Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics

Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics

Since its foundation in 1995, the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Potsdam-Golm has established itself as a leading international research center. Its research program covers the entire spectrum of gravitational physics: from the giant dimensions of the Universe to the tiny scales of strings. The AEI is the only institute in the world that brings together all of these key research fields. AEI scientists investigate the mathematical foundations of Einstein's theory of space-time and gravitation. Others work towards the unification of both fundamental theories of physics – general relativity and quantum mechanics – into a theory of quantum gravity. Other scientists do research on gravitational waves, neutron stars, black holes, the two-body problem in general relativity, and the analytical and numerical solutions of Einstein's equations. They are thus contributing to a new era of astronomy, which began on September 14, 2015 with the first direct detection of gravitational waves on Earth by LIGO.

Central research topics of the other AEI branch in Hannover are the development and implementation of data analysis algorithms for a variety of gravitational wave sources as well as work on gravitational wave detectors.


Am Mühlenberg 1
14476 Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-70
Fax: +49 331 567-7298

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Gravitational Wave Astronomy

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

Department Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity


Department Computational Relativistic Astrophysics


Department Quantum gravity and Unified Theories


When a black hole and a neutron star merge

two diffuse spheres glowing in bright blue orbit each other very closely, a green beam shines upwards and downwards from the center

Computer simulation reveals the dynamo that generates large-scale magnetic fields in merging neutron stars and that may result in high-energetic gamma-ray outbursts


International research team models the different signatures of a kilonova explosion simultaneously for the first time


New energy-efficient high-performance compute cluster for the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam


Complex numerical simulation sheds light on an extreme cosmic process

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The detection of the Higgs boson represented a huge success for the particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider. But other expected or unexpected discoveries, which physicists hoped would explain the appearance of the world we live in, have failed to materialize. Now, Hermann Nicolai, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, and Siegfried Bethke, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, are on a quest for new prospects in particle physics.

It’s the question of all scientific questions: How did the universe come into being? Jean-Luc Lehners at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam-Golm is addressing the question using state-of-the-art mathematical tools. In the process, he is also investigating the possibility that there was a precursor universe.

Black holes are a permanent fixture in science fiction literature. In reality, there is hardly a more extreme location in the universe. These mass monsters swallow everything that ventures too close to them: light, gas, dust and even entire stars. It sounds quite simple, but the nature of black holes is complex. Maria Rodriguez, Minerva Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Golm, wants to solve some of the puzzles these exotic cosmic bodies present.

Albert Einstein was right: gravitational waves really do exist. They were detected on September 14, 2015. This, on the other hand, would have surprised Einstein, as he believed they were too weak to ever be measured. The researchers were therefore all the more delighted - particularly those at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, which played a major role in the discovery.

Gravitational waves are some of the most spectacular predictions of the 1915 general theory of relativity. However, it wasn’t until half a century later that physicist Joseph Weber attempted to track them down. In the early 1970s, Max Planck scientists also began working in this research field, and developed second-generation detectors. The groundwork laid by these pioneers meant the waves in space-time ceased to be just figments of the imagination: in September 2015 they were finally detected.

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Looking at gravitational waves through Einstein's lenses

2023 Zumalacárregui, Miguel

Astronomy Astrophysics

Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted novel phenomena that would only be observed many decades later. Two among them, gravitational waves and gravitational lensing, are now essential tools to study the universe. In the near future, detector advances will allow us to observe the combination of both phenomena. In addition to a new vindication of Einstein’s ideas, lensed gravitational waves will provide a new and powerful tool to explore the Universe.


A complex systems perspective on fundamental interactions

2021 Heller, Michal P.

Particle Physics Quantum Physics

Einstein introduced the modern way of thinking about gravity by referring to the geometry of space and time. Around twenty years after his groundbreaking work on gravity, Einstein was involved in the discovery of the phenomenon we now call entanglement, which is at the heart of the quantum computing revolution. Interestingly, our 21st century understanding of gravity considers entanglement as one of the central concepts - an example of a broader research approach of a complex systems perspective on fundamental interactions.


Multi-messenger astronomy and numerical relativity

2019 Shibata, Masaru

Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics

The observation of an astrophysical phenomenon using both different electromagnetic frequency ranges and gravitational waves has only recently become possible. This multi-messenger astronomy can contribute to solving some long-standing problems in physics: what do the inner structures of neutron stars look like? How were gold and the other heavy elements formed? Complex numerical-relativistic simulations of major astronomical events can shed light upon these problems.


The first observation of gravitational waves from merging neutron stars

2017 Dietrich, Tim

Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics

Over 100 years after the formulation of the theory of general relativity by Albert Einstein and more than 30 years after the first discovery of a binary neutron star system, the gravitational wave signal of colliding neutron stars has been detected for the first time.


Quantum gravity and unification

2016 Nicolai, Hermann

Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

General relativity theory and the standard model of particle physics describe physical phenomena correctly over a vast range of distances and are nevertheless incomplete. In order to understand what is happening inside a black hole or at the Big Bang, a new unified theory is sought which contains the standard model and the theory of gravitation as limiting cases, but whose mathematical contradictions are overcome. Maybe reflections on symmetry can help here.

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