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 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.

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".

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”.

Two micrometer long and 500 Nanometer wide iron-platinum nanopropellers (left) enable genetic modification of cells, which then start expressing green fluorescing protein (right). MPI für Intelligente Systeme

An interdisciplinary team of scientists from Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and London developed miniature magnetic nanopropellers that can deliver genetic material to cells. They used a magnetic material that outperforms the strongest known micromagnets, yet is chemically stable, non-toxic and biologically compatible. Such new nanopropellers hold great potential for biomedical applications and minimally invasive surgeries of the future.

Exposure to light releases the molecule ATP. It provides the energy for an enzyme (blue) that joins DNA building blocks into a strand. Another enzyme (green) separates the strand at these binding sites so that the strand is dynamically lengthened and shortened. Illustration: Michal Rössler

In the development of autonomous systems and materials, self-assembling molecular structures controlled by chemical reaction networks are increasingly important. However, there is a lack of simple external mechanisms that ensure that the components of these reaction networks can be activated in a controlled manner.
A research team led by Prof. Dr. Andreas Walther and Prof. Dr. Henning Jessen from the Cluster of Excellence Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) and Jie Deng from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg are the first to show how individual components of self-assembling DNA-based structures can be activated and controlled using light-reactive photo switches. The researchers have published their results in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

How can AM help in the fight against coronavirus? The EU project AMable calls for the submission of ideas in this area. In a 2nd step, SMEs, for example, can submit solution cons and receive funding. © Mike Fouque –

The coronavirus is currently paralyzing public and private life and in many places there is a lack of medical equipment and viable solutions to protect society against the spread of the virus. Together with institutions from all over Europe, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is supporting companies in the EU project AMable in implementing Additive Manufacturing ideas that will help overcome bottlenecks in this fight. Now that AMable has already successfully paved the way for SMEs to industrial 3D printing with metal and plastic, the partners are offering aid and public funding for COVID-19 projects.

The new wipe-on "itCoating" stops the virus infection chain. Betterplace.

The company itCoating has developed a new wipe-varnish coating, which is virus-proof, virus-repellent and virus-killing.



Space Tango CubeLab on board the International Space Station ISS. Space Tango

The University of Zurich has sent adult human stem cells to the International Space Station (ISS). Researchers from UZH Space Hub will explore the production of human tissue in weightlessness. On 6 March at 11:50 PM EST, the International Space Station resupply mission Space X CRS-20 took off from Cape Canaveral (USA). On board: 250 test tubes from the University of Zurich containing adult human stem cells. These stem cells will develop into bone, cartilage and other organs during the month-long stay in space.


At rough areas of a catalyst surface, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen in a more energy efficient way than at smooth areas. MPI-P, License CC-BY-SA

Whether as a fuel or in energy storage: hydrogen is being traded as the energy carrier of the future. To date, existing methodologies have not been able to elucidate how exactly the electrochemical process of water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen takes place at the molecular scale on a catalyst surface. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now developed a new method to investigate such processes "live" on the nanometer scale. The new detailed insights into the splitting of water on gold surfaces could aid the design of energy-efficient electro-catalysts.

Figure: Diagram of membrane production: 1. Synthesis of the custom-made triblock terpolymer; 2. SNIPS: the functional groups of triblock terpolymer (-OH, C5H4N) position themselves precisely in the pores; 3. Post-functionalisation: after treatment with methyl iodide (CH3I) or 1,3-propane sultone ((CH2)3SO3), the nanochannelsare positively or negatively charged and allow organic molecules to pass selectively. [Fig: Zhenzhen Zhang]

A new membrane developed at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) separates small dye particles or drug substances not only by size but also by their electrical charge. This additional function enables organic molecules with lateral dimensions of one to two nanometres to be such high-efficiently separated for the first time. HZG’s polymer researcher Zhenzhen Zhang has now presented her results in the journal Advanced Materials.
“Classic Blue” is the trending colour of the year 2020. The textile industry has long since adjusted its dyeing lines accordingly. To prevent dye residue from ending up in the wastewater, membrane technology provides an environmentally friendly way to safely remove harmful substances. 

Researchers were able to shape the electric field of an attosecond pulse. Illustration: Jürgen Oschwald and Carlo Callegari

Chemical reactions are determined at their most fundamental level by their respective electronic structure and dynamics. Steered by a stimulus such as light irradiation, electrons rearrange themselves in liquids or solids. This process takes only a few hundred attoseconds, whereby one attosecond is the billionth part of a billionth of a second. Electrons are sensitive to external fields, so researchers can easily control them by irradiating the electrons with light pulses. As soon as they thus temporally shape the electric field of an attosecond pulse, researchers can control the electronic dynamics in real time.


A team led by Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Sansone from the Institute of Physics at the University of Freiburg shows in the scientific journal Nature how they were able to completely shape the waveform of an attosecond pulse.

For the first time, super magnets are be made with the help of laser-based 3D printing technology. © IMAT – TU Graz

Magnetic materials play important roles in electrical products. These materials are usually manufactured by means of established production techniques and use of rare earth metals. Several research teams at TU Graz are working on alternative, more environmentally friendly production methods. From wind turbines and electric motors to sensors and magnetic switching systems: permanent magnets are used in many different electrical applications. The production of these magnets usually involves sintering or injection moulding. But due to the increasing miniaturisation of electronics and the more exacting requirements, this places on magnetic components in terms of geometry, these conventional manufacturing methods are frequently coming up short.