Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society

Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society

Agricultural yields have increased dramatically since the early 20th century, when the industrial production of nitrogen fertilizer started. It was the chemist Fritz Haber who explored the basic reaction of atmospheric nitrogen with hydrogen. Scientists working today at the Institute which bears his name still pursue similar purposes. They look at chemistry from a physical perspective. Their fields of research are the main characteristics of atoms, molecules and electrons, and their findings explain the behaviour of these particles in chemical reactions. They also want to understand how surface structure – of a catalyst, for example – influences chemical reactions. This information is essential for the chemical industry where more efficient catalysts are welcome.


Faradayweg 4 - 6
14195 Berlin
Phone: +49 30 8413-30
Fax: +49 30 8413-3155

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS Functional Interfaces in Physics and Chemistry

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

Exploiting Big Data to create innovative materials
Twelve Max Planck Society facilities are bundling their expertise in the data-driven materials sciences more
Terahertz radiation: A useful source for food safety
A compact and low-cost emitter generates light across the entire terahertz spectrum more
Better adhesion than previously thought in van der Waals force
The quantum mechanical description of the force between uncharged atoms and molecules demonstrated in real structures more
<p>Materials for the technology of tomorrow</p>
The NOMAD European Center of Excellence is set to simplify the search for new materials and previously unknown properties of materials more
Light switches on a DVD

Light switches on a DVD

July 31, 2015
Since the electronic properties of an optical storage material change faster than its structure, it could serve new applications more
Diving electrons

Diving electrons

April 02, 2015
Findings on how electrons are solvated in water widen the range of potential influences on chemical reactions more
Research highlights 2014

Research highlights 2014

June 04, 2014
Three research articles from the Yearbook 2014 more
From thin silicate films to the atomic structure of glass
Structure of amorphous materials clarified. This project has so far been a big challenge due to the complexity of this material class. Modern preparation methods in combination with scanning tunneling microscopy succeed in decrypting the everyday material glass. more
Clear view into glass

Clear view into glass

November 13, 2012
Berlin-based researchers have analysed the atomic structure of amorphous silica more
Good connections to molecular electronics
Conductance measurements on graphene nanoribbons tell researchers how molecular wires can be optimised more
Iron instead of precious metal
An iron-aluminium compound could replace a palladium catalyst, reducing the cost of plastic production more
Defects make catalysts perfect
Insights into the process which converts carbon dioxide into methanol could make it possible to recycle greenhouse gas more
Electrons discover their individuality
Scientists in Berlin observe the change from cooperative to individual behaviour in electrons with different speeds more
Nano sculptures in gold

Nano sculptures in gold

August 01, 2008
Scientists in Berlin are using a new method to resolve the structure of uncharged gold nano particles more
Casting for molecules

Casting for molecules

April 15, 2008
Scientists in Berlin sort particles according to their structure more
Three problems, one solution: This is the special charm of a research project on which Malte Behrens and Robert Schlögl are working at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin. The chemists want to use carbon dioxide as a chemical raw material, which would keep the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere, replace coal, gas and oil, and store renewable energy.
From plastic bags to hydrogen gas: almost nothing happens in chemistry without catalysts. The reaction accelerators often contain metals that are sometimes rare or need large amounts of energy to do their job. A research team headed by Robert Schlögl, Director at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, wanted to find out whether it was possible to do without catalysts.
Imagine vehicles that are just a few nanometers large and that clean surfaces or build molecular structures like tiny vehicles at a construction site. To bring this idea, or that of molecular electronics, out of the realm of imagination and into the real world, physicists are investigating the physics of the nanoworld.
Many years passed before the new physics discovered by
Max Planck was explained mathematically and established
as quantum mechanics.

Gerhard Ertl

MPR 1 /2008 Material & Technology
Gerhard Ertl lives for his research, but there is no grimness in
his determination. The Nobel Prize winner laughs much and
often – and is very free with his humorous remarks.
At temperatures near absolute zero, atoms act and react in slow motion, pro viding insights into their quantum properties.
No job offers available

Energy change 2.0: On the role of chemical research

2017 Schlögl, Robert
Chemistry Material Sciences Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research
Considering the reduction of greenhouse gas paramount target of “Energiewende” all sectors of the energy system are to be crosslinked. However, interlinkage will only be possible by converting primary electricity into material energy carriers. We are “storing” this electricity in order to make it available to other applications and so achieve the target of sector integration into sustainable energy supply. This article deals with the integration of mobility. For chemistry that means to develop sustainable alternatives to pure electrical driving. more

Structures of peptide aggregates investigated with the new Fritz Haber Institute free electron laser

2016 von Helden, Gert; Schöllkopf, Wieland; Pagel, Kevin
The combination of several separation methods with the Fritz Haber Institute free electron laser has allowed to measure infrared spectra of size selected peptide-ion aggregates in the gas phase. The spectra reveal information on the peptides’ folding states, varying between helical and β-sheet. In the future, this approach of determining folding in peptide and protein aggregates can, potentially, contribute to the better understanding of protein misfolding, aggregation and the hereby caused diseases. more

In the focus of ultrashort lasers: the interplay of electronic and crystalline structure

2015 Ernstorfer, Ralph
Material Sciences Particle Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Many material properties and the function of complex devices are governed by the interplay and the interaction of electrons and the atomic structure on the microscopic scale. These fundamental processes are investigated with the help of time-resolved experimental methods. In these experiments, the electrons in a material are excited by means of an ultrashort laser pulse and the response of the electrons and of the atomic structure are observed with different ultrafast techniques, revealing the interaction of electrons and lattice and illuminating effects like the dissipation of energy.


