Yearbook 2016

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Analysis of chemical bonding in compounds of the MgAgAs type of structure by bonding indicators in position space resulted in a generalization of the 8­–N rule for bonds of variable polarity. Position-space indicators enable quantification of ionicity and covalence, which was successfully used to explain the different site preference in main-group and transition-metal compounds of the MgAgAs type. On this basis, it was possible to propose promising candidates for new compounds with the MgAgAs structure type, which was subsequently verified for the majority of compounds by laboratory synthesis. more
The rich diversity of galaxy morphologies grows out of complex physical processes that govern the formation of new stars and the assembly of stellar mass over time. The advent of new near-infrared facilities allowed us to extensively study the distribution of stellar types and chemical properties of distant massive galaxies by measuring the absorption features in their spectra. This constrained their formation times and provided a more detailed picture of their stellar mass distribution, and their dynamical state at the time when the Universe was less than 4 billion years old. more
The dark matter of the universe probably consists of some sort of new elementary particles, although we have no specific clue as to their identity. The axion is a traditional hypothesis that is lately receiving a lot of renewed attention with many new activities. If these extremely low-mass particles are the dark matter of our galaxy, we should picture them as a kind of classical wave phenomena that can be picked up with a special antenna, producing a microwave signal. A new idea to realize this effect opens up new perspectives in our search for dark matter. more

Helically twisted photonic crystal fibres

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light Russell, Philip St.J.; Beravat, Ramin; Frosz, Michael H.; Wong, Gordon K. L.
Photonic crystal fibres (PCF) are strands of glass, not much thicker than a human hair, with a lattice of hollow channels running along the fibre. If they are continuously twisted in their production, they resemble a multi-helix. Twisted PCFs show some amazing features, from circular birefringence to conservation of the angular momentum. The biggest surprise, however, is the robust light guidance itself, with no visible fibre core. The basis for this are forces which, like gravitation, are based on the curvature of space. more
Many pathogenic bacteria, for example Neisseria gonorrhoeae, form microcolonies, aggregates consisting of up to several thousands of cells, due to type IV pili. These filaments mediate attractive cell-cell-forces that affect the spatially-dependent dynamics of cells within the colony. This dynamic heterogeneity can then give rise to an altered gene expression pattern in the microcolony and thus changing the phenotypes of the cells. This behavior is reminiscent of early embryonic development and suggests a view on bacterial microcolonies as model multicellular organisms. more
Despite intensive research since more than 60 years, it is still unknown, whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles or not. This would have considerable implications for particle physics and cosmology. The neutrinoless double beta decay could provide the key information. The GERDA experiment is searching this hitherto still undetected decay for the germanium isotope 76Ge. Presently, GERDA is world leading with the strongest suppression of background events and the best energy resolution, thus providing excellent conditions for a future discovery of the decay.   more
The new x-ray free-electron laser facilities deliver x-ray pulses of unpreceded brilliance, allowing even for an efficient driving of transitions in atomic nuclei. Such control could facilitate in the future the development of new energy storage solutions. Switching roles, nuclei can be used to store and control single x-ray quanta. This mutual control of nuclei and x-ray photons opens new experimental perspectives, with applications that profit from the robustness, penetration depth and especially from the focusability of x-rays. more
Small molecules interact with cellular components and thereby influence biological processes. In order to facilitate and accelerate the discovery of bioactive small molecules, an infrastructure for the storage and screening of small molecules was installed at the Compound Management and Screening Center (COMAS). The COMAS is an important mile stone in the Max Planck-Society`s exploitation of Know-How for medical research and the development of new pharmaceutical applications. more
Boundary zones were previously seen as physical barriers that separate plant tissues and thus allow the development of functional organs. However, recent studies revealed that boundaries, like those between the shoot apical meristem and leaf primordia and those between leaflets, also serve as launching pads for secondary meristem formation and play an important role in determining plant architecture. Interestingly, establishment of boundary zones during shoot branching and complex leaf development is regulated by homologous genes. more
Plant tissues exchange Protein-encoding RNA molecules. These mobile RNA molecules are evolutionary conserved and found in distantly related plant species. In target tissues mobile mRNAs are translated into proteins. The observed high number of mobile RNAs - approximately 20% transcribed genes produce mobile RNAs - questions the concept of cell autonomy and how we define signals in plant science. more
By means of the so-called divertor – specially equipped and cooled plates at the bottom of the plasma vessel to which particles are deflected from the edge of the plasma – a part of the generated fusion energy is dissipated in a later fusion power plant. With the Divertor Manipulator DIM-II, this concept is prepared at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device. With DIM-II, parts of the divertor can be examined and replaced without opening the plasma vessel. This allows for investigation of plasma-material interactions at the divertor plates as well as for concept studies for actively cooled plates. more
A pair plasma consisting of electrons and positrons is of great interest both in basic plasma physics and in astrophysics. Here these plasmas are believed to exist in the vicinity of various astrophysical objects. Within the framework of the APEX project, a magnetically confined electron-positron plasma is to be generated in the laboratory for the first time. First positron experiments have already yielded important results. more
By means of two examples, graphene nanoribbons and dimensionally stable dendrimers, I describe complex polymer syntheses and their great benefits for electronics on the one hand and gene therapy on the other. The first message I want to convey is that for ambitious goals in materials research, synthesis cannot only be "simple and practical," and the second message is that innovation needs the right people and partners. more
The sun is a well-known source of energy that has been heavily used in recent years. After long-term research and optimization, solar cells which convert solar energy into electrical energy, make it possible for many households and municipalities to use energy in an environmentally friendly manner by installing them on roofs and fields. However, this generation of energy is dependent on weather and daylight. The energy requirement, on the other hand, is usually not proportional to energy production. For this reason, the development of energy storage is becoming a major factor. more
Malformations of the cerebral cortex are often associated with intellectual disability and epilepsy. These disorders arise in the course of cortical development as a consequence of disturbance of neuronal development, migration and connection. In order to develop therapeutic strategies, it is essential to understand the genetic causes and to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying these malformations. The MPI research group uses cerebral organoids derived from induced stem cells for this purpose. more
Complex psychiatric disorders are thought to lie at the extreme end of an underlying continuum of behavioural traits. The opposite end of this continuum is embodied by milder symptoms that can occur in many of us. By studying social communication difficulties in the general population during the course of childhood and adolescence, scientists at the MPI for Psycholinguistics discovered recently a genetic overlap with factors affecting risk for autism and schizophrenia that is disorder-specific and developmentally sensitive. more
Most language usage is interactive, involving rapid turn-taking. The turn-taking system has a number of striking properties: turns are short and responses are remarkably rapid, yet turns are of varying length and often of very complex construction, so that the underlying cognitive processing is highly compressed. Although neglected in cognitive science, the system has deep implications for language processing and acquisition, just now becoming clear. more
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