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Max Planck Institute For Polymer Research

The Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research was founded on June 1st, 1983 following a recommendation of the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) that an interdisciplinary institution of polymer research should be established in view of the importance of macromolecules in science, technology and industry. The central thrust of the Institute was to be basic research in the field of polymeric materials. Prof. Erhard W. Fischer and Prof. Gerhard Wegner were appointed as founding directors representing the physics and solid state chemistry of polymers. In autumn 1984 Prof. Hans W. Spiess joined the Institute as director in the field of polymer spectroscopy. The fourth department, headed by Prof. Klaus Mullen, was established in December 1989 in the field of synthetic macromolecular chemistry. In 1993 Prof. Wolfgang Knoll was appointed as the fifth director, working in the field of material science.

Another department in the field of polymer theory will be opened at the end of 1994. Each director is supported by a senior scientist (on the associate professor level) working independently with his own group on related research topics. Prof. Kurt Binder, theoretical physicist at the University of Mainz, was appointed as an external scientific member of the Institute in 1989.

Scientific work at the Institute started in autumn 1984 in temporary laboratories that were made available by the University of Mainz and by the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry which is also located on the University campus. A first part of the institute’s permanent building on the edge of the University campus was completed in autumn 1988 and consists of a working area of 10,000 m2 Of which laboratories comprise 5,500 m2.

An extension of the building was finished at the end of 1990 with an additional 3,000 m2 Of laboratory space. At present the overall number of employees is 390, of which 50 are staff scientists and 110 are staff technicians. There are also about 40 visiting scientists, 90 Ph.D. students and 20 diploma students.

The scientific work of the Institute is organized in research projects in which scientists of different groups interact in an interdisciplinary way. The objectives of the Institute are directed on the one hand towards the synthesis and exact physico-chemical characterization of macromolecular systems and on the other hand towards understanding the relationship between macroscopic and microscopic properties of polymeric materials. Besides the analysis of known technically important polymers, new materials with unconventional properties are investigated. New experimental and theoretical methods have to be developed to allow a better understanding of structure-property relationships to be obtained.

Major topics include:

  • Structure and dynamics of macromolecular systems (including polymer interfaces and polymer theory)
  • Thermodynamics, phase transitions and critical phenomena (including the physics of polymer blends, block copolymers and glass transition phenomena)
  • Supramolecular architecture of macromolecules (stiff macromolecules, liquid crystalline polymers, model membranes, ultrathin films, polymers at surfaces)
  • Special physical properties (electrical conductivity, nonlinear optics, deformation behavior of glassy polymers)
  • Synthetic macromolecular chemistry (new synthetic methods, polymers with unconventional structures, systems of selective functionality, e.g. electrical or thermal conductivity, polysaccharides, solid polyelectrolytes)
  • Methodological developments (solid state NMR spectroscopy, EPR spectroscopy, dielectric spectroscopy, nonlinear optics, surface plasmon optics, scanning probe microscopy, i.e. STM, AFM and SNOM, neutron and X-ray reflectometry, scattering I methods including X-ray, neutrons and light, computational simulations).

Several service groups, which are related to the different departments of the institute have been established including analysis of polymers, polymer spectroscopy (NMR, optics), physico-chemical characterization, Xray analysis, electron microscopy, mechanical properties and computer services.

The Institutes origin is closely related to the University of Mainz, which has been a center of basic polymer research since 1945 with Profs. G.V. Schulz (Physical Chemistry), W. Kern (Organic Chemistry) and H. A. Stuart (Molecular Physics) as the founding fathers of polymer research at Mainz. A center of excellence (Sonderforschungsbereich) “Chemistry and Physics of Macromolecules” was established in 1969 and supported for a long time (18 years) by the German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). The foundation of the Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research at Mainz in 1983 on the campus of the Johannes Gutenberg University thus continues a living tradition. Today the connections with the University are not only reflected in the high number of Diploma (20) and Ph.D. (90) students but is also manifested in cooperative research projects in the framework of the “Center of Material Research” (Materialwissenschaftliches Zentrum), which is supported by the State government of Rheinland-Pfalz and by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. The institute is also part of the center of excellence 262 “Glassy State and Glass Transition of Non Metallic Amorphous Materials,” which is supported by the German Science Foundation.

Cooperation with industry plays an important role, above all in projects of the materials research program of the Ministry of Science and Technology. This ministry also supports cooperation with German and European Research Centers, like ILL Grenoble (France), KFA at Julich (Germany), Saclay (France) and DESY, Hamburg (Germany). The scientific reputation of the institute is reflected in the large number of foreign visiting scientists (40 at present), and by the fact that about 50% of the Ph.D. students have joined the institute coming from universities other than Mainz, demonstrate that the institute is taking on the important task of educating junior scientists in the field of polymer research.