Max Planck Institute for Chemistry

Max Planck Institute for Chemistry

Current research at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz aims at an integral understanding of chemical processes in the Earth system, particularly in the atmosphere and biosphere. Our scientists explore the interactions of the climate, ocean, and atmospheric systems from geologic to annual time scales. Investigations address a wide range of interactions between air, water, soil, life and climate in the course of Earth history up to today´s human-driven epoch, the Anthropocene.


Hahn-Meitner-Weg 1
55128 Mainz
Phone: +49 6131 305-0
Fax: +49 6131 305-1309

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

This institute offers two structured graduate programs.

The Paul Crutzen Graduate School (PCGS) at the MPI for Chemistry is a PhD program in Earth System Sciences. Lectures, workshops, soft-skill courses, an annual PhD symposium and summer schools enable PhD students in an individual program to expand their knowledge and skills beyond the research topic of the PhD project.

Through the Max Planck Graduate Center (MPGC) in cooperation with the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, a framework is also provided for PhD topics that are simultaneously supervised at different faculties. The MPGC represents a virtual interdisciplinary faculty with its own doctoral regulations.

Regarding adverse health effects of air pollution hydrogen peroxide production of fine particles may not be as important as previously assumed


At certain times in the year, more soot particles reach the Amazon rainforest from bush fires in Africa than from regional fires.

artificial rainforest

Ecosystem changes can be more accurately predicted by emissions of chiral compounds


Earth’s past warm periods witnessed the shrinkage of the open ocean’s oxygen-deficient zones.

Computer modelling of the OH reactivity (left) and OH concentration (right) around human bodies in a typical indoor situation while people sitting around a table. 

People generate their own oxidation field and change the indoor air chemistry around them

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Lena Heins from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz crossed the Atlantic aboard the research sailing yacht S/Y Eugen Seibold. During the voyage from Cape Verde to the Caribbean Island of Grenada, she collected samples for various climate projects. Here, the scientist offers an insight into her work on the ship and tells us about dolphins, flying fish, and a climate archive on the ocean floor.

Materials that can conduct electricity without any losses would improve energy efficiency in many areas. However, superconductivity would have to occur at more practical temperature levels. By taking a new approach, Mikhail Eremets and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have come significantly closer to this goal – in particular by placing their materials under truly astronomical pressure.

The theoretical physicist Max Delbrück is considered to be one of the co-founders of molecular genetics. He began his career in biology in the 1930s when he was an assistant at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine 50 years ago, for his work on the genetic structure of viruses and how they reproduce.

Before Jonathan Williams discovered atmospheric chemistry, he had a problem: he was fascinated by so many things that he didn’t know which scientific discipline to devote himself to. Even today, the scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz has varied research interests. In recent years, for example, another new topic has awoken his curiosity – the trace that our emotions leave behind in the air.

For Lise Meitner, 1938 is something like a turning point in her life. She flees the Nazis and goes to Sweden, where she tries to establish herself as a scientist and finds the solution to a problem that Otto Hahn told her about in a letter. As a result, the former researcher at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry becomes one of the co-discoverers of nuclear fission.

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Cleaner air as a result of coronavirus lockdown

2022 Krüger, Ovid O.; Holanda, Bruna; Chowdhury, Sourangsu; Pozzer, Andrea; Walter, David Walter; Pöhlker, Christopher; Andrés Hernández, Maria Dolores; Burrows, John P.; Voigt, Christiane; Lelieveld, Jos; Quaas, Johannes; Pöschl, Ulrich; Pöhlker, Mira L.

Chemistry Climate Research Earth Sciences

During the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, soot concentrations in the atmosphere over Western and Southern Europe almost halved. This is apparent from our comparison of two measurement campaigns carried out by the German research aircraft HALO in 2017 and 2020. Our study shows that approximately 40 percent of the reduction is due to decreased anthropogenic emissions. These findings reflect the major impact of human activity on air quality and the significance of soot as an important air pollutant and climate driver in the Anthropocene.


How we human beings affect our indoor air

2021 Williams, Jonathan

Chemistry Climate Research Earth Sciences

The human body can strongly influence the chemical composition of indoor air. In our breath and from our skin, we emit a complex mixture of chemical substances and particles wherever we go that react with their environment. Nowadays, since people spend most of their lives indoors, indoor air quality plays an important role regarding health. Therefore, it is particularly important to understand how human emissions can affect the composition of indoor air. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, led by Jonathan Williams, have been working on this in a series of novel experiments.


In spring 2020, group leader Frank Drewnick started a research series at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, which was spontaneously initiated during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this series, they investigated everyday materials for their suitability for face masks to support the selection of materials and to better understand which factors influence their efficacy. The group repurposed measuring instruments which they normally use to analyze the properties of atmospheric aerosol particles to measure the filter efficiency and pressure drop of household materials.


Air pollution shortens Europeans' lives by around two years

2019 Lelieveld, Jos

Chemistry Climate Research Earth Sciences

Air pollution has been significantly underestimated as a health hazard. Calculations of the global health study Global Burden of Disease (GBD) indicated that the global mortality rate due to air pollution was around 4.5 million people a year. In a new study, we show that this number is much higher: 8.8 million per year. In Europe alone, nearly 800,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution.


Interactions of biological aerosol particles with climate, air pollutants, and health

2018 Fröhlich, J.

Chemistry Climate Research Earth Sciences

Biological aerosol particles are omnipresent in the atmosphere because air is one of the major media for the spread of microorganisms and pollen. The airborne particles affect climate and health. In addition, numerous physical and chemical interactions in the atmosphere lead to altered particle properties. Our research focuses on biological aerosols, their ability to act as ice cores, and the impact of air pollutants on proteins and allergies.

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