Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart site

Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart site

The scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (formerly: Max Planck Institute for Metals Research) dedicate their efforts to the material sciences. Their interests include, among other things, how the functioning of materials determines the atomic, nanoscopic and microscopic scale of their macroscopic behaviour. To this end, one of their main fields of research is nanoscience – the scientists investigate magnetic material and fluids on the nanoscale, for example. A further focus of their research is the interface between nanotechnology and biology, such as the behaviour of cells on different surfaces. Many of the phenomena being investigated occur when a material is converted from one state into another or at the interface between two materials. Understanding what happens at such interfaces could help create materials which are more stable and invest them with targeted properties.


Heisenbergstr. 3
70569 Stuttgart
Phone: +49 711 689-0
Fax: +49 711 689-1010

PhD opportunities

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

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

Department Theory of Inhomogeneous Condensed Matter more
Department Modern Magnetic Systems more
Department Physical Intelligence more
Department Phase Transformations, Thermodynamics and Kinetics more
Six Max Planck researchers land lucrative EU funding
ERC awards Advanced Grants worth up to 2.5 million euros each. more
Millirobot with a talent for versatility of movement
A magnetic drive allows a tiny untethered vehicle to walk, crawl, jump and swim through a complex environment more
Gecko-inspired multipurpose gripper
An elastic membrane covered with tiny fibres paired with a pressure differential enables a new soft gripper system with a high adhesion performance even on curved surfaces more
Magic ink from the nano world
A chemical reaction alters the colours of plasmonic prints more
A filter for heavy hydrogen
Deuterium and tritium can be separated from each other relatively easily using a functionalized metal-organic framework compound more
New drive for tiny vessels
Miniaturized robots can be propelled through biological fluids by an enzymatic reaction or ultrasound more
The nanostructured cloak of invisibility
Scientists manipulate surfaces in such a manner that they hardly reflect any light and practically become invisible more
<p>Motion-directed robots on a micro scale</p>
Microswimmers capped with carbon on one side can be propelled and steered by light more
Shape-programmable miniscule robots
Soft materials that can use magnetic fields to generate desired time-varying shapes could provide an engine for microswimmers more
Holograms with sound
A new way of shaping sound waves in 3D aids technology and could be useful for medical ultrasound applications more
Switch and stick

Switch and stick

May 18, 2016
The chemical element gallium could be used as a new reversible adhesive that allows its adhesive effect to be switched on and off with ease more
Microrobots learn from ciliates
A swimming microrobot formed from liquid-crystal elastomers is driven by a light-induced peristaltic motion more
Nano-hinge – lubricated by light
A nanoplasmonic system of DNA bundles can be opened and closed by optical means more
Nanotechnology: Tracking nanowalkers with light
A tiny gold rod walks across a surface guided by DNA and can be tracked step by step more
The magic of wound healing
The protein merlin regulates collective cell movement, promoting effective and rapid wound healing more

Some medical treatments would be more efficient if medication could be transported via a tiny robot directly to the diseased area. Peer Fischer and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart are developing microswimmers and nanoswimmers that are expected to one day make this possible.

Gastroscopy usually requires patients to swallow an endoscope tube. Although camera-carrying capsules are also suitable for the task, it is still not possible to control them. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart plan to change all that. And their tiny capsule-shaped robots can do a lot more than merely take snapshots of the stomach’s interior.
Personal Portrait: Sylvie Roke
Researchers are testing new storage solutions for hydrogen cars.
Event manager (50%)
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart site, Stuttgart May 08, 2018
PhD student
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart site, Stuttgart May 03, 2018
Cyber Valley Research Coordinator
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart site, Stuttgart May 02, 2018

Biomechanics and Locomotion Control in Legged Animals and Legged Robots

2017 Spröwitz, Alexander (korrespondierender Autor); Heim, Steve
Material Sciences
An animal's running gait is dynamic, efficient, elegant, and adaptive. We see locomotion in animals as an orchestrated interplay of the locomotion apparatus, interacting with its environment. The Dynamic Locomotion Group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart develops novel legged robots to decipher aspects of biomechanics and neuromuscular control of legged locomotion in animals, and to understand general principles of locomotion. more

