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.

Gene loss can prove to be an advantage

Mammals have profited repeatedly in evolution from losing genes

A smart grid –self-organised simply

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

Green algae move to the beat

Green algae move to the beat

October 25, 2013

Max Planck researchers in Dresden explain the flagellar synchronisation of swimming algae

Surviving amongst cannibals

Surviving amongst cannibals

September 21, 2012

Locusts move in swarms to avoid falling victim to their conspecifics

In search of the key word

Bursts of certain words within a text are what make them keywords


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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bacterial microcolonies as early forms of multicellular organisms

2017 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.


Topological order and efficient simulations of fractional quantum Hall systems

2016 Pollmann, Frank

Complex Systems Material Sciences Solid State Research

Phases of matter are usually characterized by their symmetry breaking. With the Quantum Hall Effect, a completely new class of topological phases was discovered, which cannot be characterized by symmetry breaking. These phases have highly non-local excitations that could serve as ideal building blocks for a fault-tolerant quantum computer. To understand topological phases in realistic model systems, complicated quantum-many body systems have to be solved. This can be achieved by using new efficient algorithms based on insights from the field of quantum information.


The study of highly excited atoms has a long history in physics, starting from the early days of quantum mechanics to more recent developments of cavity-QED. In ultracold gases it is nowadays possible to precisely probe and utilize the remarkable properties of these atoms.


Despite availability of many sequenced genomes, we know very little about which genomic changes underlie phenotypic differences between species. Forward Genomics is a new method that uses phenotypes with repeated evolutionary losses to find such associations between genomic and phenotypic differences. For vitamin C synthesis, an example of a repeatedly lost phenotype, the method can correctly pinpoint the vitamin C synthesizing enzyme, just based on a search for genes that evolve neutrally in all non vitamin C synthesizing species.


Wrinkles, channels, food and biofilms

2013 Zaburdaev, Vasily

Complex Systems Developmental Biology Microbiology

The mention of bacteria usually brings to mind the picture of a swimming cell, however, most bacteria on earth are stuck to surfaces and form complex communities – biofilms. Biofilms are responsible for myriad problems, including tooth decay and severe infections. Biofilms need food to grow and survive, but, as they expand, the diffusion of nutrients becomes too slow. Large organisms, such as humans, solve this problem by making blood vessels that rapidly carry food in our bodies.  We show that some biofilms form a similar network of channels which transport nutrients throughout the biofilm.

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