Material sciences

  • Launch of project ECO COM'BAT: Sustainable energy storage with high-voltage batteries

    Efficient lithium-ion pouch cell with the base materials. © K. Selsam-Geißler, Fraunhofer ISC

    Cruising range is one of the greatest challenges for the rapid implementation of electromobility in Europe. Ten partners from industry and research organizations now join forces in the EU funded project ECO COM'BAT, coordinated by the Fraunhofer Project Group Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies, part of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, to develop the next generation of lithium-ion batteries – the high-voltage battery. Better performance is not the only goal for the new battery. Compared to conventional batteries the new type should be more powerful and even more sustainable due to the substitution of conventional, often expensive, rare or even critical materials.

  • Leaving Flatland – Quantum Hall Physics in 4D

    Illustration of a hypothetical device for studying the quantum Hall effect in 4D systems. Two 2D Hall bars (left/right) - the geometry used by Klaus von Klitzing for the first measurement of the 2D quantum Hall effect - are combined in orthogonal subspaces to form a 4D quantum Hall system (center). This 4D sample is depicted by encoding the fourth dimension in the colour of a surface in three spatial dimensions with red depicting positive values and blue negative ones. (Graphic: LMU/MPQ)

    Researchers from LMU/MPQ implement a dynamical version of the 4D quantum Hall effect with ultracold atoms in an optical superlattice potential. In literature, the potential existence of extra dimensions was discussed in Edwin Abbott’s satirical novel “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” (1884), portraying the Victorian society in 19th century England as a hierarchical two-dimensional world, incapable of realizing its narrow-mindedness due to its lower-dimensional nature. In physics, on the other hand, the possibility that our universe comprises more than three spatial dimensions was first proposed in the wake of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the 1920s.

  • Leibniz-IPHT Scientist Presents First Flexible Optical Tweezer in Nature Photonics

    Dynamic holographic optical tweezers (HOT) manipulation of eight particles in a rotating cube arrangement.Source: Nature Photonics (2017) doi:10.1038/s41566-017-0053-8. Photo: Leibniz-IPHT

    Tomáš Čižmár studies new methods to control light propagation in optical fibers. The scientist, who recently relocated from University of Dundee in Scotland to the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena (Leibniz-IPHT), published an article about optical traps for medical diagnostics in the highly-cited journal Nature Photonics. Optical traps are tightly focused light beams that can be used to confine, manipulate and examine microscale objects such as cells or DNA. Tweezers made of light are not new. Due to their bulky optics, researchers so far could only manipulate and study biomolecules outside their natural environment on microscope slides. 

  • Lichtfernbedienung für die Reparatur von Materialien

    Durch Licht-Bestrahlung kann sich die intelligente Kunststoffbeschichtung gezielt selbst reparieren. Bild: Stefan Hecht

    Forscherteam unter Leitung der HU entwickelt intelligente Kunststoffbeschichtung, die sich durch Licht-Bestrahlung gezielt repariert. Muss ein stark beschädigter Alltagsgegenstand ausgewechselt werden, ist das zumeist umweltbelastend und teuer. Um dies in Zukunft zu vermeiden, arbeiten Forscher seit Jahren an der Entwicklung neuer Materialien, die Kratzer oder Risse reparieren können. Ein Team unter Leitung von Forschern der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU) hat nun erstmals Kunststoffbeschichtungen entwickelt, die mit Hilfe von Licht gezielt Beschädigungen heilen können. Die Ergebnisse ihrer Studie stellen sie in der Nature Communications vor.

  • Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

    Light-driven atomic rotations (spirals) induce coherent motion of the electronic spins (blue arrows). Image: J.M. Harms/MPI for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter

    Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion. Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how the ultrafast light-induced modulation of the atomic positions in a material can control its magnetization. An international research team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter at CFEL in Hamburg used terahertz light pulses to excite pairs of lattice vibrations in a magnetic crystal.

