Max Planck Institute for Sustainable Materials GmbH

Max Planck Institute for Sustainable Materials GmbH

Materials science is facing major challenges: The steel industry alone contributes eight percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Each year, e-waste, equivalent to 350 mega cruise ships, is discarded or incinerated rather than recycled, despite containing valuable metals like precious metals or rare earths. At the Max Planck Institute for Sustainable Materials, researchers explore climate-neutral, resource-conserving approaches to produce, utilize, and recycle essential materials for modern societies. They seek to produce metals using hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, extend material lifespans, enhance recyclability, and minimize waste. When developing materials that fulfil these requirements, researchers are increasingly relying on artificial intelligence to make the process significantly more efficient. The institute conducted its research under the name Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH until 2024.

Contact

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 Sustainable Metallurgy - from Fundamentals to Engineering Materials

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

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Department Computational Materials Design

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Department Microstructure Physics and Alloy Design

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Department Interface Chemistry and Surface Engineering

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Aerial view of the Max Planck Institute for Sustainable Materials building.

The Max Planck Institute for Sustainable Materials will explore methods for producing, utilising, and recycling materials in a climate-friendly way

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In the foreground, a section of the extensive area of a landfill site with rust-red mud, in the background a much smaller aluminium plant. The plant and landfill are located on a gulf, which can be seen in the upper half of the picture. Green meadows can be seen on the right.

An economical process with green hydrogen can be used to extract CO2-free iron from the red mud generated in aluminium production

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Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2023 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 12 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year

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A new machine learning model enhances predictive accuracy in corrosion-resistant alloy design

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A further step in unravelling materials’ properties down to the atomic scale

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It's impossible to imagine modern life without metals, but today's metal industry is responsible for a third of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Dierk Raabe and Martin Palm, scientists at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Duesseldorf, are working on a more sustainable way of producing - and using – metals. Their ideas could completely revolutionize the metal industry.

In ancient times, it was the material of choice for sword blades. Now, a kind of Damascus steel can be produced in a 3D printer using a technique developed by a team from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Duesseldorf and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Aachen. Composite materials of this kind could be of interest for aerospace components or toolmaking.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Iron Research was founded in 1917, in the midst of the First World War. It was intended to become an innovation laboratory for the German steel industry but morphed into a knowledge center for military technology. Its history illustrates the risk associated with application-oriented basic research in times of economic and political crisis.

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.

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Making green steel from hazardous waste

2023 Jovičević-Klug, Matic; Souza Filho, Isnaldi R.

Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Sustainable Materials (until recently the “Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung“) have achieved a breakthrough in the recycling of waste from aluminium production, so-called red mud, and the manufacture of green steel. By using hydrogen plasma, they were able to extract CO2-free iron from hazardous red mud. This way, 600 million tonnes of CO2-free steel can be produced from four billion tonnes of aluminium waste, which is currently piled up around the globe. This can be achieved in conventional electric arc furnaces, which have been used in the steel industry for decades.

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From model systems to high tech materials via digital strategies

2022 Hickel, Tilmann; Bitzek, Erik; Neugebauer, Jörg

Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Tackling crucial technological and ecological challenges relies heavily on the availability of new materials. Without them, reducing industrial CO2-emissions or realizing environmentally friendly mobility would hardly be possible. The digital strategies developed at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung extend fundamental methods originally developed for idealized model systems to real materials. This opens up completely new approaches for materials research and for accelerated materials design.

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How do metals become sustainable?

2021 Raabe, Dierk

Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Metals, means of human progress for over five millennia, are with one third of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions the single largest cause of global warming. Growth in energy, construction, industry, sustainable technologies and transport will even double demand over the next 25 years. At the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung we are conducting basic research to solve this problem of the century. We present two approaches, one is 'green' steel production, using hydrogen, plasma and electrolysis, and the other one is aluminium alloys, which carry the 'gene' of unlimited recyclability.

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The hydrogen task force – how to produce, store and use the smallest atom

2020 Best, James; Duarte, Jazmin; Gault, Baptiste;  Hickel, Tilmann;  Mianroodi, Jaber;  Ponge, Dirk; Rabe, Martin; Rohwerder, Michael; Scheu, Christina; Souza Filho, Isnaldi

Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

The industrial use of hydrogen is considered to be forward-looking. But what are the material science challenges in production, storage and use? An interdisciplinary team at the MPIE is using various methods to investigate how hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis, how hydrogen atoms in the material can be detected and how materials can be protected against hydrogen embrittlement. In addition, we work on reducing iron ores by hydrogen instead of carbon, thus avoiding CO2 emissions.

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Development of sustainable alloys for demanding applications

2019 Martin Palm, Frank Stein, Angelika Gedsun, Gerhard Dehm

Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Because of their unique combination of properties, intermetallic alloys based on iron aluminides are considered as being specifically sustainable. Following basic research of the underlying thermodynamics, different alloying concepts have been developed at MPIE. Resulting high-strength alloys are currently tested by industries for various applications, eg. as brake discs in wind power stations or tubes for biomass power plants. Currently, ideal combinations of alloy concepts, processing routes and properties of manufactured parts are investigated in close cooperation with industries.

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