Colloids and interfaces consist of very small or thin structures with linear dimensions between nanometers and micrometers. On the one hand, the possible structures represent a „world of hidden dimensions“. On the other hand, the dynamics and structures of these small entities determine the behavior of much larger systems such as organisms.
A more systematic understanding of colloids and interfaces is a prerequisite for many innovations, such as „smart“ drug delivery systems and biomaterials. Such a deeper understanding can only arise from an interdisciplinary approach that combines chemical synthesis and biomimetic materials science with physical analysis and characterization as well as theoretical modelling. The nano- and microstructures that are investigated at the MPICI are built up from special, even smaller molecules, which are using the principle of “self assembly” to construct ordered structures.
Biomaterials (Professor Peter Fratzl)
Nano- and microstructures are built up in a hierarchical fashion. Especially impressive examples for this „nested” system architecture are found in mineralized tissues such as bone, teeth, and seashells as well as in plants and their cell walls. These systems are studied in the department „Biomaterials” using a variety of experimental characterization methods. One particularly powerful method is microfocussed synchrotron radiation, by which one can determine the structure of micrometer domains with atomic resolution and determine the structure-function relationships of these natural materials. One important aspect is their extraordinary mechanical properties, which can adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Biomolecular Systems (Professor Peter H. Seeberger)
The department „Biomolecular Systems“, which has been newly established in 2008, synthesizes and designs sugar molecules and carbohydrates with well-defined and adjusted architectures. These complex macromolecules are able to specifically recognize and discriminate other macromolecules such as proteins and antibodies. A long-term goal of this research is to develop novel vaccines based on such sugar molecules.
Colloid Chemistry (Professor Markus Antonietti)
In the department „Colloid Chemistry“, a variety of macromolecules is used in order to construct mesoscopic compound systems and hybrid materials. One important aspect of this activity is the molecular encoding of selfassembly and self-organization by specific molecular groups that guide these processes towards a certain target structure. Another recent focus of the department is the transformation of biomass into coal using the process of hydrothermal carbonization. The latter process could provide an important contribution to carbon fixation and, thus, to the reduction of CO2.
Sustainable and Bio-inspired Materials (Professor Silvia Vignolini)
In the new deapartment "Sustainable and Bio-inspired Materials", newly established in 2022, the research groups are tackling research questions at the interface of chemistry, soft-matter physics, optics, and biology. The studies focus on how natural materials are assembled into complex architectures within living organism and how these architectures define their response. By understanding the design principles found in nature, it is possible to fabricate a novel class of truly sustainable functional materials using only natural resources and ambient conditions.