The physical structures of cancer cells are disrupted by a web forming inside of the cells – which activates their self destruction mechanism. © MPI-P

According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, cancer is one of the most frequent causes of death, accounting for almost 25% of all deaths cases. Chemotherapy is often used as a treatment, but also brings side effects for healthy organs. Scientists around David Ng, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, are now trying to take a completely different approach: By means of targeted and localized disruption of the cancer cells’ structure, its self-destruction mechanism can be activated. In laboratory experiments, they have already demonstrated initial successes.

The new electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells consists of a thin platinum-cobalt alloy network and, unlike the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier. Gustav Sievers

An international research team led by the University of Bern has succeeded in developing an electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells which, in contrast to the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier and is therefore much more stable. The new process is industrially applicable and can be used to further optimize fuel cell powered vehicles without CO2 emissions.

Using computer simulations, MPI-P scientists can predict the structure of crystals in organic semiconductor layers. © MPI-P

Semiconductors made of organic materials, e.g. for light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and solar cells, could replace or supplement silicon-based electronics in the future. The efficiency of such devices depends crucially on the quality of thin layers of such organic semiconductors. These layers are created by coating or printing “inks” that contain the material. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have developed a computer model that predicts the quality of such layers as a function of processing conditions, such as the drying time of the ink or the speed coating. This model aims to accelerate the time-consuming approaches for process and product optimization.

The technology: additively manufactured Hairpin traction motor. Additive Drives, TU Bergakademie Freiber

Using a novel 3D printing process, four spin-offs of the newly launched EXIST research transfer "Additive Drives" at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg want to increase the performance and efficiency of current electric machines. The main focus is on the copper coil. In the future, this is to be transferred directly from the development data of the designers to additive production, thus enabling significantly shorter development and test cycles.

The researchers coated leaf veins with copper, thus transforming them into electrically conductive and optically transparent electrodes. Sven Döring/ Leibniz-IPHT. Leibniz-IPHT

A research team from the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena has built electrodes with outstanding optical and electronic properties from leaves. The researchers have coated leaf veins with copper and thus transformed them into electrically conductive and optically transparent electrodes. Designed on the basis of nature, the leaf-structure electrodes could be used to design novel solar cells, LEDs or displays.

A sample of the electromagnetic shielding material made by Empa – a composite of cellulose nanofibres and silver nanowires. Empa

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight. 
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic components or the transmission of signals. High-frequency electromagnetic fields can only be shielded with conductive shells that are closed on all sides. Often thin metal sheets or metallized foils are used for this purpose. However, for many applications such a shield is too heavy or too poorly adaptable to the given geometry. The ideal solution would be a light, flexible and durable material with extremely high shielding effectiveness.

Images of macrophages (red) in which the active substance (green) is distributed. On the left, the active substance heparin is shown, on the right hyaluronic acid. Hala Al Khoury / Uni Halle

New coatings on implants could help make them more compatible. Researchers at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have developed a new method of applying anti-inflammatory substances to implants in order to inhibit undesirable inflammatory reactions in the body. Their study was recently published in the "International Journal of Molecular Sciences".

Electron density of two hydrogen-terminated (left) and fluorine-terminated (right) diamond surfaces: large fluorine atoms prevent the surfaces from interlocking and thus reduce friction. Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM

Diamond and diamond-like carbon (DLC) are used as extremely durable surface coatings in frictional contacts: from aerospace components to razors. They reduce friction and wear in bearings and valves by means of so-called passivation layers, which prevent other materials from bonding to the coating. Until now, it was unclear how these passivation layers should be designed to achieve minimal friction. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM, MicroTribology Centrum µTC, have now achieved a breakthrough in understanding the relationship between passivation and friction. The unexpected results have been published in the journal "ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces".