From thin silica film systems to the atomic structure of glass

2014 Heyde, Markus; Shaikhutdinov, Shamil; Freund, Hans-Joachim
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Structure of amorphous materials clarified. This project has so far been a big challenge due to the complexity of this material class. Modern preparation methods in combination with scanning tunneling microscopy succeed in decrypting the everyday material glass.


Conformation and dynamics of polypeptide chains derived from the „first principles“ of quantum mechanics

2013 Blum, Volker; Rossi, Mariana; Scheffler, Matthias
Chemistry Material Sciences Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

The properties of peptides and proteins (polypeptide chains) are fundamentally important in biochemistry as well as many other aspects of chemistry. The foundation of any quantitative predictions for such properties by computational means is a reliable determination of the structure and dynamics of specific chains. The present article demonstrates the reach and accuracy of current numerical methods for this problem that are based only on the "first principles" of quantum mechanics.


Chemistry's stategic role in the energy challenge

2012 Schlögl, Robert
The German "Energiewende" requires substantial technological and economic efforts. The objective of replacing nuclear energy by regenerative sources is not feasible without solving the challenge of energy storage in grid dimensions. We lack fundamental knowledge to design sustainable processes of the scale necessary. The contribution gives some conceptual insight and illustrates research at the department Inorganic Chemistry of the Fritz Haber Institute. more

Ultrashort laser pulses shed light on correlated materials

2011 Kampfrath, Tobias; Stähler, Julia; Wolf, Martin
Material Sciences
Materials with strong coupling between electrons, spin and lattice have fascinating properties. One example is the abrupt transition from an electrically insulating material into an electrically conducting state at a critical temperature. Femtosecond laser pulses are used to trigger such transitions and to investigate their dynamics on ultrashort time scales. In this way, an extended microscopic understanding of materials with strongly correlated degrees of freedom is achieved. This knowledge may be helpful in the search for materials with new and optimized electronic properties. more

Ultrathin oxide films on metal substrates: an interesting materials’ combination

2010 Freund, Hans-Joachim; Nilius, Niklas; Risse, Thomas; Shaikhutdinov, Shamil; Sterrer, Martin
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Properties of metal substrate supported oxide films are described on the basis of simple concepts known from semiconductor physics, in particular, with respect to the way these systems influence the electronic structure of species adsorbed onto them. We discuss consequences on the reactivity of the specific system. The examples have been chosen from the field of heterogeneous catalysis and demonstrate how one may be able to design systems for particular chemical reactions. more

Structure determination of metal clusters using vibrational spectroscopy

2009 Fielicke, André; Meijer, Gerard
Quantum Physics
Application of a new method of infrared spectroscopy delivers insights into the atomic structure of clusters composed of only a few metal atoms. more
For the example of technologically important II-VI semiconductors and group- III-nitrides we demonstrate how modern computational techniques for band structure calculations can be combined with recent developments in density functional theory to meet the challenges in the theoretical description of the electronic properties of these materials. more

Microscopic Investigations of Corrosion Processes on Stainless Steel

2007 Rotermund, Harm Hinrich, Dornhege, Monika, Punckt, Christian
Chemistry Material Sciences
We present in situ real-time observations of pitting corrosion as it spreads across the surface of stainless steel in an electrolytic solution. By applying simultaneously two different imaging methods, i.e. ellipsomicroscopy and contrast-enhanced microscopy, the correlation between oxide film weakening and the nucleation and reactivation of individual pits is examined. The existence of front propagation as a component of the transition to pitting corrosion shows that characteristics of this process are consistent with the behavior of stochastic reaction-diffusion systems . more

Heterogeneous catalysts: a status report

2006 Schlögl, Robert
The investigation of reaction and material properties of heterogeneous catalysts is one of the central inter-departmental questions at the Fritz-Haber-Institut. Last year the progress in clarifying the function of nanostructured model systems was reported. Now we will inform about the constitution of so-called “real catalysts” and of the challenges to find out about their functions. more

Spectroscopy on model catalysts under ambient pressure

2005 Rupprechter, G.; Unterhalt, H.; Borasio, M; Morkel, M.; Freund, H.-J.
Chemistry Material Sciences
The application of in-situ surface vibrational spectroscopy to study catalytic reactions on model catalysts helps to bridge the “pressure gap” between surface studies and heterogeneous catalysis. The discussed examples include CO adsorption and hydrogenation and methanol oxidation on Pd nanoparticles and Pd(111) at atmospheric pressure. more

New Methods and Perspectives in Molecular Physics

2004 Meijer, Gerard
Quantum Physics
The field of molecular physics has received a new impetus from the development of novel techniques to decelerate and trap neutral molecules, as well as from the application of pulsed infrared radiation from a free electron laser source for the determination of vibrational properties of (bio-) molecules, molecular complexes, and clusters. This report describes some of the techniques and their underlying physics, and projects being pursued in the new Department of Molecular Physics in the Fritz Haber Institute. more
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