  • Light-induced Superconductivity Under High Pressure

    Light-induced superconductivity in K3C60 was investigated at high pressure in a Diamond Anvil Cell. Jörg Harms, MPSD

    A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

  • Like the Earthworm: New Breathing Material Lubricates Itself When Needed

    Like the earthworm: The new INM breathing system lubricates itself when pressure is applied to the material. Source: Iris Maurer; free within this press release

    Earthworms are always clean, even if they come from moist, sticky soil. They owe this to a dirt-repellent, lubricating layer, which forms itself again and again on its skin. Researchers at INM have now artificially recreated this system of nature: They developed a material with a surface structure that provides itself with lubricant whenever pressure is applied. Because the lubricated material reduces friction and prevents the growth of microbes, scientists can envision numerous applications in industry and biomedicine.

  • Lipid Nanodiscs Stabilize Misfolding Protein Intermediates Red-Handed

    Superimposing the ten structures with the least energy shows nicely which structure the hIAPP molecule prefers in a membrane environment. Image: Diana Rodriguez Camargo / TUM

    When proteins misfold, accumulate and clump in insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, they can kill these cells. Now, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the University of Michigan and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Muenchen have obtained a structural snapshot of these proteins when they are most toxic, detailing them down to an atomic level. The researchers hope this kind of detail can help in the search for drugs to target the incorrectly folding proteins.

  • Liquid Crystals Form Nano Rings

    Liquid crystal in a nanopore. A. Zantop/M. Mazza/K. Sentker/P. Huber, Max-Planck Institut für Dynamik und Selbstorganisation/Technische Universität Hamburg (TUHH).

    Quantised self-assembly enables design of materials with novel properties. At DESY's X-ray source PETRA III, scientists have investigated an intriguing form of self-assembly in liquid crystals: When the liquid crystals are filled into cylindrical nanopores and heated, their molecules form ordered rings as they cool – a condition that otherwise does not naturally occur in the material. This behavior allows nanomaterials with new optical and electrical properties, as the team led by Patrick Huber from Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) report in the journal Physical Review Letters.

  • Long-Lived Storage of a Photonic Qubit for Worldwide Teleportation

    Sketch of an optimized optical antenna: A cavity is located inside; the electrical fields during operation are coded by the colour scale. Current patterns are represented by green arrows. Picture: Thorsten Feichtner

    MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network. Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor Gerhard Rempe at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) have now achieved a major breakthrough: they demonstrated the long-lived storage of a photonic qubit on a single atom trapped in an optical resonator.

  • Low haze structures for transparent flexible electrodes by electrospinning processes

    When conductive materials are spun, flexible conductive transparent electrodes could be produced. Source: Bellhäuser

    For flexible electrodes INM - Leibniz Institute for New Materials is working with the process of electrospinning, a technique that produces ultra-fine fibers that are up to 100 times thinner than a human hair. When conductive materials are spun, flexible conductive transparent electrodes could be produced. These FTCEs have transparencies comparable to indium tin oxide with low haze less than two percent.

    Flexible, transparent, and conductive electrodes (FTCE) are a key enabling technology for the new generation of flexible, printable and wearable electronics. The touchscreens and displays of the future will be curved and flexible and integrated into cars, phones, or medical technology.

  • Low-Cost Battery from Waste Graphite

    Kish graphite is a waste product from steel production. It could be used to make a cheap rechargeable battery out of abundant materials. Empa / ETH Zürich

    Lithium ion batteries are flammable and the price of the raw material is rising. Are there alternatives? Yes: Empa and ETH Zürich researchers have discovered promising approaches as to how we might produce batteries out waste graphite and scrap metal. Kostiantyn Kravchyk works in the group of Maksym Kovalenko. This research group is based at both ETH Zurich and in Empa’s Laboratory for Thin Films and Photovoltaics. The two researchers’ ambitious goal at the Empa branch is to make a battery out of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust – such as magnesium or aluminum. These metals offer a high degree of safety, even if the anode is made of pure metal. This also offers the opportunity to assemble the batteries in a very simple and inexpensive way and to rapidly upscale the production.

  • LZH at the LASER World of Photonics 2017: Light for Innovation

    Are you facing challenges beyond the cutting edge? The LZH is your ideal partner at the LASER 2017.  Photo: LZH

    At this year's LASER – World of PHOTONICS in Munich from June 26th to June 29th, 2017, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be presenting the latest research results and services in hall A3 at stand 506. Popular monuments from the skyline of Hannover will be illustrating the core competencies of the LZH.

