From the Past to the Future

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  • o the Future

    extremely scattered into small and

    and excellence as was seen for other

    fields in Germany. This was the

    background for deliberations started

    by the Max Planck Society around

    sequences of molecular recognition

    among alike and dislike macromole

    cules, biocompatibility of materials in

    medicine and similar issues.

    Essayhighly specialized individual groups

    at the time. It was felt by the scientific

    community that the critical mass was

    lacking to bring the field of polymer

    science to a similar level of compe-of polymer materials for the world

    market in the late 1970s.

    The landscape of academic research

    in the field of polymers was rich butFrom the Past t

    G. Wegner

    Synthetic polymers were portrayed a

    mere curiosity by the leading organic

    chemists. They were considered an

    interesting but rather exotic play-

    ground by physical chemists and

    physics was barely interested in

    materials which showed such a com-

    plex and parameter dependent beha-

    vior as were polymers available in the

    years 19501970. And yet, polymers

    had become a major field of growth

    for the chemical industry worldwide

    and increasing amounts of polymers

    frequently called plastics in a sim-

    plifying and generalizing context

    were thrown into a seemingly unsa-

    turable market. The reason was that

    synthetic polymers had developed

    into the growth engine for mass

    production of advanced technology

    products in rapidly growing markets

    of the automotive, aero space, electro-

    nics and packaging industries, just to

    mention a few of the important areas.

    In consequence, industry was in need

    to find scientifically trained experts

    and contacts to research groups who

    could assist in understanding the

    materials properties in response to

    the ever growing complex requests of

    the markets. This was particularly

    true in Germany where the chemical

    industry had become a major suppliertence, international competitiveness

    Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2009, 30, 649652

    2009 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinh1978 which eventually led to the

    foundation of the Max Planck Insti-

    tute for Polymer Research on June 1st,

    1983 by the Senate of the MPG.

    The mission of the new Institute

    was to carry out research in all fields of

    polymer science with the aim to

    explore and establish fundamental

    insights into the properties of polymer

    materials and their performance in the

    context of the relevance of polymers

    for the development of advanced tec-

    hnologies. Moreover polymers were

    understood to become a platform to

    study complex behavior of matter in

    very general terms. The latter req-

    uested a strong contribution of theo-

    retical physics and gave the stimulus

    to develop the new Institute soon into

    an internationally leading center for

    soft-matter research. This included

    certain aspects conventionally covered

    by biophysics and molecular biology,

    where typical research questionnaire

    centered around the nature and con-eimProfessor Erhard W. Fischer and

    Professor Gerhard Wegner were

    appointed as the founding directors

    representing physics and chemistry

    of polymer materials. The campus of

    the Johannes Gutenberg University

    of Mainz was selected as the site of

    the new institute in the light of an

    expected close cooperation with both

    the departments of chemistry and


    In fact, Mainz had won a competi-

    tion of several cities for the install-

    ment of the new Institute, among

    them Hamburg, Braunschweig, Bayr-

    euth and Darmstadt. The option was

    taken for Mainz in the light of the

    excellent offer of the Johannes-Guten-

    berg University for a building lot in

    close neighborhood to the Mainz

    Campus and for the reason that there

    existed a strong research activity in

    both polymer chemistry and physics.

    A fertile ground for cooperations was

    prospected. Moreover, Mainz was inDOI: 10.1002/marc.200900167


  • si












    upramolecular architectures of

    G. Wegner

    650geographical neighborhood to the

    major industrial research and devel-

    opment centers with which coopera-

    tions were foreseen.

    Scientific work at the institute

    started in autumn of 1984 in tempor-

    ary laboratories. At the same time,

    Professor Hans Wolfgang Spiess was

    appointed as a further director at the

    institute to develop the field of poly-

    mer spectroscopy. The fourth depart-

    ment covering the area of synthetic

    macromolecular chemistry was estab-

    lished by Professor Klaus Mullen at the

    end of 1989. In 1993, Professor Wolf-

    gang Knoll joined the institute as a

    director for surface science of polymer

    materials. In 1995 the originally

    intended number of six departments

    was completed with the appointment

    of Professor Kurt Kremer as the director

    of the institutes Theory Department.

    Professor Erhard W. Fischer retired

    from his official duties in 1997 and

    holds an emeritus status at the

    institute. In 2002 Professor Hans-

    Jurgen Butt succeeded him as director

    of the institutes Polymer Physics


    Additionally, two external mem-

    bers of the Max Planck Society,

    Professor Kurt Binder, theoretical

    physicist at the University of Mainz,

    and Professor George Fytas, chemist

    and director at F.O.R.T.H. and the

    University of Heraklion, Crete, Greece

    were appointed by the President of

    the Society.

    When Professor Gerhard Wegner

    retired in February 2008, his position

    was endowed to Professor Katharina

    Landfester. She was firmly installed in

    September 2008. Her department was

    renamed as Physical Chemistry of


    The institute is located at the edge

    of the campus of the University of

    Mainz on its own premises since 1988,

    when the first part of the present set

    of buildings was completed. Exten-

    sions to adopt to the growing number

    of staff, instrumentation, and scien-

    tist activities became available at theend of 1990 and in early 1998. A

    Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2009, 30, 649652

    2009 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinhfurther building to accommodate

    the strong Theory group and give

    more space to NMR-facilities and

    academic support forces was finished

    late 2007. The available laboratory

    space including mechanical, electrical,

    and electronic workshops amounts

    to roughly 6,000 m2. There is also a

    conference center with a lecture

    hall that seats an audience of more

    than 400 people, lecture and seminar

    rooms, a library, and a small cafeteria.

