Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

People have been manufacturing iron for around 19,000 years – yet its possibilities remain far from exhausted. Scientists at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung are therefore developing, among other things, new grades of steel that can make car bodies even safer and give car designers greater freedom. Part of what they do involves cooking up and testing new alloys in a lab, reminiscent of a small steel plant. The scientists also investigate ways of preventing corrosion that makes many metallic tools unusable with time. However, their research is not restricted to iron and steel: it also encompasses new alloys, such as titanium alloys for artificial joints. Furthermore, in their search for such new materials, they also develop methods to simulate the behaviour of unknown alloys on the computer.


Max-Planck-Str. 1
40237 Düsseldorf
Phone: +49 211 6792-0
Fax: +49 211 6792-440

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS for Interface Controlled Materials for Energy Conversion

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

Department Structure and Nano-/Micromechanics of Materials more
Department Computational Materials Design more
Department Microstructure Physics and Alloy Design more
Department Interface Chemistry and Surface Engineering more
Strength and ductility for alloys

Strength and ductility for alloys

Forschungsmeldung May 24, 2016
Thanks to a new strategy in the development of materials related to steel, high strength and ductility are no longer mutually exclusive more
Nano-beads for the steel forge

Nano-beads for the steel forge

Forschungsmeldung September 11, 2015
The crystal structure of metals can change at linear defects, which should affect the properties of the materials more
Skin with high rust protection factor

Skin with high rust protection factor

Forschungsmeldung June 03, 2014
In industrialized countries, corrosion guzzles up to 4 percent of economic performance annually. Consequently, scientists working with Martin Stratmann and Michael Rohwerderat the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung (Iron Research) in Düsseldorf are developing synthetic coatings that can protect steels and other metals from rust and heal themselves if they become damaged. more
Rust protection from nanocapsules

Rust protection from nanocapsules

Forschungsmeldung November 06, 2013
Containers made of a conductive polymer only open in the presence of corrosion and release anticorrosive payloads more
Disorder creates rust protection

Disorder creates rust protection

Forschungsmeldung August 08, 2013

A material’s nanostructure is decisive in determining how resistant it is against corrosion


Intelligent steel for safer cars

Forschungsmeldung September 18, 2007
Nanostructures in 3D

Nanostructures in 3D

Forschungsmeldung February 22, 2006
Max Planck researchers from Düsseldorf unveil the first three-dimensional electron microscope for examining nanomaterials structure more
Car bodies, aircraft wings or turbine blades – alloys today are customized for any purpose. Roughly 2,500 different types of steel already exist, and that number continues to grow. Jörg Neugebauer and Dierk Raabe, Directors at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf, are also developing new varieties, and in their search for innovative materials, they even apply the laws of the quantum world.
In industrialized countries, corrosion guzzles up to 4 percent of economic performance annually. Substances that protect metals effectively from its ravages are often damaging to the environment or have other disadvantages. Consequently, scientists working with Martin Stratmann and Michael Rohwerder at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung (Iron Research) in Düsseldorf are developing synthetic coatings that can protect steels and other metals from rust and heal themselves if they become damaged.

The Formula for Lobster Shell

MPR 1/2012

Materials & Technology

For gourmets, they are mainly a nuisance. For Helge Fabritius, however, they are a treasure trove of information. At the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf, the biologist investigates the construction principles of lobster and crab shells. In the process, he is uncovering how arthropods produce versatile material properties using a very limited choice of basic materials.
Steel used for vehicles should make them light and economical, offer protection in accidents and impose as few limits on designers as possible. Scientists working with Georg Frommeyer create alloys to meet these requirements.
Personal Portrait: Dierk Raabe
No job offers available

Metallic materials are the backbone of industrialized societies which obtain their competitiveness from providing efficient means of energy conversion, save and weight reduced mobility as well as the manufacturing of complex high tech products and industry processes.  New tailor made materials are developed by using computer simulations in conjunction with atomic scale tomography.  By this approach new high performance materials are developed based on the atomic principles of matter.


Understanding the complex interchange of magnetic and lattice excitations opens new routes in the design of innovative cooling materials

2016 Hickel, Tilmann; Körmann, Fritz; Dutta, Biswanath; Grabowski, Blazej; Neugebauer, Jörg
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

The systematic search of new materials solely based on computers as well as the development of the required highly accurate simulation tools is a major research topic at the MPI für Eisenforschung. In the present article, the approach is introduced using the example of magnetocaloric materials, which are explored to achieve new and energy efficient cooling strategies. For this purpose the complex interaction of two thermodynamic excitation mechanisms – the vibration of atoms in a crystalline lattice and the disorder of magnetic moments – is analyzed and systematically exploited.


