Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research

Whether microchips and sensors in clothing or solar cells on a tent roof – polymer electronics makes such technical applications possible. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz are searching for suitable conducting polymers for these applications. This is, however, not all they do: they investigate polymers in all their different facets – their production, their physical properties and their applications. This is because polymers are becoming increasingly important as materials – not only for flexible, low cost electronics, but also, for example, as minute capsules that can contain drugs that can then be transported specifically to the area affected by the disease. Moreover, the researchers in Mainz are developing new procedures to spectrographically investigate polymers and to simulate their behaviour on the computer. They also work with soft matter, which, like wine gums, combines the properties of solid bodies and liquids. 


Ackermannweg 10
55128 Mainz
Phone: +49 6131 379-0
Fax: +49 6131 379-100

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
Max Planck Graduate School (MPGS) at MPI for Chemistry

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

Drops in motion
When liquids are moved on a surface, similar frictional forces arise as those acting on solid bodies more
Plastics: not simply garbage
Plastics are accumulating in increasingly large quantities in the oceans but are difficult to replace due to the advantages they offer more
The effect of bacterial ice nuclei
Bacteria induce the formation of ice crystals by changing the order and dynamics of surface water molecules more
Charge transport jamming in solar cells
New insights into working mechanism indicate how novel perovskite solar cells can be further optimised more
Flowing water energises minerals
The electric charge of mineral surfaces changes in flowing water – a finding that is also important for understanding geological processes more
Wafer thin electronics

Wafer thin electronics

May 13, 2014
Linjie Zhi and his Partner Group at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research are using chemistry to optimize graphene for various applications more
Ten ERC Advanced Grants for Max Planck scientists
Fifty applications for funding successful in Seventh EU Framework Programme more
In the no man's land of ice crystals
Simulations allow first insights into the crystallization of tiny water droplets more
Glass that cleans itself

Glass that cleans itself

December 06, 2011
Thanks to its spherical nanostructure, fluorinated silica coating repels water and oil very effectively more
Universal detector made of DNA building blocks
Aptamers can be used to quantitatively detect and accurately examine multifaceted substances more
Magic spheres from oil and water
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Leipzig produce nanospheres for a variety of applications. more
Gaps in adhesion

Gaps in adhesion

November 17, 2008
Shellfish proteins could provide the basis for future novel adhesives more
Instruction Manual for Creating a Molecular Nose
Max Planck researchers incorporate odorant receptors into artificial membranes more
A boost for solar cells with photon fusion
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz have developed a process with which longwave light from a normal light source can be converted to shortwave light. more
Developing drugs that eliminate cancer cells effectively and have few or no side effects – this is one important aim of the Research Group led by Tanja Weil, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz. Weil and her team of chemists convert proteins into traceable drug transporters for nanomedicine with the help of miniscule diamonds.

Calculating with Carbon

1/2014 Material & Technology
Monitors and smartphones that can be rolled and folded up, solar cells in clothing and cheap chips in packaging that store details about products – these are just some of the applications that could become possible in the future thanks to molecular electronics. At the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Paul Blom and Dago de Leeuw are optimizing the organic substances for this type of technology, paving the way for affordable, flexible and printable electronic components.

Chips from a Sheet

1/2014 Material & Technology
Material scientists are pinning their hopes for the electronics of the future on graphene more than almost any other substance. The teams working with Klaus Müllen, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, and Jurgen Smet, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, are striving to make these hopes a reality.

A Slippery Slope for Every Drop

4/2013 Material & Technology
The research being undertaken by Doris Vollmer and Hans-Jürgen Butt could not only put an end to the annoying
smears on window panes, it could also make it possible to produce self-cleaning solar panels or more effective heart-lung machines. The scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz are developing surfaces that are extremely water and blood repellent.
Operation successful – patient dead. In German hospitals alone, 30,000 patients die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections that attack injuries and wounds or develop on implants. Researchers working with Renate Förch at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz aim to outwit these bacteria with the help of specially coated dressings.
Polymer researchers have found a way to construct versatile nanoparticles that could also serve as vehicles for active agents.
Organic electronics is paving the way for flexible solar cells and luminescent films.
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Polymer Synthesis

