ISI History

The Institute of Scientific Instruments (ISI) was established in 1957 as an institution providing instrumental equipment for other institutes of the Academy of Sciences in many areas. In the beginning the institute had 83 employees, though this number gradually increased to 240. During the process of transformation of the Academy of Sciences, which began in 1989, only the most promising branches of scientific research were supported at the institute. Consequently, the number of employees was reduced to 95 working full time. The structure of the scientific departments of the institute was also changed, so that it gained from the research activities of the projects solved by the research teams. The teams dealing with related problems are organised into departments. 

Historie "Tripod" (1950)

The Department of Electron Optics

The history of electron optics (ELO) at the Institute of Scientific Instruments was shaped by personalities, whose scientific career had begun during their studies. The students of Prof. A. Bláha – A. Delong, V. Drahoš and L. Zobač – built the first prototype electron microscope in this country, and followed this with the first serially produced instrument (the BS 241). At that time electron microscopes were built in only three countries in the world. In 1954 a functional model of a desktop electron microscope (the Tesla BS 242) was built and it won the Gold Medal at EXPO 1958. Over 1000 of these instruments were produced over a period of 20 years and exported to 20 countries.
The branch electron microscopy developed significantly in the sixties thanks to the then director Prof. A. Delong and the head of the department of electron optics Prof. V. Drahoš. Unique transmission, emission and scanning electron microscopes were built and, at the same time, the problems of highly stabile current and high voltage sources, problems of vacuum and, subsequently, ultra-high vacuum and analysis of residual gases were resolved. In 1962 the first experiments with electron interferences anywhere in the world were carried out at ISI and were soon applied to various cases. The development and realization of an instrument for electron beam welding was necessary for the construction of ultra-high vacuum devices, and such a device was first realized at the Institute of Scientific Instruments in 1968. The technology of membrane (welded) bellows subsequently proved to be an interesting application. One of the successful transmission microscopes developed in ELO was the TEM TESLA BS 413 microscope with a resolution of up to 0.6 nm and accelerating voltage up to 100 kV, of which 400 were produced by the company TESLA Brno to the end of 1975. At that time non-conventional forms of electron microscopy were also developed, e.g. interference, shadow, Lorentz and tunnel emission microscopy, as well as diffraction under small angles. The first experiments in the world and application possibilities of low-energy electron diffraction were demonstrated with the newly developed ISI electron microscope and were published by A. Delong and V. Drahoš in the journal Nature (1971). The end of the sixties was significant for the achievement of an ultra-high vacuum of 10-6 Pa in the specimen chamber of the emission microscope, which was preceded by the development of a vacuum technique and technology of electron beam welding.
This department also focused on calculations of the magnetic field of lenses and computation of electrons trajectories. Since 1973 the method of finite elements has been exploited for computation of electrostatic and magnetic rotation symmetric lenses. At that time more complex computations were very problematic, as ISI did not own a computer. Computing possibilities did not improve until the nineteen eighties. Regular visits by Professor T. Mulvey from the University of Aston, Birmingham, contributed significantly to the development of this branch and contacts with foreign laboratories.
In the middle of the nineteen seventies a team was established, which produced an Auger electron spectrometer in connection with a newly developed scanning electron microscope with a field-emission gun, subsequently produced as the TESLA BS 350. The development of an electron lithograph working with a field-emission gun began at the end of the nineteen seventies. A small series of this instrument was produced by the company TESLA Brno. The device is presently used for research into lithographical techniques in the production of holographic and diffraction structures and for testing preparations for the purposes of microscopy and micro-analysis. The development of new scintillation and cathodoluminescence screens began in the seventies. The introduction of a single crystal of YAG (Yttrium-aluminium-garnet) proved to be a particularly significant success within the scope of these efforts. The detectors based on this principle have become established around the world. In the area of thin layers a world first was achieved by the creation of a multi-layer x-ray mirror with resonance absorption, serving as an analyser during x-ray imaging of biological preparations by phase contrast in the dark field. Unique results in microscopy and diffraction by very slow electrons in scanning electron microscope have recently been presented. Software for electron optics is now improving at an extraordinary rate thanks to the development of information technology. Work in the field of environmental electron microscopy is also proving extremely successful, especially in the area of electron detection in the environment of higher gas pressure.


In 1950 the idea for a tabletop electron microscope was born, i.e. an instrument that would not aspire to ultimate parameters, and that would be simple, cheap and easy to operate. The instrument was completed in the Electron Optics Laboratory of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, where six employees worked under the leadership of A. Delong. A number of these microscopes were produced in the developmental workshops of the CSAS, and serial production began in 1956 at Tesla Brno under serial number Tesla BS242. The instrument won a Gold Medal at the Expo 58 World Exhibition in Brussels. Tesla produced more than 1,000 of these microscopes over the following 20 years. The resolution of this microscope, already with astigmatism correction, was 5 nm, and with careful operation as little as 2 nm. The accelerating voltage was from 30 to 75 kV.

The Tesla BS242 tabletop electron microscope (1954)



The electron beam welder allowed the welding of ultrahigh vacuum parts of microscopes developed at the Institute of Scientific Instruments. According to documents from the ISI the welder was built by a number of institutions.

