Feinkornzone von im Vakuum verschweissten Armco-Eisenstäben. Aus: "Schweissversuche mit Elektronenstrahlen von Weichstahl- und Armco-Eisenstäben" (A.F.I.F. für Balzers AG, 1962). ETH-Hochschularchiv.


A thin affair (ca. 1930-1980)

How did the heavenly, perfect and untouchable emptiness become the measurable, relative and usable vacuum?

The project examines this transformation, thus combining history of technology and history of science. It mobilizes pumps, evaporation coating systems, rockets, thin films, researchers, patent rights, international exhibitions and company catalogues. It explores the multiple translation acts that enabled trading a procedural border area between vacuum and matter over the course of the 20th century. 

The research is based on the archives of three main actors in research and industry in the field of vacuum technology and physics: the company Oerlikon Balzers, the Industrial Research Department of the Institute of Applied Physics at ETH, and CERN.


- (in press): "High Vacuum", in: Proof of Stake: Claims to Technology. A Book of Organizational Objects, eds. T. Beyes, R. Holt, C. Pias. Lenz Press, 2022.



- "Mit nichts unterwegs. Vakuumtechnologie im Transfer um 1945." Technik im Nationalsozialismus. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Technikgeschichte, Nordhausen, KZ-Gedenkstätte Mittelbau-Dora, 20.-22. Mai 2022.

- "Coordinating the void. On the foundation of the Swiss Society for Vacuum Physics and Technology", Swiss Vacuum Society, November 4, 2021.

- "Vakuum. Eine dünne Geschichte". Institut für Geschichte, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), January 23, 2020.



- "Producing Emptiness and Working with Nothing. Vacuum Technology in the 20th Century", Seminar FS 2021, ETH Zürich (with D. Gugerli).