2017 Müllen, Klaus
Chemistry Material Sciences
By means of two examples, graphene nanoribbons and dimensionally stable dendrimers, I describe complex polymer syntheses and their great benefits for electronics on the one hand and gene therapy on the other. The first message I want to convey is that for ambitious goals in materials research, synthesis cannot only be "simple and practical," and the second message is that innovation needs the right people and partners. more

Photocatalytic water splitting

2017 Backus, Ellen
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

The sun is a well-known source of energy that has been heavily used in recent years. After long-term research and optimization, solar cells which convert solar energy into electrical energy, make it possible for many households and municipalities to use energy in an environmentally friendly manner by installing them on roofs and fields. However, this generation of energy is dependent on weather and daylight. The energy requirement, on the other hand, is usually not proportional to energy production. For this reason, the development of energy storage is becoming a major factor.


The future of polymer electronics

2016 Blom, Paul W.M.
Cell Biology Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research Structural Biology

Conjugated polymers can be processed from solution; this attractive feature opens up the realization of roll-to-roll based production processes. Yet commercial success has been hindered. The MPI-P recently demonstrated that the intrinsic properties of conjugated polymers have been masked by defects and therefore have not been fully exploited so far. Our aim is to uncover and characterize these intrinsic properties and improve them further. Using polymer blends, novel properties and nanostructures are realized by controlling the phase separation between various functional polymers.


Corrosion: a challenge for materials science

2016 Crespy, Daniel; Landfester, Katharina
Cell Biology Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research Structural Biology

The economic losses due to corrosion in industrialized countries can represent up to 6% of gross national product. This explains the emphasis placed on the research dealing with corrosion protection. As part of a collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research in Düsseldorf, we have produced new coatings for an adequate corrosion protection. We studied corrosion attacks and clarified the fundamental aspects of self-healing and anti-corrosion mechanisms.


MolProComp: molecular process computation

2015 Kremer, Kurt
Chemistry Complex Systems Material Sciences

Macromolecular structures and functionality, ranging from biology to photovoltaics, are the result of non-equilibrium processes. Though crucially important, a basic understanding of the underlying processes on a molecular level is missing. Thanks to recent developments it is now possible to observe such processes over numerous time and length scales. MolProComp takes up these advances and will develop computer simulations methods aiming at the understanding, control and manipulation of such processes.


Superamphiphobic coatings

2015 Vollmer, Doris; Papadopoulos, Periklis; Butt, Hans-Jürgen
Chemistry Complex Systems Material Sciences
Self-cleaning surfaces have existed in nature for a long time. Microstructures on lotus leaves lead to a strong water repellency and ensure that water drops roll off while dragging down dirt with them. This effect is much more difficult to achieve with oily substances. Lately, new surfaces have been developed which not only repel water, but also oil and even human blood. New applications, such as a solvent-free synthesis of polymeric particles or the production of more efficient gas membranes, may become possible. more

Plastics with good memory

2014 Blom, Paul
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Organic electronics has established itself as a new technology for widespread microelectronic applications, e.g. flexible monitors, electronic newspapers, non-contact acquisition of data through transponders and smart labels. Most of these applications require memory functions, preferably the kind that save data when the electricity is switched off and which can furthermore be programmed electronically, deleted and read. more

Graphene – wonder material or temporary fashion?

2014 Müllen, Klaus
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Two phenomena will be crucial for our future society: Energy supply and data processing. The quality of our problem-solving approach depends on the materials. Graphene, a monolayer segment of graphite, is being dealt with as a wonder material. Which demands have to be fulfilled to ensure solid, promising technologies on a graphene basis? more

Glass that cleans itself – superamphiphobic coatings

2013 Vollmer, Doris
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Glasses, windscreens and windows have one thing in common: They become dirty. In the field of photovoltaic we are fighting against dirt adhering to solar cells as well. Meanwhile, there are coatings on which water drops hardly adhere. However, this does not apply to organic liquids. Coatings are rather seldom repelling oils, water, soapy and protein solutions at the same time. Not only oils but red wine would roll off these surfaces without leaving stains. An almost fractal structure consisting of silica spheres unveils new opportunities in this area. more