Interface-controlled phenomena in nanomaterials

2016 Mittemeijer, Eric J.; Wang, Zumin
Material Sciences

Nanosized material systems characteristically exhibit an excessively high internal interface density. A series of previously unknown phenomena in nanomaterials have been disclosed that are fundamentally caused by the presence of interfaces. Thus anomalously large and small lattice parameters in nanocrystalline metals, quantum stress oscillations in growing nanofilms, and extraordinary atomic mobility at ultralow temperatures have been observed and explained. The attained understanding for these new phenomena can lead to new, sophisticated applications of nanomaterials in advanced technologies.


The smallest human-made nano-motor

2015 Sánchez, Samuel
Chemistry Material Sciences

Tiny self-propelled motors which speed through the water and clean up pollutions along the way or small robots which can swim effortlessly through blood to one day transport medication to a certain part of the body – this sounds like taken from a science fiction movie script. However, Samuel Sánchez is already hard at work in his lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart to make these visions come true.

Self-propelled micro-nanorobots and the usage as integrated sensors in microfluid-chips: that’s the topic of Sánchez` research group.


Living organisms have a very effective method for eliminating cells that are no longer needed: programmed death. Researchers in the group of Ana García Sáez work with a protein called Bax, a key regulator of apoptosis that creates pores with a flexible diameter inside the outer mitochondrial membrane. This step inevitably triggers the final death of the cell. These insights into the role of important key enzymes in setting off apoptosis could provide useful for developing drugs that can directly influence apoptosis.


Being small, being smart

2013 Liu, Na
Chemistry Material Sciences Solid State Research

Metallic nanostructures feature plasmonic resonances which spatially confine light on the nanometer scale. In the ultimate limit of a single nanostructure, the electromagnetic field can be strongly concentrated in a volume of only a few hundred nm3 or less. We utilize such plasmonic focusing for hydrogen detection at the single particle level, which avoids any inhomogeneous broadening and statistical effects that would occur in sensors based on nanoparticle ensembles. This concept paves the road towards the observation of single catalytic processes in nanoreactors.

There have been numerous speculations in scientific publications and the popular media about wirelessly controlled microrobots (microbots) navigating the human body. Such micro-agents could revolutionize minimally invasive medical procedures. Using physical vapor deposition we grow billions of micron-sized colloidal screw-propellers on a wafer. These chiral mesoscopic screws can be magnetized and moved through solution under computer control. The screw-propellers resemble artificial flagella and are the only ‘microbots’ to date that can be fully controlled in solution at micron length scales. more
Metals may help to convert semiconductors from a disordered (amorphous) to an ordered (crystalline) form at low temperatures. A general, quantitative model description has been developed on the basis of interface thermodynamics, which provides fundamental understanding of such so-called metal-induced crystallization (MIC) of amorphous semiconductors. This fundamental understanding can allow the low-temperature (< 200 ºC) manufacturing of high-efficiency solar cells and crystalline-Si-based nanostructures on cheap and flexible substrates such as glasses, plastics and possibly even papers. more
Many biological cells endow themselves with a sugar-rich coat that plays a key role in the protection of the cell and in structuring and communicating with its environment. An outstanding property of these pericellular coats is their dynamic self-organization into strongly hydrated and gel-like meshworks. Tailor-made model systems that are constructed from the molecular building blocks of pericellular coats can help to understand how the coats function.

Critical Casimir Forces

2010 Bechinger, Clemens; Dietrich, Siegfried
Material Sciences
The geometrical confinement of liquid mixtures close to their critical point gives rise to so-called critical Casimir forces. They are due to local fluctuations in the concentration of the mixture, which diverge close to the critical point and thus lead to long-ranged effective interactions. Critical Casimir forces are characterized by a strong temperature dependence but also by a high sensitivity for the corresponding surface properties of the confining walls. This allows one not only to vary the amplitude but even to reverse the sign of critical Casimir forces. more

