Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization

Turbulence in clouds, neuronal fireworks in the brain, the physics of individual cells and the flow of water and oil through porous stone – these, and other particularly complex systems, are the focus of the research carried out by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization. Here, “complex” means that many individual systems combine to form a whole, the dynamics of which cannot necessarily be identified through the behaviour of the individual systems. Scientists say that these systems “organise themselves”. This holds true for the interaction of neurons in the brain (for example during learning) as well as for the numerous swirls that combine to form a turbulent cloud. There is reason to hope that a better understanding of the latter will enable a more accurate prediction of the future influence of clouds on global climate.


Am Faßberg 17
37077 Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 5176-0
Fax: +49 551 5176-702

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Neurosciences
IMPRS for Genome Science

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

Department Fluid Dynamics, Pattern Formation, and Biocomplexity

Scientific highlights 2020

Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2020 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 13 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year

The order of life

A new model that describes the organization of organisms could lead to a better understanding of biological processes

Local lockdowns during the corona pandemic

To be successful strict local containment and low number of cross-regional infections are crucial

Quantifying the impact of Corona interventions

Model calculations show, how the change in people’s behavior contributed to containing the Covid-19 epidemic in Germany

“By the end of May, we could reach well below 1000 new infections per day”

Viola Priesemann from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization talks about the spread of the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 and strategies to contain the Covid-19 epidemic. She is one of the authors of a statement by non-university research organisations on pandemic.


For Ragnar Fleischmann, it was a surprising discovery: in simulations depicting the flow of electrons in semiconductors, he observed behavior resembling that of tsunamis and rogue waves on the open sea. Today, his team at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen is researching electronic processes with a view to improving forecasts of destructive waves.

It is extremely difficult to get around in rural areas without a car of your own, either due to a lack of public transport or because scheduled buses are infrequent. That is why a team led by physicist Stephan Herminghaus, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen, have developed the EcoBus, a system that lets customers order a bus directly to their front door. The special thing about it is that, unlike other on-call systems, rather than poaching customers, the EcoBus will augment existing public transport services.

Fighting Turbulence with Eddies

Physics & Astronomy

Turbulence is omnipresent: it plays an important role during planet formation, mixes fuel and air in the cylinder of an engine, but also increases the energy needed for pumps to push oil through pipelines. Björn Hof and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen investigate the finer points of how it originates and search for tricks to prevent the eddies from forming where they interfere.

New forms and sources of energy need new power lines as well. In the future, a larger number of small, distributed wind and solar installations in place of a smaller number of large power plants are projected to supply Germany with energy. At the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the Network Dynamics Group headed by Marc Timme is investigating how the high-voltage grid will respond to this and how it can be optimized.

Bridges That Bind Sand

MPR 4 /2009 Physics & Astronomy

What holds sandcastles together at their core? Researchers are studying such complex structures.

PhD positions

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen July 24, 2020

statistical physics and future mobility

2019 S. Herminghaus*, L. J. Deutsch, C. Hoffrogge-Lee, M. Patscheke, M. Timme, A. Sorge, N. Molkenthin, N. Beyer, P. Marszal, D. Manik, F. Jung, C. Brügge, J. Simons, M. Schäfer, D. Gebauer, A. Hahn, C. Malzer, F. Maus, W. Frühling, J. Schlüter, V. Chifu, I. Gholami, T. Baig-Meininghaus

Complex Systems Structural Biology

In order to reduce the volume of traffic on our roads, the number of passengers per vehicle must be increased. This can be achieved by ride-pooling and by strengthening scheduled services. Using statistical physics methods, we have developed a general description whose predictions we have been able to confirm through experiments (i.e. pilot projects). We have now brought this system close to market maturity. We are aiming at large scale commercial deployment in the near future, with the aim of increasing sustainable mobility in the countryside and the quality of life in cities.


In the Clouds  

2018 Bodenschatz, Eberhard; Wilczek, Michael; Bagheri, Gholamhossein

Cell Biology Complex Systems Material Sciences Neurosciences Solid State Research Structural Biology

The insufficient understanding of cloud physics is a major source of uncertainty in weather and climate models.  In addition to water vapour, clouds consist of water droplets and ice particles. Their dynamics are significantly influenced by the high degree of turbulence within the clouds. The question of better weather and climate predictions is therefore closely linked to the understanding of turbulence and its role in cloud microphysics. A better understanding of these phenomena is the goal of new experimental and theoretical investigations at the MPIDS.


Random Focussing of Tsunami Waves

2017 Fleischmann, Ragnar; Geisel, Theo

Complex Systems

The effect of branched flow explains how even minute fluctuations in the ocean depth can focus the energy carried by a tsunami wave. A tsunami wave can focus the energy of a seaquake in certain directions where it causes devastating destruction. Current research from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization shows that minute fluctuations in the ocean depths can lead to focusing effects and generate strong height fluctuations in the tsunami wave. This formation of a branched flow has severe implications on the way we have to think about predicting tsunamis.


Coordinated fluid transport by ciliated surfaces

2016 Westendorf, Christian; Gholami, Azam; Faubel, Regina; Guido, Isabella; Wang, Yong; Bae, Albert; Eichele, Gregor; Bodenschatz, Eberhard

Cell Biology Complex Systems Material Sciences Neurosciences Solid State Research Structural Biology

Active and directed fluid transport are crucial for the survival of eukaryotic organisms. This is often carried out by ciliated tissues e. g., the inner wall of the ventriclar system in the mammalian brain. Using a novel method the complexity of the cilia driven fluid flow in the third ventricle of the brain is revealed. Furthermore, ciliated tissues, which are capable of driving such complex flows are interesting for synthetic biology and applications in technology. Therefore, our working group at the MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization currently attempts to rebuild such ciliated carpets.


Fluid invasion structures in porous media

2015 Herminghaus, Stephan

Complex Systems Material Sciences

The complex structures which emerge when a fluid invades a porous medium are of great relevance for many problems in the geosciences as well as in technology, engineering, and everyday life. Nevertheless, about fifty years of intense research have not been able to identify the dominant mechanisms at work. We have recently found that the solution is much simpler than anticipated. The mechanism is well hidden, but so elementary that high-school math is sufficient to come up with quantitative predictions.

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