Electron beam welder ES-2 (1969)


The electron beam lithograph contained a number of original solutions: a Schottky gun with high brightness, precise beam deflection, laser controlled motions of the specimen stage, and fast-response electronics.

Electron beam lithograph (1985)

Historie The first environmental scanning electron microscope in the Czech Republic for observing samples in their natural state (1996)

Ing. Josef Dadok (right), Ing. Oldrich Chramosta (left), and the technician R. Pospisil (middle).

Ing. Josef Dadok - the founder and leading spirit of the early NMR at the Institute and in Czechoslovakia ...


 The Department of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Department at ISI was founded in 1960 by J. Dadok, the constructor of the first ISI spectrometer working at a frequency of 30 MHz. The industrial production of spectrometers at TESLA Brno began in 1966. This was the only production of its kind in any of the Eastern European countries and continued for 25 years. These spectrometers were an extremely successful export article and several hundred of various types were produced, based on the R&D provided by ISI.
In 1967 a laboratory for low-temperature technology oriented towards the R&D of super-conducting magnets for NMR was established by J. Jelínek. After J. Dadok's emigration the department was led by K. Švéda and later (until 1990) by Z. Starčuk. In the 1970s the department began to deal with more methodological problems, for example Fourier pulse spectrometry, under the supervision of Z. Starčuk and V. Sklenář. The most significant achievements included a number of firsts in the field of NMR experiment methodology. The institute's specialists also achieved many original results in the fields of design and generation of magnetic fields in general, data processing and experiment control, spectrometer electronics, etc.
After 1990, when the production of NMR spectrometers at Tesla Brno ceased, the department was led by M. Kasal until 2002. The ongoing work has been carried out by several teams, focusing on the development of progressive electronic modules, radiofrequency and gradient coils for NMR spectrometers and tomographs, solving the problems related to NMR experiment control, data acquisition and processing in both spectroscopy and imaging, and on further methodological development, mainly oriented towards in vivo spectroscopy. Non-negligible research capacity was devoted to problems in cryogenics and the processing of biomedical signals.


The second CW-NMR Spectrometer developed at the Institute of Scientific Instruments ...



 A CW-NMR spectrum produced by the historical 60 MHz instrument ...and the technician R. Pospisil

(1964 - 1965)


CW NMR Spectrometer 80 MHz That time, a bit more freedom was in the air, and Ing. Dadok, CSc., left for a visiting fellowship in the USA in the fall '67 ... Later he become the Professor at Mellon Carnegie University in Pittsburgh, USA.



Single-beam infra-red spectrophotometer


The Department of Coherence Optics

The Department of Coherence Optics (former Quantum Generators of Light) was founded on the basis of the former Section of Infrared Spectroscopy at ISI shortly after the invention of lasers. F. Petrů was its head until 1999. At the beginning of 1960s the department was focused on the field of infrared spectrophotometry. From March 1963 the department had started work on manufacturing the first lasers in both solid and gaseous states. The department's staff was successful in both directions. Results came extremely quickly, as no longer than six months after this work began in October 1963 a stimulated emission at a wavelength of 1.15 μm was recorded, and shortly afterwards emissions at 3.39 µm and 633 nm obtained. An He-Ne laser working at a wavelength of 633 nm had already existed for two years and the technology of its production had not been published at that time. After being quickly put into production three types of lasers of different powers were displayed at the Brno Trade Fair in 1964 by their producer Meopta Přerov. A pulse laser was put into operation in 1964 and a machine for drilling diamonds was developed on its basis. Since 1967 the exact measurement of geometrical quantities by means of interference methods has been the main focus of the department. A frequency stabilized single-mode He-Ne laser was developed and formed the basis for the Czechoslovak laser sub-normal of lengths which was used by the metrological institutions of this country in the 1970s. Another achievement was the compact transferable and modular interferometric system (LIMS) that was designed for mechanical engineering and had several new functional possibilities –length measurement up to three axes, measurement of speeds, flatness, small angles with the possibility of correction to the air refractive index. In 1981 – 1982 a precise laser interferometric system was constructed. It measured the position in two coordinates with an accuracy of 40 nm as well as speed. From 1984 the department focused on the development of He-Ne lasers stabilized by the use of saturated absorption in iodine vapours, increasing the accuracy of interferometric systems, two-colour and absolute interferometry.
In 1995 J. Lazar, P. Zemánek and O. Číp focused on the use of semiconductor diodes in metrology, and in particular on increasing their coherence, frequency stabilization, and interferometric systems with a tuneable laser source. These results were recently used by F. Petrů for a new type of laser refractometre. In 1995 P. Zemánek established a new direction for the department exploiting focused laser beams for manipulation with nano- and micro-objects or microablation. Gradually new types of optical traps were developed, together with methods of measurement of pN forces, micro-particle sorting and laser induced fusion of living cells.


First Czechoslovak gas laser

(October 1963)

Historie Years 1965 and 1966 were devoted to work on gas lasers with higher output power.

The first model of the universal length measuring system.

The core of the system was supplemented by other units as a printer, x-y plotter and an automatic correction unit for the compensation of the refractive index of air. The company Metra Blansko included the system into their production line as a complex equipment for laboratories of industrial metrology in mechanical engineering.

Historie Laser drill for diamond feedtroughs.