Modeling thermal transport for the design of energy materials

2013 Donadio, Davide
Chemistry Complex Systems Material Sciences Solid State Research
Controlled management of thermal energy by material design is an important step in the quest of clean and renewable energies. Predictive atomistic simulations unravel the details of heat transport in nanostructures and pave the way to engineer materials at the nanoscale. Here we illustrate applications of atomistic simulation tools to the study of heat transport in silicon-based thermoelectric materials and nano-devices and in carbon nanostructures. more

From stable droplets to functional nanocapsules

2012 Landfester, Katharina
Chemistry Material Sciences
By using a modular approach the miniemulsion process allows for the formation of complex functionalized polymer nanoparticles and the encapsulation of solid or liquid, inorganic or organic, hydrophobic or hydrophilic materials in a polymer shell. Here, different materials from organic and inorganic pigments, magnetite or other solid materials to hydrophilic or hydrophobic liquids like perfumes, vitamins, drugs, or photoinitiators can be encapsulated and deliberated in a well-defined manner. The functionalization of the nanoparticles can be easily controlled. more

"Good Vibrations" – Watching Molecules at Work

2012 Bonn, Mischa
Chemistry Material Sciences
It has been a long-standing dream to watch molecules as they rotate, translate, interact and react to form new chemicals with temporal and spatial resolution that matches the molecular scale, i.e. on femtosecond time scales and nanometer length scales. Several new laser-based vibrational spectroscopic approaches are presented here, aimed towards the realization of this dream, with a specific emphasis of watching molecules at work on surface and interfaces. more

Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Medicine: Spotlight on the spin

2011 Münnemann, Kerstin; Hinderberger, Dariush
Material Sciences
Measurement methods which are based on magnetic resonance have become very important in the fields of modern research and medical diagnostics these days. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) use the quantum mechanical properties of the spin as a spy to gain a very detailed insight into the morphology of materials and tissues. Thus, new hyperpolarized contrast agents used in MRT now make it possible to visualize processes in the human body and provide a whole new range of possible applications in the medical diagnostics of tomorrow. more

Organic electronics: environmental better, more economic and soon more efficient too

2011 Baumeier, Bjoern; Andrienko, Denis
Material Sciences
Electronic devices made of organic materials have certain advantages that other, inorganic devices miss. The materials that have been developed so far are however not efficient enough and are thus unfit for an area-wide application. This is due to fundamental processes on the molecular and nuclear scale which determine the storage and transportation of the charge. These processes are determined by a complex interplay of material compositions and their interactions. The Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research uses numeric simulations in order to examine and understand these processes. more

Dynamic Surfaces with Triggerable Functional Levels

2010 del Campo, Aránzazu
Chemistry Material Sciences
Strategies to control phenomena at the interface between artificial materials and biological systems are relevant for many fields ranging from biosensing to tissue engineering. The inertness and static character of artificial surfaces contrasts with the dynamic, reversible and evolutionary character of biological processes. This gap can be filled with novel strategies that allow precise and active change of the surface properties by application of ready-available and biological friendly external fields. more

Drops like it soft – Condensation on soft surfaces

2010 Auernhammer, Günter K.
Chemistry Material Sciences
The formation of dew, i.e., condensation of water on cold substrates involves the formation of complex patterns, breath figures. Growth and merging of droplets and the overall volume of condensed liquid depend sensitively on the local environment of the droplets and the mechanical properties of the substrate. The softer the substrate, the more drops condense onto it, and the more strongly the drops interact with the substrate. more

Femtosecond spectroscopy – Tracking the fate of excited states with ultrashort pulses

2009 Laquai, Frédéric; Baluschev, Stanislav
Material Sciences Quantum Physics
Conducting organic materials aim to compete with traditional silicon-based technology for optoelectronic applications, for instance light-emitting diodes, solar cells and transistors. To further develop these materials for commercial applications, a profound understanding of the relation between chemical structure and optical / electronic properties is required. Recent advances in optical spectroscopy with pulsed lasers allow studying the photophysical processes down to a timescale of femtoseconds. more

