Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces

Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces

Tiny apatite crystals in bones, vesicles formed out of membranes, pores in membranes for fuel cells and microcapsules as vehicles for medical drugs – all these are structures that are larger than an atom, yet too small to be seen with the naked eye. These are the kinds of nanostructures and microstructures that scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces examine and create. The structures are often colloids – tiny particles in a different medium – or interfaces between two materials. Many of the structures can be found in nature. The scientists at the Potsdam-based Institute endeavour to understand how they are composed and how they work in order to imitate their behaviour in new materials or in vaccines, for example. Understanding the function of these structures can also help to identify the causes of certain diseases that occur when the folding of membranes or the transport of materials in cells fails to work properly.


Am Mühlenberg 1
14476 Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-7814
Fax: +49 331 567-7875

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Multiscale Bio-Systems

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

With smart materials toward more sustainable chemistry


Cutanos, a spin-off from the Max Planck Society, is developing novel vaccines and immunotherapies


Catalysts which generate hydrogen and other substances can be produced more efficiently


Synthesis of oligosaccharides related to Streptococcus suis marks a first step towards a possible vaccination


And the shark, he has teeth...

November 24, 2020

Form shapes function: Special feature discovered in the enameloid of shark teeth


Among his many talents, it took a while for Majd Al-Naji to discover his current passion for chemistry. He is currently searching for solid catalysts for the production of fuels and other chemical products from plant waste or plastic at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, and he can already look back on his extraordinary career.

Peter Seeberger has founded nine start-ups to date. With these companies, the Director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam wants to put the results of his basic research into practice. One goal is to introduce sugar-based vaccines against multi-resistant bacteria.

The energy supply of the future has a storage problem. The ability to store surplus power from wind turbines and solar panels for times when it is in short supply relies on powerful batteries and capacitors, which should be made of materials that are as non-toxic and sustainable as possible. This is the focus of work by Clemens Liedel and Martin Oschatz at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam.

Valerio Molinari and his team at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam have equipped their laboratory with a pasta machine, pizza oven and mixer. What‘s more, the scientists often use waste from the forestry or food industries in their experiments. They can use these simple resources to manufacture wood-based materials, bioplastics and biofuels.

Some time around four billion years ago, life started to become encapsulated. The first cells emerged – protected spaces that facilitated the bonding of complex molecules. Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and Rumiana Dimova from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam are exploring the boundaries of cellular life. The two researchers are investigating the dynamics of biomembranes.

Postdoctoral Position | Carbohydrate Materials

Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam-Golm November 16, 2021

Postdoctoral Position | Colloidal Chemistry

Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam-Golm November 16, 2021

Carbohydrates under the microscope

2020 Delbianco, Martina

Chemistry Material Sciences

Carbohydrates are abundant biopolymers with applications ranging from paper and textile manufacturing to pharmaceuticals. Still, their full potential remains untapped, because carbohydrates are not well understood at the molecular level. We synthesized well-defined samples for structural analysis. Imaging single carbohydrate molecules revealed that some polymers form helices while others adopt rod-like structures. These compounds assembled into materials with well-defined compositions, enabling applications in nanotechnology.


Liquid-like tissue behavior - a key principle for the formation of structure

2019 Fratzl, Peter; Dunlop, John

Cell Biology Material Sciences Medicine Solid State Research Structural Biology

At the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam we were able to show that growing bone tissue behaves like a viscous liquid on long time scales, thereby taking shapes with minimal surface area. This cell behavior determines the shape of the tissue when it grows on a scaffold. These findings could have far-reaching importance in terms of understanding healing processes and organ development but also for medical applications such as the development of implants.


Malaria and cancer drugs from plant waste, light and air

2018 Seeberger, Peter H.

Cell Biology Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Structural Biology

Artemisinin, the basis of the currently most effective malaria drug, is derived from the annual wormwood plant (Artemisia annua). However, the purification is inefficient and expensive, so that half of the drug market is served with ineffective counterfeits. We have developed an environmentally friendly process whereby a waste product produced by the plant is rapidly and efficiently converted to the drug using light-activated oxygen. The very environmentally friendly, patented process is now being developed in the USA by the spin-off ArtemiFlow for industrial application.


Thin molecular layers – multi-talents with many functions

2017 Schneck, Emanuel

Cell Biology Chemistry Immunobiology Infection Biology Material Sciences Medicine Solid State Research Structural Biology

Thin molecular layers such as biological lipid membranes have diverse functions in Nature. But molecular layers play important roles in technology and biotechnology as well, where they improve, for instance, the biocompatibility of surfaces, or serve as lubricants and reduce shear friction. Researchers at the Biomaterials department use advanced x-ray and neutron scattering methods to structurally characterize such layers in order to obtain new insights into their functioning.


Controlled conditions, controlled chemistry

2016 Gilmore, Kerry*; Pieber, Bartholomäus; Seeberger, Peter H.

Chemistry Immunobiology Infection Biology Material Sciences Medicine

The success of the vast majority of chemical transformations is reliant on the degree of control exhibited over a wide range of variables. Utilizing flow chemistry – where reagents are passed through a set of conditions via thin tubing as opposed to applying conditions to a round bottom flask – has allowed for achieving chemistries and efficiencies previously inaccessible. The modular nature of this technique has facilitated the development of a novel means of chemical synthesis, which targets core functionalities, allowing for multiple derivatives to be produced with a single flow system.

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