During the explosion of an oxygen molecule: the X-ray laser XFEL knocks electrons out of the two atoms of the oxygen molecule and initiates its breakup. During the fragmentation, the X-ray laser releases another electron out of an inner shell from one of the two oxygen atoms that are now charged (ions). The electron has particle and wave characteristics, and the waves are scattered by the other oxygen ion. The diffraction pattern are used to image the breakup of the oxygen molecules and to take snapshots of the fragmentation process (electron diffraction imaging). Credit: Till Jahnke, Goethe University Frankfurt

New experimental technique with Goethe University’s reaction microscope allows “X-ray” of individual molecules.
For more than 200 years, we have been using X-rays to look inside matter, and progressing to ever smaller structures – from crystals to nanoparticles. Now, within the framework of a larger international collaboration on the X-ray laser European XFEL in Schenefeld near Hamburg, physicists at Goethe University have achieved a qualitative leap forward: using a new experimental technique, they have been able to “X-ray” molecules such as oxygen and view their motion in the microcosm for the first time.

Illustration_1: Stroke leads to a reduction of VEGFD levels, loss of dendrites, brain damage, and impaired motor functions. As research on a mouse model has shown, VEGFD-based therapies can prevent structural disintegration, thereby facilitating functional recovery. Heidelberg University

Protecting nerve cells from losing their characteristic extensions, the dendrites, can reduce brain damage after a stroke. Neurobiologists from Heidelberg University have demonstrated this by means of research on a mouse model. The team, led by Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading in cooperation with Junior Professor Dr Daniela Mauceri, is investigating the protection of neuronal architecture to develop new approaches to treating neurodegenerative diseases. The current research findings were published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

When graphene nanotriangles are joined, their magnetic moments form a quantum entangled state. EMPA

Graphene triangles with an edge length of only a few atoms behave like peculiar quantum magnets. When two of these nano-triangles are joined, a "quantum entanglement" of their magnetic moments takes place: the structure becomes antiferromagnetic. This could be a breakthrough for future magnetic materials, and another step towards spintronics. An international group led by Empa researchers recently published the results in the journal "Angewandte Chemie".

Smart Luminaire: using tailored light distribution to create intelligent lighting fixtures for 21st-century lighting applications. © Fraunhofer IOF

How can mass production methods be applied to individualized products? One answer is to use a combination of digital manufacturing technologies, for example by integrating digital printing and laser processing into traditional manufacturing processes. This paves the way for in-line product customization. Six Fraunhofer institutes have pooled their expertise to take the new process to the next level.

3D imaging of the blood vessels of a mouse head using X-ray computer tomography and the newly developed contrast agent "XlinCA". Willy Kuo, University of Zurich

Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a new X-ray contrast agent. The contrast agent is easier to use and distributes into all blood vessels more reliably, increasing the precision of vascular imaging. This reduces the number of animals required in research experiments. 
Various diseases in humans and animals – such as tumors, strokes or chronic kidney disease – damage the blood vessels. Capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body, are particularly affected. The large surface area of the capillary network enables oxygen to be exchanged between the blood and the surrounding tissue, such as the muscles when we exercise or the brain when we think.

Light microscope image of nimodipine fibres. Johanna Zech

The drug nimodipine could prevent nerve cells from dying after brain surgery. Pharmacists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), in cooperation with neurosurgeons at University Hospital Halle (Saale) (UKH), have developed a new method that enables the drug to be administered directly in the brain with fewer side effects. Their findings were published in the “European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics”.

A microropbot rolls deep into the body. Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS)

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

The interlayer makes the battery cell much more stable, and therefore able to withstand much higher current density. It is also very easy to apply the soft mass onto the lithium metal anode in the battery - like speading butter on a sandwich.​​​​​​​ ​Illustration: Yen Strandqvist

Solid state batteries are of great interest to the electric vehicle industry. Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and Xi’an Jiaotong University, China now present a new way of taking this promising concept closer to large-scale application. An interlayer, made of a spreadable, ‘butter-like’ material helps improve the current density tenfold, while also increasing performance and safety.