Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion

Sun and wind provide more than enough clean energy to cover the requirements of mankind – unfortunately, however, not always where and when it is needed, and often not in a usable form. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion are working on finding ways of storing such energy in chemical compounds. They investigate how energy can be efficiently converted into storable and usable forms, in particular searching for suitable catalysts for the chemical reactions necessary for this process. To this end, researchers use plants as models that directly produce sugar by harnessing the energy of light. But they also want to enhance methods such the electrolysis of water, with which excess electrical energy can be stored.


Stiftstr. 34 - 36
45470 Mülheim an der Ruhr
Phone: +49 208 306-4
Fax: +49 208 306-3951

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS on Reactive Structure Analysis for Chemical Reactions

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

A rapid transition of the world’s energy systems
Jürgen Renn, Robert Schlögl, Christoph Rosol and Benjamin Steininger present a research initiative of the Max Planck Society on socio-technical aspects of energy transformation. more
Solar fuels as generated by nature
Thanks to new insights into the details of photosynthetic water splitting, the prospects for the development of clean fuels based on water and sunlight are improving more
A protecting umbrella against oxygen
Toward fuel cells built from renewable and abundant components more
On the trail of new options for energy conversion
The Max Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Mülheim is set to change its name. Given its new focus on energy research, it will now be called the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion. more
Focus on Photosynthesis

Focus on Photosynthesis

November 23, 2006
An international group of researchers working with a Max Planck scientist determines the arrangement of atoms in the manganese cluster of photosystem II more
No articles in MaxPlanckResearch found.
Max Planck Research Group Leader
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Mülheim an der Ruhr April 20, 2018
The conversion of nitrogen to bioavailable ammonia is a process that is crucial for life on earth. In Nature, the nitrogenase family of enzymes is able to catalyze this conversion under ambient temperatures and pressures. Modifications of the nitrogenase enzyme also allow it to catalyze the reduction of carbon monoxide. more
The energy conversion leads to even greater shares of renewable electricity ("green electricity") in the system. Nevertheless, the emission of CO2 is not yet decreasing as expected. The major neglect of the mobility sector is one of the causes. This sector is experiencing one of the greatest upheavals in its history by discussing drive trains. As a possible critical problem solver, chemistry plays a largely passive role, although it will be severely affected by the results of this discussion. more

Hydrogen from solar energy: state of research and future prospects

2016 van Gastel, Maurice; Lubitz, Wolfgang; Neese, Frank

How does nature produce hydrogen? Are the natural systems suitable for usage in a future hydrogen economy? Which properties should catalyst materials have in order to be applicable in industrial processes? How do the presently available catalysts function at the molecular level? Do we understand their catalytic mechanism sufficiently well and how can these catalysts be improved? The MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion is dedicated to answering these fundamental questions important for energy conversion and storage. 


In the future, it could be more economical and environmentally friendly to use hydrogen as energy carrier. Many microorganisms are ahead of technology. They use the enzyme hydrogenase that contains abundant metals like iron and nickel, to cycle hydrogen, completely avoiding the use of precious metals like platinum. Learning how these enzymes work has provided scientists with clues to synthesize better semi-artificial hydrogenases and improve the performance of these hydrogenases in the harsh environment of a fuel cell.

The supply of energy is currently a global issue. The traditional structures are changing rapidly, as there are deep breaks in the supply of raw materials, because the consequences of climate change are calling for action and because political and economic considerations should lead to energy self-sufficiency. One cause of the strong public and political perception of these processes is the paramount importance of energy for economic and social stability of a country. more

The necessity for a sustainable energy economy beyond fossil fuels and nuclear energy has nowadays found broad consensus. The transformation of the present technologies is a huge challenge for society as a whole, which will dominate the following decades politically and economically. Basic research can deliver insights, which will lead to novel and essential technologies. With the foundation of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion the MPG has set the course for this important development.


How small vampires dilute human blood

2012 Knipp, Markus
Nitrophorins comprise a unique class of metal containing proteins originating from blood sucking bugs. On bite they transport the gaseous signaling molecule nitric oxide (NO) into the tissue of a host. Application of various spectroscopic techniques reveals the molecular mechanisms that lead to specific NO delivery. Recent investigations demonstrate that the NO coordinating iron center is also able to produce NO from nitrite. Because NO causes the opening of blood vessels (vasodilatation), the understanding of these native NO transporting systems is of major pharmacological interest. more

Insight into Nature's fascinating power station: the water-splitting system of photosynthesis

2011 Ames, W.; Pantazis, D. A.; Neese, F.
Chemistry Plant Research
The unique process of photosynthesis, which converts sunlight into storable chemical energy, sustains life on Earth. To understand how Nature achieves this feat is one of the greatest challenges for science – and of great importance for our future energy supply. Unfortunately even the structure of the water oxidase, one of the principal components of photosynthesis, has not yet been resolved unambiguously. By combining spectroscopy and quantum chemistry deep insight into this central process could be attained. more

Light as a regulatory environmental factor

2010 Gärtner, Wolfgang
Chemistry Plant Research
Sunlight regulates many environmental processes, but in particular the high-energy blue light region represents a threat that has to be detected with high confidence and to which organisms have to respond in an appropriate physiological manner. Based on in vitro investigations that reveal the molecular processes of blue light (BL)-sensitive photoreceptors, their regulatory function for microbial communities is outlined. Interestingly, the presence of BL photoreceptors coincides with blue light-induced photolyases that repair DNA lesions, and also with proteins involved in the iron metabolism pathway. more

The electron structure of "simple" iron complexes: a very complex problem

2009 Khusniyarov, Marat; Weyhermüller, Thomas; Bill, Eckhard; Wieghardt, Karl
Chemistry Solid State Research
We present a relatively simple inorganic system of two co-crystallized synthetic iron complexes with remarkably complex electronic structures, owing to the large number of possible redox states at the metal centers as well as at the redox-active ligands. For the first time an unprecedented complex reversible phase transition at 235 K is observed. With this model the exploration of complex processes, which may happen in similar ways in biological systems, is demonstrated by combined experimental techniques. more

Why do plants not get sunburn?

