Yearbook 2013

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A knowledge-based concept has proven as efficient strategy for the development of innovative catalysts. Understanding of the crystal structure and the atomic interactions within intermetallic compounds allows for selection of suitable intermetallic compounds as effective hydrogenation catalysts. In contrast to the widely applied trial-and-error approach, the knowledge-based approach is an advantageous alternative, demonstrating the application potential of intermetallic compounds in heterogeneous catalysis. more

There's life in the old dog yet: discovery of a supercool magnet

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids Brando, Manuel; Steppke, Alexander; Küchler, Robert; Lausberg, Stefan; Lengyel, Edit; Steinke, Lucia; Borth, Robert; Lühmann, Thomas; Krellner, Cornelius; Pedrero, Luis; Pfau, Heike; Tencé, Sophie; Rosner, Helge; Nicklas, Michael; Steglich, Frank; Geibel, Christoph
A ferromagnetic transition at an extremely low temperature of only 0.15 K (−273°C) has been discovered in the compound YbNi4P2. The properties of this phase transition contradict current theoretical predictions and evidence the existence of a ferromagnetic quantum critical point (QCP). The existence of such a QCP has been a matter of discussion as long as 40 years ago, but had been dismissed in the past 15. The search for and the investigation of QCPs is not only a central subject of modern fundamental research, but is also relevant in the development of new technical applications. more
Solar system X-ray research has experienced a boost during the last two decades. Before 1996, Sun, Earth, Moon, and Jupiter were the only solar system X-ray sources known. Since then, this number has considerably increased, including now also Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, the Jovian moons Io and Europa, the Io plasma torus, the rings of Saturn, two asteroids, as well as comets as an unexpected new class, and even the heliosphere itself. This article outlines the sequence of discoveries, describes how the X-ray emissions originate, explains their importance, and concludes with an outlook. more
Exciting results in gamma-ray astronomy have been obtained by the current generation Cherenkov telescope systems such as MAGIC. MAGIC is a ground-based detector, which consists of two 17 m diameter imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes on the Observatorio Roque de los Muchachos on the Canary island of La Palma. The next generation Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) is currently in design and its construction will start beginning of 2016. CTA is a large array of many telescopes of different sizes. Its sensitivity will be about 10 times that of MAGIC. more
Our research is focused on the physics of biosensing, the physical principles for detecting molecules and their interactions. Of particular interest is the study of photonic microsystems with the goal of single molecule analysis. Taking detection to this limit is only possible if the interaction of light with biomolecules is sufficiently enhanced. Our group has now achieved such extreme enhancements with optical microcavities. more

New concepts for solar energy harvesting

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light Bashouti, Muhammad; Brönstrup, Gerald; Christiansen Silke H.; Egbaria, Eisaam; Feichtner, Thorsten; Göbelt, Manuela; Heilmann, Martin; Höflich, Katja; Hoffmann, Björn; Jäckle, Sara; Keding, Ralf; Kulmas, Marina; Latzel, Michael; Pietsch, Matthias; Sarau, George; Schmitt, Sebastian; Tessarek, Christian
The MPL develops photoactive materials with partly new methods. Nanostructured silicon and III-nitrides show great potential for thin-film photovoltaics. For the first time, it was possible to produce large-area regular silicon nanowires from 6 µm thin polycrystalline films on glass. Progress has been made in functionalization and contacting with organic molecules, transparent conductive oxides and graphen. Hybrid polymer(PEDOT:PSS)-silicon-interfaces show remarkable characteristics and allow solar cells with open circuit voltage exceeding 600 meV. more
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. more

Dark matter

Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics Lindner, Manfred; Marrodán Undagoitia, Teresa; Schwetz-Mangold, Thomas; Simgen, Hardy
Dark Matter has been postulated for the first time by the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky who analyzed the kinetic energy of galaxies. This allowed him to derive the total mass of the system which turned out to be much larger than the visible mass. Meanwhile, there are a number of further observations, which also point to the existence of Dark Matter that should amount to overall 27% of the Universe, whereas ordinary matter contributes only 5%. This is why presently large efforts are undertaken with experiments like XENON100 or XENON1T in order to directly detect Dark Matter. more

Will an antimatter apple fall up?

Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics Cerchiari, Giovanni; Jordan, Elena; Kellerbauer, Alban
Neutral antimatter atoms afford the unique opportunity to investigate the properties of antimatter with the latest atomic-physics techniques. In this way, different approaches to explaining the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the Universe may be tested. The AEGIS experiment located at the Antiproton Decelerator at CERN is dedicated to the question how antimatter behaves in the gravitational field of the earth. A deviation from normal gravitational acceleration would violate the weak equivalence principle of General Relativity. more
Bacteria use different strategies to manipulate and infect their host. Researchers at the MPI of Molecular Physiology were able to reveal a novel mechanism by which the Tc toxins of the bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens attack insect cells. An exceptional molecular cocoon containing a deadly component and a unique nano syringe play important parts in this mechanism. The new findings are critical to understand the transport of these toxic cargoes through membranes and serve as a strong foundation for the development of medical applications. more
Gene mutations in our genetic makeup are the major cause of cancer. A gene mutated in one out of three tumors is the Ras gene. Last year scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology developed a new molecule which targets oncogenic Ras dependent tumors. Instead of focusing on Ras directly, the new molecule targets an interaction partner of Ras that is responsible for its localization within the cell. Inhibition of this interaction partner changes the localization of Ras, and hereby inactivates oncogenic growth signaling. more
Due to their potential risk for the genome integrity and thus the viability of an organism, transposable elements are kept inactive. Among others, the mechanism of RNA-directed DNA methylation facilitates this inactivation in plants. Recent investigations discovered a new shoot apical meristem specific function of this mechanism. It reinforces silencing of these elements during the early phase of vegetative growth and counteracts their drug-induced activation. It furthermore provides a checkpoint for correct epigenetic inheritance during the transition from vegetative to reproductive phase. more
Morphogenesis and growth are processes driven by genetic and signaling networks. Although many genetic components controlling plant organ shape have been identified, how they control the mechanical properties of cells remains elusive. In animal systems recent studies have shown that mechanical forces can feed back on genetic programs and even appear to be capable of influencing cell fate. Do such feedbacks exist in plants? What is the role of mechanics in morphogenesis? We address these questions by combining the expertise of physicists, biologists and computational modelers. more
The introduction of novel sequencing technologies has led to a massive expansion of genomic sequence information. Completely sequenced genomes of hundreds of different ecotypes of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana are now available. Applying bioinformatics methods, the extensive sequence information can be exploited for the identification of trait associated genes or novel regulatory elements. more
Tokamaks can provide excellent confinement and high kinetic pressure of fusion plasmas due to an axisymmetric magnetic field. However, strong pressure gradients at the plasma edge cause repetitive instabilities leading to expulsion of hot plasma towards the surrounding wall. This instability is studied in detail at the tokamak ASDEX Upgrade. It has been found that the fast power loss from the plasma and the associated high peak power load onto the wall can be reduced by a small dedicated non-axisymmetric magnetic perturbation without compromising the favourable confinement properties.

After more then twelve years of research the small WEGA fusion device at IPP’s Greifswald branch end of 2013 has been shut down. The “Wendelstein training experiment at IPP Greifswald” is making room for the Wendelstein 7-X large-scale device, construction of which will be concluded this year. WEGA served as a training ground for students and junior scientists to bridge the gap till completion of Wendelstein 7-X. Inspite of its small dimensions WEGA achieved remarkable research results. more
Organic electronics has established itself as a new technology for widespread microelectronic applications, e.g. flexible monitors, electronic newspapers, non-contact acquisition of data through transponders and smart labels. Most of these applications require memory functions, preferably the kind that save data when the electricity is switched off and which can furthermore be programmed electronically, deleted and read. more
Two phenomena will be crucial for our future society: Energy supply and data processing. The quality of our problem-solving approach depends on the materials. Graphene, a monolayer segment of graphite, is being dealt with as a wonder material. Which demands have to be fulfilled to ensure solid, promising technologies on a graphene basis? more
Childhood maltreatment not only harms mind and body but leaves long-lasting modifications on genes. Patients suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder who have or have not experienced childhood maltreatment, displayed distinct epigenetic profiles in immune cells. Thus identical psychiatric diagnosis can be accompanied by distinct biological signatures and possibly differential response to treatment. This highlights the importance of the patient’s individual biography in defining disease subtypes. more
Relative clauses are a syntactic device to create complex sentences and they make language structurally productive. Despite a considerable number of experimental studies, it is still largely unclear how children learn relative clauses and how these are processed in the language system. Researchers at the MPI for Psycholinguistics used a computational learning model to gain novel insights into these issues. The model explains the differential development of relative clauses in English as well as cross-linguistic differences. more
Only a few of the world's 7000 languages are well-described, because all linguistic systems are extremely complex and until recently, language documentation was based exclusively on paper and pencil. Audio- and video recordings as well as digital techniques now allow the construction of large language archives. One of the largest is The Language Archive (TLA), originally built up at the MPI for Psycholinguistics and since 2011 co-financed by the Nederlandse Akademie der Wetenschappen, the Max Planck Society and Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. more
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