Nanostructured materials as key for regenerative energy sources  

2015 Dennenwaldt, Teresa; Scheu, Christina
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

In consequence of the growing energy needs and the increasing environmental pollution alternative energy-producing, cost-efficient and environmental friendly concepts are needed. Diverse nanostructured materials are suitable for application in this field. The correlation between morphology, chemical composition and properties of the nanostructures are investigated with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and its analytical techniques and are one of the main research activities of the independent research group “Nanoanalytics and Interfaces” at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung.


Small but strong – Micromechanics of miniaturized materials

2014 Kirchlechner, Christoph; Dehm, Gerhard
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Materials of any kind have to endure severe mechanical conditions, which ultimately determine their lifetime. How long can materials sustain cyclic (thermo-)mechanical loading? Is their response independent of material dimensions? Are new mechanisms occurring when the material volume decreases into the nanoworld? Finding fundamental answers to these questions and to use the knowledge to design robust materials is the basic research mission of the new group Nano- and Micromechanics at the MPI of Iron Research.


A new class of active and highly stable fuel cell catalysts

2014 Meier, Josef C.; Galeano, Carolina; Mezzavilla, Stefano; Baldizzone, Claudio; Schüth, Ferdi; Mayrhofer, Karl J. J.
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Why are our cars nowadays still not powered by fuel cells? – One of the main reasons is the degradation of the essential catalysts during fuel cell operation, which leads to a loss of active surface area and thus activity over time. Researchers from two Max Planck Institutes have joined efforts and developed and characterized novel nanostructured materials. A first break-through was achieved with a high-performance electrocatalyst that has demonstrated excellent stability properties. more

Nanostructuring of one billion tonnes: On the way to the atomic design of new metallic alloys

2013 Raabe, Dierk
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Metallic materials are the backbone of modern industrial societies establishing their competitiveness in the production of complex products and processes. The basic research on metals has undergone a revolution in recent years, based on the fact that the structure and properties of alloys can be predicted and experimentally verified at the atomic level. These methods enable us to design new materials on the basis of their atomic structure.


The power of quantum mechanics in modern steel design

2012 Hickel, Tilmann; Dick, Alexey; Neugebauer, Jörg; Sandlöbes, Stefanie; Raabe, Dierk
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Modern steels show a rapid development: 2400 exist already, of which 2000 have been developed during the last decade. Steel grades that are strong and ductile at the same time, are of particular interest for automotive applications. How can a tailored design of such steels be achieved? Which processes occur at the atomic scale? And what is the role of carbon? Scientists at the MPI für Eisenforschung face these challenges with a two-fold strategy by exploiting the principles of quantum mechanics in theoretical as well as experimental methods. more

“The Oxygen Reduction Reaction in the Focus of Interface Chemistry” or “What does Corrosion have in common with Fuel Cells”

2011 Auer, Alexander A.; Biedermann, P. Ulrich; Mayrhofer, Karl J. J.
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Whether the future of automotive mobility lies in hydrogen fuel cell technology is still unclear – corrosion, however, is a serious problem in many areas of technology, because not only if you rest, you rust. While the two processes seem very different they have an important chemical reaction in common: the oxygen reduction reaction. At the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research GmbH in Düsseldorf this reaction is investigated in detail within an interdisciplinary project to make fuel cells better and corrosion protection more efficient. more

Metallurgy in the 21st Century: quantum mechanically guided materials design

2010 Dierk Raabe; Jörg Neugebauer
Material Sciences Quantum Physics
The departments of Prof. Neugebauer (Computational Materials Design) und Prof. Raabe (Microstructure Physics and Metal Forming) have introduced a new generation of simulation methods for materials development. The innovation of the approach is based on the connection of quantum mechanics, continuum theory and experiment for metallurgical alloy design. more

Computer-based prediction of materials properties: Recent achievements of quantum-mechanical simulation methods

2009 Hickel, Tilmann; Grabowski, Blazej; Körmann, Fritz; Neugebauer, Jörg
Material Sciences Quantum Physics
In modern materials design there is an increasing demand for powerful computational tools that allow an accurate prediction of materials properties. The free energy of individual crystal structures serves as a key quantity in this context. The present paper discusses the capabilities of modern quantum-mechanical simulation methods in determining these energies. Since it is further demonstrated that even complicated phase transformation sequences can be predicted, these methods open new perspectives for the development and optimization of innovative, tailored materials. more

Structure Evolution and Corrosion: Employing Synchrotron Light for In-Situ X-Ray Diffraction