    The focus is on optical components and systems, optical production technologies as well as on industrial and biomedical optics. Among other things, the LZH will be presenting optics for special applications, compact lasers and the latest developments in the field of laser material processing and quality control.

  • LZH optimizes laser-based CFRP reworking for the aircraft industry

    Repair preparation of a CFRP aircraft component through layer-by-layer laser removal of the damaged material areas. Foto: LZH

    To be able to rework aircraft components made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) more efficiently in the future, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has started the joint research project ReWork together with the INVENT GmbH, OWITA GmbH und Precitec Optronik GmbH. The aim of the project is to develop a reliable process for thin-walled and complex CFRP components. Today, many aircraft components are made of the lightweight material CFRP. Advantages of this material are the low weight and the high stability. The processing of this material, however, is still difficult. Therefore, in order to eliminate production- and operation-related defects in a faster and more cost-efficient way, the aircraft industry requires a reliable solution.

  • Machine Learning Helps Improving Photonic Applications

    Here, stripes with local field maxima are formed, so that quantum dots shine particularly strongly. Carlo Barth / HZB

    Photonic nanostructures can be used for many applications, not just in solar cells, but also in optical sensors for cancer markers or other biomolecules, for example. A team at HZB using computer simulations and machine learning has now shown how the design of such nanostructures can be selectively optimised. The results are published in Communications Physics.

  • Made-to-measure Silicon Building Blocks

    One of the silicon building blocks that permits to design silicones for a variety of applications. Wagner group, Goethe-University

    Silicones are synthetic materials used in a broad range of applications. Thanks to the stability of the silicon-oxygen bond, they are resistant to chemicals and environmental influences and also harmless from a physiological point of view. As a result, silicones contribute to making everyday life easier in almost all areas.

  • MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

    Test setup of the experiment with sapphire plates. In the future, 80 lanthanum aluminate disks will allow the detection of axion-photon-conversion. B. Wankerl/MPP

    The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

  • Magnetic Bits by Electric Fields

    Controlled deleting (left) and writing (right) of individual nanoscale magnetic skyrmions by local electric fields. Between the individual images the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope was properly positioned and the local electric field was raised for a short time up to +3 V/nm (left) or -3V/nm (right). A single atomic vacancy in the ultrathin iron film (dark contrast) indicates the extremely small scale of the written and deleted skyrmions (bright contrast). P.-J. Hsu und R. Wiesendanger, University of Hamburg, Germany

    Researchers now make use of local electric fields for writing and deleting individual nanoscale magnetic skyrmions. Physicists of the University of Hamburg in Germany have demonstrated for the first time the controlled writing and deleting of individual nanoscale magnetic knots – so called skyrmions – by applying local electric fields to an ultrathin film of iron as data storage medium. These tiny knots in the magnetization of ultrathin metallic films exhibit an exceptional stability and are highly promising candidates for future ultra-high density magnetic recording. So far, they could be manipulated by local spin-currents and magnetic fields only. Now the research group at the University of Hamburg, headed by Roland Wiesendanger, report on the first electric-field controlled manipulation of nanoscale magnetic skyrmions in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (online issue of November 7, 2016).

  • Magnetic Nano-imaging on a Table Top

    The scattering from the structure as recorded on the camera, in which the magnetic contribution is invisible to the naked eye. Photo: University of Göttingen

    A research team at the Universities of Göttingen and Augsburg in Germany in collaboration with Technion in Israel have used femtosecond HHG pulses for the first time to capture images of magnetic domains. The work establishes a highly-sought after technology: magneto-optical nano-imaging in a table-top scheme.

  • Magnetization in Small Components can now be Filmed in the Laboratory

    Time-resolved measurement of the motion of a magnetic vortex core in the presence of an oscillating magnetic field. Ill./©: Daniel Schönke


    In the future, today's electronic storage technology may be superseded by devices based on tiny magnetic structures. These individual magnetic regions correspond to bits and need to be as small as possible and capable of rapid switching. In order to better understand the underlying physics and to optimize the components, various techniques can be used to visualize the magnetization behavior.