Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter

Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter

New methods are enabling physicists and biologists at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter to break new scientific ground. With the help of new radiation sources, especially the x-ray free-electron laser being built at the DESY in Hamburg, the researchers can show the properties and behavior of matter at a spatial resolution of a few nanometers and at time intervals of a few billionths of a billionth of a second. This provides them with completely new insights into the structure and function of biological materials and into the properties of solids and their electronic and structural dynamics. The coherent light of lasers enables the physicists to inspect the collective properties, for example superconductivity, of complex solids, including many types of ceramics.


Luruper Chaussee 149, Geb. 99 (CFEL)
22761 Hamburg
Phone: +49 40 8998-88002
Fax: +49 40 8994-6570

PhD opportunities

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

IMPRS for Ultrafast Imaging and Structural Dynamics

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

Quantum tricks on demand

November 20, 2019

Max Planck–New York Center for Nonequilibrium Quantum Phenomena inaugurated in New York City


Researchers from Hamburg, Potsdam and Toronto watch work of an enzyme in unprecedented detail


Indications of light-induced lossless electricity transmission in fullerenes contribute to the search for superconducting materials for practical applications


Short electron pulses make it possible to observe a structural change in a complex molecule as if watching a film


An infrared laser pulse briefly modifies the structure of a high-temperature superconductor and thus removes its electrical resistance even at room temperature


To alter properties of materials with light as if with the wave of a magic wand: that is Andrea Cavalleri’s mission. The Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg uses lasers to change the behavior of crystals, fleetingly producing superconductors that conduct electricity without loss at room temperature.

No job offers available

The Design Principles of Nature Revealed at the Atomic and Electronic Timescales

2019 Eike C. Schulz, Robert Bücker, Günther H. Kassier, Hong Guan Duan,  R.J. Dwayne Miller

Chemistry Material Sciences Microbiology Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Just how has nature optimized certain biological structures to optimally transduce chemistry into living systems? In the area of barrier-crossing, which takes around 100 femtoseconds, there is a proposal that nature has optimized form and function to exploit quantum effects by environmental engineering to extend coherences - even electronic coherences - on the timescale relevant to electronic motions sensitive to the environment fluctuations. In enzymatic processes lasting microseconds and above, stochastic thermally driven motions need to steer the chemistry to drive biological functions.


Light-induced superconductivity: footballs carry an electrical current without resistance

2017 Först, Michael; Nicoletti, Daniele; Cavalleri, Andrea

Material Sciences Solid State Research

Superconductors at very low temperatures show the remarkable property of being able to conduct electrical current without any resistance. However, the use of these materials in everyday life applications is severely limited by the need for cooling to at least minus 70 degrees Celsius. In carbon-based molecules, irradiation with intense mid-infrared laser light has now enabled to induce a short-lived transient superconducting state at higher temperatures. The knowledge gained might help in the development of materials that become superconducting at significantly higher temperatures.


How light changes matter: from a laser to a few photons

2016 Ruggenthaler, Michael; Hübener, Hannes; Sentef, Michael A.; Appel, Heiko; Rubio, Angel

Chemistry Material Sciences Quantum Physics Solid State Research

The properties of matter, e.g., the conductivity, can be tailored with light. This can be done with a lot of photons that are part of a laser beam, or in certain cases only a few photons are enough. In the theory department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, researchers use both extreme cases to investigate novel states of matter: a laser allows theoretically generating hitherto unobserved states of matter and via a few photons chemical reactions can be altered.


Molecular movie from Hamburg

2015 Hayes, Stuart; Manz, Stephanie; Bücker, Robert; Kassier, Günther; Miller, R.J. Dwayne.

Chemistry Material Sciences

Many processes in the chemistry of life take place on ultrashort length and time scales. Their observation thus lies beyond the capabilities of optical microscopes. The investigation of such processes using novel electron sources in many cases presents a cost-saving alternative to X-ray studies using synchrotron radiation sources and free-electron lasers. Also the development of methods for the preparation of liquid samples is essential for the study of many organic materials.


Superconductivity at room temperature: A dream becomes reality for a split second

2014 Först, M.; Mankowsky, R.; Kaiser, S.; Hu, W.; Cavalleri, A.

Material Sciences Solid State Research

Superconductors carry an electric current without resistance only at low temperatures. Now, for the first time, scientists have turned a ceramic crystal into a superconductor even at room temperature, using an ultrashort mid-infrared flash of light. The superconducting state survived only for a couple of picoseconds (millionth of a microsecond), and the researchers found that this light-induced state is based on certain distortions of the material’s crystal lattice. These findings may aid the quest for higher temperature superconductors and pave the way for novel applications.

Go to Editor View