Organic Semiconductors for Electronic Devices

2009 Baumgarten, Martin; Li, Chen; Feng, Xinliang; Müllen, Klaus
Chemistry Material Sciences
Organic semiconductors allow the preparation of low-cost, flexible and large-area processable devices such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), field-effect transistors (FETs), photovoltaic cells (PVs), and sensor materials. Thereby a lot of basic science is involved, since besides of technical optimizations there is also a strong need for new synthetic building blocks. Thus actual research focuses on the development of tailored functional organic materials and their processing as films of suitable morphology for the individual applications. more
Biological membranes, flexible bilayers composed of lipid molecules, form the outer envelope of every living cell. Many of its important properties rest on principles that can be understood using methods from soft matter physics. For instance, adhering proteins can interact with each other after imprinting a local membrane curvature, as has recently been demonstrated in computer simulations. more
Quantum mechanical molecular dynamics simulations and solid state NMR spectroscopy reveal structural and dynamical properties of polymeric membrane materials of modern fuel cells. The atomistic resolution allows to model the proton transport along the fluctuating hydrogen bond network. The results support the design of improved materials for proton conducting polymers, yielding significant efficiency improvements in future generations of fuel cells. more

New unconventional methods for Micro- and Nanostructuring of Polymer Surfaces

2007 Bonaccurso, Elmar
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research
Three novel techniques for micro- and nanostructuring soft and delicate materials, such as polymers are presented. Compared with conventional processes they have the advantage of being low-cost, fast, and straightforward. They are based on simple physical and chemical effects: polymers can be crosslinked with plasma or UV-irradiation, and they can be locally solved or swollen with solvents. more

The Molecular Nose

2007 Sinner, Eva-Kathrin
At the MPI for Polymer Research, the combination of chemistry and biology resulted in the development of novel experimental strategies for investigation of membrane proteins. Employing the well-known strategy of in-vitro transcription and translation, proteins with subtle sensing capabilities, such as olfactory receptors, are generated and characterized. To obtain such proteins, an artificial membrane system is generated and a cell extract containing the genetic information of the receptor species of interest is added on the membrane surface. The protein synthesis machinery in the cell extract is still functional and inserts the olfactory receptor molecules into the lipid membrane. Finally, we can investigate the resulting proteins by optical and biochemical methods. more
The smallest functional units of organisms and soft materials have dimensions between 1 and 10 nm and are not usually repeated periodically in space. By site-directed spin labelling and modern electron spin resonance experiments it is possible to elucidate functionally important aspects of such complex structures. more

Annihilation Up-Conversion Fluorescence: Non-coherent Excitation by Sun-light

2006 Baluschev, Stanislav; Laquai, Frédéric; Wegner, Gerhard
The first experimental results for up-conversion photoluminescence excited by using ultra low (~10 W/cm2) intensity non-coherent light in solution of diphenylanthracene blended with platinum octaethyl porphyrin are presented. The crucial advantage of this bi-molecular up-conversion process is the inherent independence from the coherence properties of the excitation light. more

Organic Nanoparticles as Support for Metallocene Catalysts

2005 Klapper, Markus; Müllen, Klaus
By supporting metallocenes on µm-sized aggregated organic nanoparticles, prepared by emulsion polymerization, highly active catalysts for the olefin polymerization can be obtained. The influence of the support is studied by scanning confocal optical microscopy and videomicroscopy. more

Soft Matter Dynamics

2005 Fytas, George
Our images of organized soft matter, e.g. polymers, colloids, are dominated by static structures that provide only snapshots of the possible conformations. Since the typical energies are of the order of the thermal energy, soft matter is amenable to large fluctuations. Structural dynamics are essential for material function. The study of molecular motions over broad time and spatial ranges challenges both experimentalists and theoreticians. Three selected topics from ongoing projects should exemplify such challenges. more

Images of Gases

2004 Blümler, Peter; Spiess, Hans-Wolfgang
Medicine Quantum Physics
For the first time images of gases can be acquired my magnetic resonance techniques due to recent developments in optical polarization methods. This can be used to investigate the lung with unrivalled spatial resolution. The morphology and function of the lung down to microscopic levels can be characterized by the combination of these methods with further physical information. more
We present three different fields of research in which analytic theory and computer simulation of polymers play an important role. First the relationship between the specific adsorption of single chemical groups in a polymer onto a metal surface as well as the influence on the global chain conformations are studied. The second example establishes a relation between the chain conformations and the so-called entanglement length that determines the rheology of melts respectively the module of elastomers. The third example shows that based on a relatively simple DNA model ("semi flexible worm-like chain") basic phenomena of the DNA repositioning alongside the chromatin can be understood. more
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