Protein Mechanics - from Force Sensors to Tough Materials

2010 Gräter, Frauke
Material Sciences
All living organisms adapt to mechanical forces by sophisticated mechanisms, with proteins being the major players. What are the design principles that enable proteins and biomaterials to respond to mechanical forces? Nature has come up with solutions handling a wide range of conditions, such as those in tensed muscle, flowing blood or stretched silk fibers. New approaches based on high-performance simulations increasingly help to reveal and engineer the force-carrying and force-sensing building blocks in these biological systems and materials. more

Nanostructured surfaces for biomedical applications

2009 Martin, Raquel
Material Sciences
The goal of the project is to found a start-up that will develop and sell health care products whose design is based on a particular nanotechnology. The first three products that we are developing are a non-invasive prenatal test, a non-invasive cancer monitoring test, and a coating for synthetic vascular grafts. The project is funded by the GOBio program, a program from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany. more

Room temperature ferromagnetism of zinc oxide: a grain boundary phenomenon?

2009 Goering, Eberhard; Baretzky, Brigitte; Straumal, Boris; Tietze, Thomas; Schütz, Gisela
Material Sciences Solid State Research
Zink oxide doped with Cobalt shows ferromagnetic behavior at room temperature. Our X-ray Magnetic Circular Dichroism measurements clearly demonstrate that none of the sample’s elements (Co, Zn or O) is responsible for ferromagnetism. Dedicated data evaluation from literature and our own investigations indicate that ferromagnetism only appears in nanocrystalline ZnO and is likely induced by Oxygen defects located in the dense grain boundary network. These findings may open promising perspectives for new technological applications. more
Interfaces are important locations for an enormous variety of physical, chemical and biological processes. In reality most interfaces are part of complex (soft matter) systems, such as cell membranes or emulsions. In the last decades it has become possible to address structural and dynamical questions relating to flat interfaces under ambient conditions, by probing them with nonlinear optical techniques. If one combines light scattering with nonlinear optical processes it becomes even possible to investigate interfaces of dispersed particles in situ. more

Artificial nacre - Bioinspired synthesis and properties

2008 Burghard, Zaklina; Santomauro, Giulia; Rothenstein, Dirk; Bill, Joachim; Aldinger, Fritz
Chemistry Material Sciences
Nacre-like thin films were fabricated via a bio-inspired route combining chemical bath deposition of the inorganic component (TiO2 and ZnO) and layer-by-layer assembly of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes for the organic component. Nanoindentation testing revealed an increase in hardness imparted by the alternate-nanolayer architecture of the composite film. Further work also concerns the application of living organisms for the synthesis of novel biomaterials. more
Nanoparticles are indispensible for the realization of high-quality permanent magnets and ultra-high density magnetic recording and are therefore the prerequisites for the production of hybride motors and the development of high-performance computers. more


2007 Rauscher, Markus; Dietrich, Siegfried
Even very small amounts of liquids can be described by hydrodynamic equations. However, this description breaks down if the amount of liquid becomes so small that long-ranged intermolecular interactions, thermal fluctuations, or the size of the molecules become relevant. This regime is called nanofluidics, an area of research with a broad range of potential applications, and one for which statistical physics plays a key role. more

Kinetics of solid state phase transformation

2006 Mittemeijer, Eric Jan; Sommer, Ferdinand
Material Sciences Solid State Research
A modular approach for the quantitative (numerical and analytical) description of solid state phase transformations, which can be subdivided into three overlapping mechanisms: nucleation, growth and impingement, has been developed and successfully applied. Two kinds of transformation kinetics, called normal and abnormal, were recognized for the first time for pure iron and iron-based alloys. On the basis of a new atomistic multi-lattice Monte Carlo method the massive phase transformation can be simulated. The corresponding overall transformation activation energy is determined by a series of single atomic jumps by a group of atoms at the interface. more

