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Learning from Neutrons

“How do the properties and function of macromolecular materials* depend on their internal structure and the movements of their components? Investigations with neutron radiation help us answer this question and result in a basic understanding of the mechanisms in plastics processing, for example, and of self-assembly in complex liquids used for washing, in cosmetics, or in the oil industry. The movements in enzymes are indispensable for their function. Neutrons provide us with information on their spatial sequence and their speed.”
Prof. Dieter Richter (ICS-1 and JCNS-1)


Tracking Down the Dynamics

“How do complex liquids, biological macromolecules* and soft matter behave under the influence of external forces? What are the structures and dynamics they develop in this process? These are the key questions we work on. In order to answer them, we run numerical simulations on supercomputers. The spectrum of our research ranges from nanotechnology to biological systems. For example, we answer questions regarding the flow behaviour of blood cells, the dynamics of microswimmers – such as algae – and friction processes such as those occurring in joints.”
Prof. Gerhard Gompper (ICS-2 and IAS-2)


Letting Forces Do their Work

“We conduct research into the behaviour and properties of macromolecular systems*, for example mixtures of solids and liquids, in equilibrium and disequilibrium. We are interested in the interaction of these systems with external forces, such as under shearing stress, in an electrical field, or when there’s a difference in temperature or pressure. Under such conditions, structures can form that do not exist in a state of equilibrium. They help us understand biological processes and point the way towards possible technological applications. In order to better account for these complex processes, we produce model systems with tailor-made chemical properties.”
Prof. Jan Karel George Dhont (ICS-3)


Looking into Cellular Signalling Pathways

“The cells in our body react to numerous stimuli and signals. In order to process stimuli, the cells use signalling pathways that are based on the interaction between mutually intertwined biophysical, biochemical and electrical processes. Among other things, we are conducting research into the signalling pathways in sensory cells that allow us to do such exciting things as seeing and smelling. We investigate how our nervous system processes these sensory impressions. Our aim is to elucidate cellular signal processing and to understand the molecular mechanisms that make our sensory cells and neurons the most fascinating cells in our body.”
Prof. Frank Müller (ICS-4)

* Macromolecules

Macromolecules are large molecules consisting
of several thousand atoms, for example starch or
protein molecules.


Protein Structures as the Key to Knowledge

“We study the internal structure of proteins and protein complexes, such as visual purple in the eye, using numerous biophysical methods. Our knowledge on the atomic structure is the key to understanding their respective functions and allows us to gain insights into important processes, for example signalling pathways in cells at the molecular level. Another focus of our work is research into the folding of proteins. In order to understand how this process takes place in the cells, we track the evolution of the three-dimensional spatial structure step by step from the very beginning.”
Prof. Jörg Fitter (ICS-5)


Understanding Complex Interactions

“The function of each cell and each organism decisively depends on the dynamic interactions between biological macromolecules* and on their correct three-dimensional structure. Faulty interaction and incorrectly folded structures eventually lead to diseases and ageing. Our aim is to understand these interactions and to determine the three-dimensional structure of the protein complexes involved in decisive cellular processes – if possible, in atomic resolution. Beyond that, we develop novel methods for the early diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, with a strong focus on Alzheimer’s dementia.”
Prof. Dieter Willbold (ICS-6)


Exploring the Biomechanics of Cells

“We investigate the biomechanics of living cells with modern methods of biophysics and cellular biology, improving them if necessary. We are interested in the mechanics of the cells themselves, how they move and how they adhere to their environment. We are particularly fascinated by the question of how cells recognize mechanical signals from their surroundings and react to them, because this mechanism seems to be very important for the development of the body, and also for some diseases. For almost every function – whether of individual cells or entire organs – interaction is essential. It controls the development of embryos, for example, and also cell division.”
Prof. Rudolf Merkel (ICS-7)


Nanocomponents Listen to Cell Signals

“We are interested in the connection between biological and electronic systems. We examine the molecular, cellular and electronic as well as electrochemical processes at this interface. This enables us to produce sensors that can detect even the tiniest amounts of pollutants or biochemical substances in the environment or in body fluids, or can even exchange signals with cells. With our methods, more compatible and highly sensitive implants may be developed in future that can be used to replace destroyed sensory cells.”
Prof. Andreas Offenhäusser (ICS-8)