2009 Renner, Frank Uwe; Rohwerder, Michael; Borissov, Dimitar; Pareek, Aparna; Ankah, Genesis; Vogel, Dirk
Material Sciences
Synchrotron radiation developed in the last decades to be an important tool for materials science. Its capability to resolve atomic-scale structures even of low-dimensional objects is very beneficial for corrosion science. Also the possibility of in-situ experiments is an advantage. With recent results on the dealloying of a binary noble metal alloy and Zn electrodeposition from ionic liquids, two examples are given. more
We present a new strategy for the theory-guided bottom up design of novel materials. The approach is based on the combination of ab initio simulations for providing detailed computational guidance in selecting suited thermodynamic systems with experimental verification. The new theory-based design procedure is outlined using as an example of a set of Ti-based materials for biomedical applications. more

Development of High-Strength and Supra-Ductile Light-Weight Steels for Automotive

2008 Frommeyer, Georg; Rablbauer, Ralf
Material Sciences
Newly developed high manganese light-weight steels based on the Fe-Mn-Al-Si-C alloy system feature in comparison to conventional steels density reduction of 15 %, high tensile strengths up to 1100 MPa, exceptionally high plastic elongations up to 90 %, and excellent formability. Important for the presented alloy developments is the activation of special metallophysical strengthening and deformation mechanisms due to an appropriate alloy design. more
As the active component within composite coatings conducting polymers have a great potential as effective and environmentally friendly corrosion pigments. However, this only works, if extended percolation networks of the conducting polymer are avoided in the coating. more

3D-Visualization of creep damage

2007 Pyzalla, Anke ( MPIE Düsseldorf); Reimers, Walter (TU Berlin)
Material Sciences
High energy synchrotron radiation tomography allows the visualisation of creep damage in the bulk of materials. The results of the experiments reveal the time-dependent evolution of the time dependence of damage of samples and will contribute significantly to understanding the behaviour of high temperature materials. more

Ab initio description of iron: Extreme tensile stresses and phase diagrams at finite temperatures

2006 Friak, Martin; Grabowski, Blazej; Neugebauer, Jörg
Material Sciences Quantum Physics
State-of-the-art quantum-mechanical methods have been applied to determine technologically important elastic properties of iron, namely theoretical tensile strength, phonon dispersion, and thermal expansion. These methods allow an accurate and realistic description of material properties without relying on experimental/empirical input parameters. The efficiency of such an approach is demonstrated by studying two key properties of iron: The tensile strength is studied for extreme loads in two different crystallographic directions, [001] and [111]. In the second part, it will be discussed how the methods, which in principle are valid only for T = 0K, can be generalized to study finite temperature properties. more
Advanced NiAl-based high temperature materials are developed and characterized for applications in energy conversion systems. The intermetallic compound NiAl with B2 superlattice structure exhibits superior physical and high-temperature mechanical properties, and excellent oxidation resistance. Disadvantages of polycrystalline NiAl are the lack in plasticity and fracture toughness and room temperature and insufficient high temperature strength at temperatures above 800 °C. The refractory metals Cr, Mo, and Re form with NiAl quasi-binary eutectic systems which enable to produce metal fibres reinforced NiAl-based alloys by using directional solidification. These in-situ composites showing fine-grained and thermally stable microstructures possessing high-temperature strength, superior creep resistence and sufficient room temperature ductility. more
Experimental investigations by means of 3-dimensional scanning microscopy together with diffraction techniques as well as numerical simulations such as the Texture Component Crystal Plasticity Finite Element Method are used for the microstructure analysis and the development of new steels. more

Preparation of Nanostructures from Directionally Solidified Eutectics

2005 Hassel, Achim Walter; Bello Rodriguez, Belen; Milenkovic, Srdjan; Schneider, André
Material Sciences
The production of nanostructured materials is possible by directional solidification. Metals as well as semiconductors can be employed in the eutectics. An appropriate etching allows either the production of short standing wires or of longer wires organised in domains. Furthermore the preparation of isolated nanowires becomes possible by a complete dissolution of the matrix. The system shows a remarkable high degree of order and a uniform crystallographic orientation. Anodic polarisation in a neutral buffer allows a simultaneous passivation of the host phase and selective oxidising dissolution of the wires. Other metals such as gold can be deposited in the so formed cavities. The different strategies for a structuring of these materials and their applications as nanostructured materials and in sensors are discussed. more
Heat-resistant ferritic alloys usually show higher heat conductivities and lower thermal expansions than austenitic ones, which is beneficial for applications in energy conversion units. However, the high-temperature strength of ferritic alloys is lower than that of austenitic ones. Special ferritic iron-chromium and iron-aluminium alloys are strengthened by the formation of intermetallic phases and are optimised with respect to high-temperature strength, formability and corrosion resistance. more
Thin strip casting of steel with a twin roller is a promising development in steel production. The heat transfer between material and rolls is a basic process; it was studied in dependence on several influencing parameters. The results will be of importance in industrial realisation of the thin strip casting process. more