Neutron research on low-dimensional materials

2006 Rühm, Adrian; Major, János; Dosch, Helmut
Material Sciences
Within the collaborative research initiative of the Max Planck Society "Materials and Solid-State Research at the New Neutron Source Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II)", the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research operates the novel neutron/X-ray-contrast reflectometer N-REX+ at FRM II in Garching near Munich. This instrument provides unique research possibilities for the study of surfaces, buried interfaces, thin layers, and complex multilayers on the nanoscale. This includes in particular the in-situ combination of X-ray and neutron reflectometry, as well as the novel SERGIS (spin-echo resolved grazing incidence scattering) technique. First systematic experiments for the study of the dewetting morphology on polymer films will be carried out within the next few years. At the end of 2006 the instrument N-REX+ will become available for external users. more

Cellular life on the nanometer scale

2005 Spatz, Joachim P.; Arnold, Marco; Blümmel, Jacques; Cavalcanti-Adam, Ada; Glass, Roman; Ulmer, Jens
Material Sciences
The formation of molecular clusters plays an essential role in many hierarchically organised processes. Especially in biology, cellular functions are often regulated by the association of single proteins into protein clusters of defined protein number. Proteins change their molecular conformation and thus their function through interaction with other proteins in close spatial proximity. Consequently, the formation of protein clusters is a functional tool of nature to switch system properties. Beside the spatial proximity of proteins the total number of proteins per cluster is often very important. Usually, this is a countable number of proteins which form such a cluster. In such systems, cooperativeness between proteins is basically of importance. In this context, nanotechnology can contribute significantly to cell biology by means of nanostructured and bio-functionalised interfaces. Here, this technology serves as a “nanoscopic tool” for regulating molecular interactions and for measuring molecular length scales in protein clusters. more

Bio-inspired synthesis of ceramic materials

2005 Bill, Joachim; Aldinger, Fritz
Chemistry Material Sciences
The evolution-optimized processes of biomineralization lead to the formation of multifunctional biominerals, that can be considered to be inorganic/organic composite materials with a complex structure. The formation of these solids occurs in aqueous solution at ambient conditions and involves biopolymeric templates that control the mineralization of the inorganic components. Bio-inspired material synthesis aims to imitate such principles by technical means. In the meantime thin films as well as multilayer composites made of ceramics and polymers were prepared successfully. Moreover, morphologies, that are similar to structures found within living nature, have been created. more

Micro- / nanomechanics of biological materials and systems

2004 Arzt, Eduard; Gorb, Stanislav; Huber, Gerrit; Niederegger, Senta; Pfaff, Holger; Spolenak, Ralph; Vötsch, Walter
Material Sciences
During the course of evolution biological systems have developed interesting micro- and nano-mechanical solutions, which mankind to a great extend does still not understand. At the Max-Planck-Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart materials researchers and biologists work together in order to find out how micro-mechanical concepts, theories and methods can be applied to biological phenomena. At the same time the researchers expect to be inspired by the study of biological principles for the solution of technical problems. Our department examines on a micron and submicron scale the structure and function of biological systems regarding adhesion, friction and clamp mechanisms. The following contribution describes our research results on hairy and smooth adhesive systems of various animal species. A more detailed illustration is given of structure, biomechanics and chemistry. Furthermore we illustrate the results of the micro-mechanical measurement of the occurring adhesive forces. The article closes with our thoughts about how these theories may be transferred to biologically inspired systems. more
Most materials used in technical applications are polycrystalline. They consist of small crystallites (grains) which meet at internal interfaces. These two-dimensional defects (internal interfaces) influence strongly many, also technically relevant, properties. Investigations proved that the macroscopic properties of grain boundaries depend strongly on their microstructure. In nanocrystalline materials the volume fraction of atoms at grain boundaries can be up to several percent and, therefore, grain boundaries play a major role in the nanoworld. Subsequently, the results of experimental and theoretical investigations will be reported for α-Al2O3 (corundum). For corundum artificially processed bicrystals were investigated, where the interface plane as well as the misorientation between the two crystals meeting at the interface were predetermined. Results of experimental observations will be compared to results of theoretical analyses. In addition, investigations of "real" sintered materials consisting of polycrystalline α-Al2O3 were performed. The results can be used for an explanation of grain growth in α-Al2O3. Furthermore, results from studies of the Cu/α-Al2O3 interface will be reported. This heterophase boundary plays an important role in technical applications of electronic as well as structural materials. more
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