Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems

Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems

In reality, there is no magnetic monopole – the north and south poles of a magnet are usually assumed to be inseparable. However, a magnetic monopole can occur in certain magnetic solids, as researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems have discovered. Such a solid represents a complex system in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts – this is why even a magnetic monopole can occur. The physicists develop theories regarding such phenomena: not only in solids, but also in individual atoms, molecules or in small groups of atoms, where they interact with light, for example. They also want to understand the physical principles behind cell division or the transport system in biological cells. As different as these systems are, their complex behaviour is largely based on the same principles.


Nöthnitzer Str. 38
01187 Dresden
Phone: +49 351 871-0
Fax: +49 351 871-1999

PhD opportunities

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

IMPRS Many-Particle Systems in Structured Environments

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

Differences between individuals reduce the number of infections required for herd immunity


First six reference-quality bat genomes released and analysed.


Genes lost in whales and dolphins helped adapting to an aquatic environment


Mammals have profited repeatedly in evolution from losing genes


Electricity supply and demand can be coordinated in an entirely decentralised way with the help of a new type of smart grid control.


Storms, droughts and extreme rainfall could become more frequent due to global warming. At any rate, climate researchers are discussing this eventuality and are analyzing measured data to determine whether such a trend can already be observed. Holger Kantz and his colleagues at Dresden’s Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems are developing the necessary statistical tools.

What do soccer and quantum mechanics have in common? Both have surprising twists in store that are difficult to predict. Soccer, however, at least follows some rules that are more or less reliable. As a striker, Jens Hjörleifur Bárdarson controls the ball; as a physicist, he masters the rules of the quantum universe. The 35-year-old researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden studies atomic particles, which display many a tricky move.

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Dynamics of Droplets in Living Cells

2020 Weber, Christoph A.

Cell Biology Complex Systems

The physics of phase separation and the formation of protein-rich droplets play an important role for biochemical processes in living cells. The shape, size and composition of such droplets can change with time and thereby affect biochemical reactions. Such reactions also affect the dynamics of droplets. Obtaining insights into this interplay is key to better understand the mechanisms underlying the spatio-temporal organization of biological cells.


Universal behaviour of clones in developing tissues

2019 Rulands, Steffen

Complex Systems Developmental Biology

The formation of complex tissues and organs during embryonic development relies on the tightly regulated interplay between many cells. The behaviour of these cells is reflected in the time evolution of their progeny, termed clones, which serve as a key experimental observable. We showed that the time evolution of the progeny of such cells, termed clones, follows universal behaviour which is independent of the biological context. The identification of such universal behaviour allows specific information about the behaviour of stem cells information to be distilled from experiments.


Leaping dynamics in the quantum world

2018 Heyl, Markus

Complex Systems Material Sciences Solid State Research

In recent years a novel class of experimental architectures in so-called quantum simulators has revolutionized the field of non-equilibrium quantum many-body physics. However, the characterization of such non-equilibrium systems faces a major challenge. In this context the theory of dynamical quantum phase transitions has emerged as a promising concept to formulate general principles for the dynamics in quantum systems and to understand universal behaviour far from equilibrium.


Crystallising photons — light becomes matter

2017 Piazza, Francesco

Complex Systems Material Sciences Solid State Research

The interactions between atoms and photons (i.e. particles of light) has been investigated for a long time. In recent years it became possible to precisely control them to a high degree. The results are fascinating. In particular, it is possible to employ atoms to mediate strong interactions between photons. As a many-body system, a collection of interacting photons is a very interesting object of research, whose investigation has just scratched the surface of a complex and novel phenomenology. It turns out that under proper conditions the photons can crystallise — light becomes matter.


bacterial microcolonies as early forms of multicellular organisms

2016 Zaburdaev, Vasily; Pönisch, Wolfram

Complex Systems

Many pathogenic bacteria, for example Neisseria gonorrhoeae, form microcolonies, aggregates consisting of up to several thousands of cells, due to type IV pili. These filaments mediate attractive cell-cell-forces that affect the spatially-dependent dynamics of cells within the colony. This dynamic heterogeneity can then give rise to an altered gene expression pattern in the microcolony and thus changing the phenotypes of the cells. This behavior is reminiscent of early embryonic development and suggests a view on bacterial microcolonies as model multicellular organisms.

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