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

Maelstroms in the heart

Heart researchers in Göttingen develop a new, promising imaging technique for cardiac arrhythmias

Algae with light switch

The adhesion of Chlamydomonas, a unicellular alga, to surfaces is light-dependent

Quantum particles in a synchronized dance

Quantum systems oscillate in synchronization after a short time just like classical pendulums

A formula for preventing power outages

The search for power lines that constitute the weaker links of the grid is set to become simpler

No cable spaghetti in the brain

The brain is not relying on random-wiring, but self-organized neural networks for visual information processing


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.

Postdoctoral Researcher positions (f/m/d)

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen September 25, 2019

PhD positions (f/m/d)

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen September 25, 2019

PhD position (f/m/d) - Turbulent Convection

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen September 04, 2019

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.


Biodiversity and extinction

2014 Stollmeier, Frank

Complex Systems Evolutionary Biology

Today's biodiversity is the result of a long-lasting process of origination and extinction of species. The history of this process can be explored by fossil databases. A new mathematical model for the network of dependencies between species helps to improve our understanding of the mechanisms of this process. For instance, the model can explain in which circumstances the extinction of a single species may initiate a mass extinction, and why the growth of the biodiversity on land and in the sea has been qualitatively different from each other.

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