Research Highlights 2018

The yearbook of the Max Planck Society collects the greatest science from last year

June 27, 2019

Each year, the Max Planck Society submits a scientific research report in the form of a yearbook to render account of the scientific research performed at its Institutes to the public and its funding providers. The central questions addressed are: Where do we stand, and where do we want to go? The Max Planck Institutes are asked to select a work or project from their scientific activities in 2018, which are suitable for publication in the yearbook, and outline the relevant findings and conclusions.

For this printed yearbook collection, 15 articles were selected and edited in a journalistic manner, which seemed particularly suited for publication from a science communication perspective and especially interesting for non-experts. Among the highlights of the yearbook 2018 are research results, for example, in the field of protein engineering, which should lead to the development of artificial biosensors for a rapid and self-determined control of blood values and could bring great relief for many patients with metabolic diseases. Or the idea of developing carbon dioxide as an alternative carbon source for the production of fuels to high-quality fine chemicals, so-called “Power-to-X” concepts. And finally, the efforts of a team of legal experts to unravel the web of EU directives, national law and scientific regulations that have led to the “Commentaries on European Contract Laws”, which can now serve as the scientific basis for modern European contract law.

The following four articles from the yearbook illustrate the wide range of different research topics studied at our institutes.

Just eat what tastes good? This is absolutely taboo for many metabolic diseases. A strict diet and regular laboratory tests are part of everyday life — a psychological and social burden. The latest research results from Kai Johnsson, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, could soon bring great relief to these and many other patients: "protein engineering" enables the design of artificial biosensors for rapid and autonomous blood value checks. more
According to a survey, three out of five German citizens fear terrorist violence. Their fear is fed not only by the perceived unscrupulousness of the perpetrators of violence, but also by the fact that terrorists appear to be barely predictable in their actions. Yet even radical groups act in accordance with a certain logic that can be studied. Carolin Görzig, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), focuses on understanding the patterns, which cause terrorists either to become radicalized or else to renounce violence. more
More than a century ago, Albert Einstein completed his general theory of relativity. The predictions of this theory can be tested in the universe — for example in the centre of our Milky Way, where a black hole with enormous gravitational force presents fantastic opportunities for such measurements. In 2018, Frank Eisenhauer and Reinhard Genzel, both from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, succeeded in three ground-breaking experiments with the Gravity instrument that was developed at their Institute. For the first time, they were able to prove the gravitational redshift around a massive black hole, they tracked orbital motions very close to the point of no return, and determined the mass of cosmic gravitational traps more than a billion light years away. Gravity, with its unique image sharpness and sensitivity, is revolutionizing astronomy. more
3D printing of plastic parts is a standard procedure in mang fields, but a lot of research work is still needed when it comes to metals. However, it is obvious that additive manu-facturing, the specialist term for this technology, could potentially revolutionize metalworking and open up new fields of application. A group lead by Eric A. Jägle from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung develops procedures to improve the design of metal alloys for and through 3D printing. more
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