Silvia Vignolini appointed as new and first female Director of MPICI

New appointment

Prof Silvia Vignolini, Ph.D. is founding the new Department "Sustainable and Bio-inspired Materials" at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI). On January 1st, the top physicist will move to Potsdam from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She is working at the interface of physics, chemistry, biology and materials science and perfectly complements the institute's profile of research on chemistry, materials and sustainability.

Silvia Vignolini brings to the institute an entirely new approach to researching and developing materials with predominantly optical functions, modeled on nature. Understanding the physical and chemical properties as well as the blueprint of such natural systems gives her the methodology to produce them artificially, using bio-based nanoparticles (e.g. cellulose, chitin nanocrystals and nanofibers) and other biopolymers. This not only creates new materials with unusual properties; it also tests new sustainable synthetic routes that enable a shift in materials science toward less energy consumption and less harmful waste. Currently, Silvia Vignolini is developing another field of research, which she calls Sym-Bionic Matter. This involves embedding living organisms in materials to adapt them to the needs of the environment. This work she will continue from now on at the MPICI.

The appointment of Silvia Vignolini as the new and first female Director at the MPICI strengthens the institute's prominent position in sustainable materials science for decades to come. "For me, the appointment is an amazing opportunity and I feel honored to be part of the Max Plank Society. It is a very exciting time, as the new labs are builds, new people coming and lots of ideas starting to become reality! The existing Departments are complementary to what we are doing as we overlap in several techniques and methodologies so I really look forward to interacting more with the other Directors and Group Leaders in the institute and contribute to its success”, says Silvia Vignolini.

Managing Director Prof. Dr. Peter Fratzl says: "The Institute is excited about Silvia Vignolini's potential to complement the current research directions at the Institute and to enable collaborative opportunities with all three existing departments. We are also excited about this tremendous strengthening of the research base at the Potsdam Science Park.” Indeed, Professor Vignolini has big plans: She wants to make her contribution - also together with her colleagues at the institute - to a sustainable CO2-neutral future and, in doing so, provide society and industry with novel materials that mimic natural materials. “There is a gap of knowledge on how living organisms are capable to organize materials at the nanoscale: our aim is to devise from nature strategies and building blocks to enable functionalities in artificial materials using only natural biopolymers”, explains Silvia Vignolini.

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