Graphic: Wilfried Weber


Scientists from the University of Freiburg have developed materials systems that are composed of biological components and polymer materials and are capable of perceiving and processing information. These biohybrid systems were engineered to perform certain functions, such as the counting signal pulses in order to release bioactive molecules or drugs at the correct time, or to detect enzymes and small molecules such as antibiotics in milk. The interdisciplinary team presented their results in some of the leading journals in the field, including Advanced Materials and Materials Today.

Dr. Torsten Schwarz, postdoctoral researcher at the MPIE, analyzed the local clustering and gradients of sodium with the atom probe (seen in the image). Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH


Green energy gained by photovoltaic amounts ca. 6% of Germany’s gross power production . The most common solar cells currently used are made out of silicon. So-called CIGS, solar cells out of copper, indium, gallium and selen (Cu(In,Ga)(S,Se)2, are a promising alternative with an efficiency of ca. 23%, which is the conversion rate of light to electricity. In comparison to conventional silicon solar cells, CIGS consumes less material and production energy and are thus cheaper in production and environmentally friendly.

The graphical image used for the cover of the JCTC (see picture below). Image: Daria Kokh/HITS

HITS researchers developed tauRAMD, a tool to predict drug-target residence times from short simulations. The method is illustrated on the cover page of July 2018 issue of the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, software is freely available. The design of a drug with a desired duration of action, whether long or short, is usually a complicated and expensive trial-and-error process guided only by a mix of expert intuition and serendipity.

Motor proteins (green dots) move along microtubules like on a highway. Image: G. Merck / TUM

Most people have never heard of them, and yet every living being needs them to survive: fine protrusions of cells known as cilia. They allow sperm to move, form fine protective hairs in the lungs and play a crucial role in the differentiation of organs in embryos. A research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now reconstructed the protein complex responsible for transport within cilia, which plays a decisive role in their functioning.

The molecular ruby in a solid (red) and dissolved (yellow) state can be used for contactless optical measurement of pressure. photo/©: Sven Otto, JGU


Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and at the Université de Montréal in Canada have developed a molecular system capable of very precise optical pressure measurements. The gemstone ruby served as the source of inspiration. However, the system developed by the team headed by Professor Katja Heinze at the JGU Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry and Professor Christian Reber at the Université de Montréal is a water-soluble molecule, not an insoluble solid.

Laser pulse sequences (u.l.) cause 2D spectra (u.r.): In EEI2D spectroscopy (b.l.), two originally separate excitations meet. With 2D mass spectrometry (r.), ion photoproducts are detected. Graphic: Tobias Brixner, JMU

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy. "Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy.

Sebastian Siol showing a sample of heterostructural oxides, which could be a promising coating for smart windows. Empa

Sebastian Siol is looking for new materials with unusual properties that were so far not accessible in experiments. To do this, he connects partners who don't really fit together: One partner forces the other into a state that would not be possible without the unlikely pairing. Siol also makes sure that the crystal bonds last in everyday life. Only then are they interesting for industrial applications.

A solution of isolated and purified superoxide oxidase which was used in the laboratory for biochemical experiments. © Christoph von Ballmoos

Oxygen radicals occur as a by-product when living beings burn carbohydrates or fat. They are suspected of accelerating the ageing process in humans and animals, and to be partly responsible for severe illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or certain types of cancer. Researchers at the University of Bern and the University of Stockholm have now discovered a so far unknown defense mechanism against oxygen radicals which could serve as a base for various medications.

New membrane reactor for the effective production of basic chemicals with significantly increased yields. Fraunhofer IKTS

In the future, closed carbon loops play an important role to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and ensure safe and cost-effective access to carbon sources as the basis for products of the chemical industry. In order to increase the efficiency and thus profitability of the synthesis processes required for this, Fraunhofer IKTS has developed a new membrane reactor in cooperation with the Thuringian company MUW-SCREENTEC GmbH.

Prof. Dr. Jens Frahm. (c) Frank Vinken / Max Planck Society

With the European Inventor Award 2018, the European Patent Office (EPO) honored Jens Frahm of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen for his ground-breaking advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In two steps, the physicist and his team succeeded in speeding up MRI by a factor of up to 10,000 and established it in clinical practice.

The surface of the enzyme levansucrase has been redesigned to produce sugar polymers. Picture: AK Seibel

Scientists at the University of Würzburg have chemically modified the enzyme levansucrase using a new method. The enzyme can now produce sugar polymers that are exciting for applications in the food industry and medicine. Enzymes are tools of nature that accelerate almost all biochemical reactions in living cells as biological catalysts.

Mechanical energy provided by the collision of milling ball in planetary ball mills allows to synthesize nanographene structures under environmentally friendly and solvent-free reaction conditions. Sven Grätz


Chemist Dr. Lars Borchardt and his team at TU Dresden recently achieved a huge breakthrough in the synthesis of nanographenes. Because of their unique electrical, thermal and mechanical characteristics, the carbon modification graphene and its little brothers the nanographenes are known as a very promising material for applications in electronics, sensor technology and energy storage.

Structure of a volume-regulated chloride channel (center: ribbon diagram, right: selectivity filter, left: regions with positively charged amino acids). Raimund Dutzler, UZH

Biochemists at the University of Zurich have determined the detailed structure of a volume-regulated chloride channel. This cellular valve is activated in response to swelling to prevent the cell from bursting. The protein also plays an important role in the uptake of chemotherapeutics and the release of neurotransmitters after a stroke. The controlled regulation of its activity thus opens up a promising strategy for novel therapies.

Demonstrator for the production of ethene from CO2. Fraunhofer IGB

Hydrogen peroxide, ethene, alcohols: The Fraunhofer lighthouse project “Electricity as a raw material” is developing electrochemical processes that use renewable electricity to synthesize basic chemicals - with the aim of making the chemical industry more sustainable. From June 11 to 15, Fraunhofer UM-SICHT will be presenting the results together with eight other Fraunhofer Institutes at ACHEMA 2018.

Main authors of the study (from l.): Molecular biologist Dr. Sebastian Leidel, biochemist Katja Hartstock (lead author), molecular biologist Benedikt Nilges und biochemist Prof. Andrea Rentmeister. ©WWU/E. Wibberg

Researchers at the Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence at University of Münster have developed a new method enabling them to locate important modifications to messenger RNA. This is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between biochemists and molecular biologists. It has been published in “Angewandte Chemie” (International Edition).

Solar cells with three, four or five busbars can be interconnected in the adhesive stringer. © Fraunhofer ISE

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and teamtechnik, an international leader in production technology, report that it is now possible to connect high efficiency solar cells using electrically conductive adhesives in series production. The results of the joint research project »KleVer« show that the adhesive technology is ready for the market and can be used as an alternative to the widespread soft soldering interconnection technology. Due to the much lower process temperatures of this technology compared to soldering, temperature-sensitive high efficiency solar cells can be connected using adhesives in a gentle and material-saving process.