2008 Holzwarth, Alfred R.; Miloslavina, Yuliya; Müller, Marc G.; Szczepaniak, Malwina; Ostroumov, Evgenyi; Slavov, Chavdar
Plant Research Quantum Physics
Plants exhibit highly efficient protection mechanisms that prevent the damaging influence of high excessive light intensities. In these processes the excess energy absorbed in the light-harvesting complexes of the photosystems is converted into heat. Recent studies allowed to assign these protection mechanisms to specific components of the photosynthetic apparatus. In order to gain insight into these regulation mechanisms special methods of ultrafast fluorescence spectroscopy were developed which – in combination with the use of mutants – allowed to study molecular details of the protection mechanisms. more

Radical Complexes as functional models for metalloenzymatic catalysis

2007 Chaudhuri, Phalguni; Wieghardt, Karl; Weyhermüller, Thomas; Bothe, Eberhard; Bill, Eckhard
Significant efforts were directed towards the design and testing of phenol-containing ligands for synthesizing radical-containing transition metal complexes as potential candidates for oxidative catalysis of organic substrates like alcohols, amines and 2-aminophenol with oxygen from air. Functional models for different copper-oxidases, such as Galactose Oxidase (GO), Amine Oxidases (AO) and Phenoxazinone Synthase (PHs) are reported. In most of the cases, an "on-off" mechanism of the radicals without redox participation from the metal centers seems to be operative in the catalysis involving such metal-iminosemiquinone radical complexes. more

Production and Consumption of Molecular Hydrogen by Hydrogenases

2006 van Gastel, Maurice; Reijerse, Eduard J.; Lubitz, Wolfgang
Chemistry Structural Biology
Molecular hydrogen (H2) is an important energy carrier in environmentally-friendly applications, e.g. clean fuel cells, which are under development worldwide. However, presently the large scale production of hydrogen from water and sunlight is still a major challenge. In nature anaerobic bacteria use this molecule as energy source. The two major classes of hydrogenases, the enzymes that catalyze the production or the splitting of H2, were investigated by means of EPR and FTIR spectroscopy and quantumchemical calculations to elucidate the reaction mechanism. more

Spectroscopic Models for Paramagnetic Active Sites in Photosystem II

2005 Bill, Eckhard
Chemistry Quantum Physics Structural Biology
Photosynthesis in green plants and some bacteria is based on the efficient function of most sophisticated molecular machines. Like in a factory assembly line, sunlight is captured, stabilized and converted into chemical energy - which then is used for chemical reactions and to oxidize water. Particularly the last step is very difficult and the most demanding task in chemical terms. The whole process of photosynthesis is based on charge separation at specific redox centers of the photosystem and careful charge conduction and control. To avoid immediate loss of the energy by 'electrical short circuit' (and thus charge recombination) the redox potentials of the redox-active centers and the spatial arrangement of the elements in the charge transfer path were carefully tuned by evolution. We are particularly interested in the interaction and mutual control of specific redox-active groups in the so-called "reaction center" (which is the site of water oxidation) and how one could measure their interaction by physical means. The final goal of such a research program is understanding the natural systems in full detail and depth so that blueprints for technical designs and applications can be deduced. In the project presented here a series of isostructural dimeric manganese complexes with tethered organic radicals was synthesized. For the first time these compounds could mimic the paramagnetic interaction of the manganese cluster and a tyrosin Yz radical in the S2Yz state of photosystem PS II. The state S2Yz is an artificially stabilized intermediate in the chain of oxidation events in the reaction center of PS II which may control the flow of electrons during catalysis. Since both sites, the manganese cluster and the radicals in S2Yz as well as in the models, carry spin and magnetic moment, their magnetic dipole interaction could be detected by using electron paramagnetic resonance techniques (EPR spectroscopy) and susceptibility measurements. For the first time the conditions of long-range interactions between mixed-valence manganese clusters and organic radicals like in PS II could be systematically explored as a function of known molecular structures. The EPR results are most relevant for the understanding of real systems and EPR distance measurements in biochemical molecules. more

Photosynthetic water oxidation

2004 Messinger, Johannes
Chemistry Structural Biology
Photosynthetic water oxidation is essential for sustaining the ecosystem on earth. This process splits water into protons, chemically bound electrons and molecular oxygen. Thereby this reaction is also an important reference for the development of artificial systems for solar-induced production of hydrogen and oxygen from water. This brief article summarizes the current state of knowledge and gives examples for biophysical experiments that are underway at the MPI for Bioinorganic Chemistry in order to fully understand this fascinating reaction. more
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