The ALBATROSS system works at different laser wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared range, in all three spatial directions, angle resolved (ARS-Angle Resolved Scatter), polarization dependent and is also suitable for complex shaped as well as very large components with edge lengths up to 500 mm. Rough technical to superpolished optical surfaces can be investigated.

Fields of application


Our solutions cover a wide range of applications from extreme UV to the infrared spectral range. Our key focus areas are among others:- Highly reflective and durable mirrors for astronomy and space applications

  • Precision coatings for lithography, inspection and measuring systems
  • Broadband antireflection coating of plastic optics for camera and sensor systems (AR-plas and AR-plas2)
  • Scratch-resistant antireflective coatings for display covers in automotive engineering, LIDAR systems and glasses
  • Conformal coatings of complex components and microstructures
  • Functional surfaces for bio- and medical technology
  • Components for laser and quantum communication systems
  • Coatings for crystals

We also transfer our expertise in the field of optical components and systems to technical surfaces and vice versa. This fusion enables multifunctional surfaces that combine, for example, excellent optical properties with high scratch resistance and self-cleaning properties.

Plastic optical lens with nanostructured anti-reflective coating. The right coated half shows the effect of the anti-reflective system.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Nanostructured anti-reflection coatings for plastics, e.g. for use in the automotive sector.
Three light metal mirrors of different sizes.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Coated metal mirrors for space applications, manufactured by ultra-precision machining and coated with highly reflective silver layers.
A silicon wafer with diffractive optical gratings in the hands of a researcher.
© Fraunhofer IOF
A silicon wafer with diffractive optical gratings and conformal coating by atomic layer deposition.

Do you have questions about our services?  

In a personal meeting, we will advise you on our (individual) range of services and our core competencies. Please contact us. 

Are you interested in a cooperation? Contact us!

We develop special and visionary solutions - tailored to the needs and wishes of our customers. Let us talk about your idea(s).


You would like to work with us?
Then apply with us!

We are always looking for creative minds and committed people who want to develop innovative solutions with light together with us. Visit our job portal or send us a speculative application: