Yearbook 2017

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Every musical instrument has its own sound with a frequency spectrum that is determined by the shape of the instrument. In analogy to that, every metal has its characteristic frequency spectrum reflecting the properties of its electrons. Our investigation of the quantum sound of electrons in the metal PdRhO2 shows that electrons move quickly in the crystallographic planes whereas they hardly move perpendicular to the planes. The quantum music sounds slightly differently than expected and will help understand the particular hydrodynamic transport properties of electrons in these metals. more
For a long time the formation of protostellar disks – a prerequisite to the formation of planetary system around stars – was considered to be difficult. The magnetic field threading the dense rotating molecular cloud is dragged to the center by the gravitational collapse, resulting in a braking effect that carries away angular momentum from the central region. Hardly any rotationally supported disk can form this way, unless the tiny grains are removed from the cloud and the separation between the magnetic field and the collapsing flow is enhanced. more
Are neutrinos responsible for the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe? Are neutrinos identical to their own antiparticles? The GERDA experiment for the search of the neutrinoless double beta decay was built to find answers to these questions. more
Light can exert forces that have a significant impact on the nanoscale, enabling control of the mechanical movement of structures smaller than a human hair. This type of physics promises a variety of applications, from highly sensitive measurements to signal transduction in quantum communication. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light have now predicted how the transport of light and sound can also be controlled in this way. So-called 'topological boundary channels' promise novel signal transmission. more
The interactions between atoms and photons (i.e. particles of light) has been investigated for a long time. In recent years it became possible to precisely control them to a high degree. The results are fascinating. In particular, it is possible to employ atoms to mediate strong interactions between photons. As a many-body system, a collection of interacting photons is a very interesting object of research, whose investigation has just scratched the surface of a complex and novel phenomenology. It turns out that under proper conditions the photons can crystallise — light becomes matter. more

High-precision measurement of the proton mass

Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics Köhler-Langes, Florian; Heiße, Fabian; Rau, Sascha; Sturm, Sven und Blaum, Klaus
From single molecules to entire planets – all the visible matter surrounding us consists of atoms. In turn all atoms are composed of only three types of particles. Electrons form the atomic shells, protons and neutrons the atomic nuclei. The basis for a better understanding of this atomic structure is the precise knowledge of its properties, such as the masses of the mentioned particles. The world's most accurate measurement of the mass of the proton has now been achieved with an elaborate Penning-trap apparatus [1]. more
How the hereditary material in the cell nucleus is organized determines its flexibility in structure and composition that underlies the genetic processes. Researchers at the MPI of molecular Physiology developed methods using genetically encoded cross-linker amino acids to study chromatin changes in living cells. They have discovered an interaction between nucleosomes which contributes to the condensation of chromosomes during mitosis. In future studies, these methods will help to analyze hereditary processes during the cell cycle. more
To improve crop quality and yield, breeders need to control the fertility of stamens, the male organs that produce pollen within sacs called anthers. For example, it would be ideal to manipulate at will the release of pollen from anthers. However, this firstly requires a detailed understanding of how anther cells themselves activate pollen release. In barley, this activation seems to be triggered by the phytohormone auxin and requires enzymes to separate specific cells from each other to finally open the anthers. more
Coccolithophores are single-celled marine algae that form intricately-shaped scales made of the mineral calcite. Such complex biominerals are interesting models for bioinspired materials chemistry. Biogenic calcite formation is an important component of the global carbon cycle and exerts major influence on our climate. Understanding calcite biomineralization in coccolithophores has the potential to revolutionize the synthesis of materials for nanotechnology and to improve our predictive models for the future of biogenic calcification, which is relevant for future life on our planet. more
In addition to large experimental equipment, computer simulations on supercomputers have been playing an increasingly important role in fusion research in recent years. By combining tailored physical models with state-of-the-art numerical methods, it is possible to solve the complex basic equations of plasma physics on some of the world's most powerful computers. Thus, many important individual aspects of plasma dynamics can already be described quantitatively today. more
Construction of the neutral particle heating for the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device will soon be completed. In addition to the existing microwave heating, the new device will be ready for use from summer next year. It will inject up to seven megawatts into the plasma. more
1993, twelve years after the discovery of photonics, was the birth of phononic materials for the controlled propagation of mechanical/acoustic waves. The first experimental realization followed in soon after at sonic and later at hypersonic frequencies using macromachinery and soft matter self-assembly. Two examples, artificial and natural hierarchical structures, will highlight the new emerging field of high frequency phononics aiming at tunable strong, deaf, cool and interactive materials. more
The synthesis of very small diamond particles, so-called nanodiamonds, with precisely localized lattice defects and controlled morphologies, remains of great challenge in synthetic chemistry and materials design. However, mastering these challenges represents an exciting and prospective endeavor. Functionalized nanodiamonds offer great potential as unique quantum sensors and they promise mastering the far-reaching goal of structure and dynamic analysis of single biomolecules in their cellular environments and serve as efficient transport and improved contrast agents for in vivo drug delivery. more
Psychiatric diseases represent one of the major public health burdens in western societies. The scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry are developing a new system medicine approach in order to address these challenges. In this approach, pluripotent stem cell based personalized disease models are used to generate various human brain cells in the laboratory. By combining these models with sophisticated computational analysis strategies, the scientists aim at decoding the patient specific molecular genetic basis of these diseases. more
How the capacity for human language evolved and is encoded in our biology is one of the great unanswered questions. Studying language relevant abilities in animals, such as the ability to learn new vocalisations, will make it possible to decipher the basis of these traits. By studying the genetics, neurobiology and behaviour of bats we will advance our knowledge about the origins of mammalian vocal communication and may ultimately gain insight into the biological encoding and evolution of human speech and langauge. more
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