    Science at the institute was to be

    organized in research projects in

    which scientists of different groups

    and of different expertise interact

    with each other, with students, and

    with visiting scholars. From the very

    beginning the mission statements

    included that the Institute should

    develop and perform as a platform

    to give young scientists the chance to

    become independent in fields relevant

    to the overall scientific goals of the

    Institute. Besides training of doctoral

    students in cooperation with the

    local university but also other inter-

    national universities postdoctoral

    research associates were attracted to

    the Institute and installed as project

    leaders for a limited number of years.

    They were given the chance to build

    their own research groups with the

    understanding that they would con-

    tribute to the well-defined portfolio of

    the Institute for the time of their

    membership to the Institute. This

    policy has been academically most

    successful in raising highly qualified

    academics which have spread poly-

    mer science research and teaching at

    the professorial level not only across

    German universities but also inter-


    The scientific objectives of the

    institute as a whole are directed to

    synthesis of macromolecular systems

    and their exact structural character-

    ization as to the development and

    application of new methods to reveal

    and understand the relationships

    between microscopic and macro-

    scopic properties and functions ofpolymer materials. Besides the analy-

    eimmacromolecules (stiff macromole-

    cules, liquid crystalline polymers,

    model membranes, ultrathin films,

    polymers at surfaces)

    Nanoscopic structures, their self-assembly and function

    Special physical properties (electri-cal and electrooptic phenomena,

    nonlinear optics, deformation beha-

    vior of glassy polymers, surface


    Methodological developments(solid-state NMR spectroscopy, EPR

    spectroscopy, mass spectrometry,

    dielectric spectroscopy, nonlinear

    optics, surface plasmon optics, scan-p

    Smolecular systems with special

    emphasis on polymer theory

    Thermodynamics, phase transi-

    tions, and critical phenomena

    (including the physics of polymer

    blends, block copolymers, and glass

    transition phenomena)

    Surface and interface science of

    olymers Sorganic, inorganic or biological


    tructure and dynamics of macro-lypolymers with unconventional

    structures, systems of selective

    functionality, e.g. electronic or

    ionic conductivity, polyelectro-

    tes, hybrid polymers containingisSynthetic macromolecular chem-

    try (new synthetic methods,stitute thus contributes signifi-

    ntly to the advancement of poly-

    er-based technologies.

    Major research topics includeofquantitative theoretical description

    polymer systems. Work at therelad theoretical methods have been

    veloped since the institute came to

    e which serve towards a better

    derstanding of structure property

    tionships and have helped to gainertis of already technically relevant

    lymers, new materials with uncon-

    ntional properties are made and

    vestigated for their functional prop-

    es. A number of new experimentalning probe microscopy, i.e. STM,

    DOI: 10.1002/marc.200900167

  • From the Past to the FutureAFM, and SNOM, scattering meth-

    ods including, neutron and X-ray

    reflectometry, light-scattering and

    chromatography methods for the

    characterization of polymer solu-

    tions, computer-based simulations)

    The institute has maintained a

    large activity in research projects

    supported by sources other than the

    Max Planck Society including direct

    interactions with interested national

    and global industry ever since it was


    The institute is considered as a

    national and international center of

    scientific and academic training ever

    since it was founded. It rapidly grew

    to be a leading place in Europe for the

    training of graduate students in all

    polymer related fields except polymer

    engineering and processing.

    Along these lines, the institute is

    home to the International Max

    Planck Research School for Polymer

    Material Science (IMPRS-PMS) and it

    hosts the European fellowship pro-

    gram Early Stage Research Training

    (EST) Analytical Methods in the

    Development of Science and Technol-

    ogy of Polymers. In 2008 it won a

    national competition for excellence

    in graduate research training and

    was awarded with special support

    together with the departments of

    chemistry and physics of the local

    university (MAINZ). All these means

    allow the Institute to attract and

    select the very best students for its

    graduate research and training activ-

    ities across Europe. In consequence

    the Institute hosted constantly ca. 150

    graduate research students per year in

    its premises.

    More than 660 doctoral theses have

    been completed since 1984 based on

    research work carried out in the

    institute, frequently in close coopera-

    tion with the departments of Chem-

    istry and Physics of the University of

    Mainz and (external) members of

    university institutes. Former gradu-ates from the institute are found

    Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2009, 30, 649652

    2009 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinhthroughout German and European

    industry in leading positions.

    Similarly, the very active program

    in postdoctoral training of interna-

    tional scientists has led to a situation

    that many of the former research

    associates hold now chaired academic

    positions internationally, including

    the United States and Canada, Japan,

    and Europe. Over the last two decades

    the institute has typically hosted fifty

    to sixty post-doctoral research associ-

    ates per year.

    Among the former research staff

    scientists (project leaders), approxi-

    mately forty gained the habilitation

    or similar qualifications while work-

    ing with the institute and hold now

    professorships at German or European

    universities, in the USA, Canada or in


    The strong connection with the

    University of Mainz is not only

    reflected in the considerable number

    of graduated students who are work-

    ing with the institute but are regis-

    tered with the Universitys Biology,

    Chemistry and Physics Departments,

    but is also manifested by cooperative

    research projects.

    Noteworthy is the joined activity

    in the DFG supported center of

    excellence (Sonderforschungsbereich)

    From Single Molecules to Nanoscopic

    Structured Materials (SFB 625). An

    additional center of excellence is

    concerned with Structured Colloidal

    Media (Transregio SFB) including

    further academic institutions in Ger-

    many in addition to the University of


    The important role of nanosciences

    and nanotechnology is marked by

    an integrated EU project entitled

    NAIMO. Structural and dynamical

    properties are also central to the

    renewed German-French special

    research grant LEA between the

    Institute Charles Sadron, Strasbourg,

    and our institute (Macromolecules in

    Nanoscopically Structured Media).

    The short history of the institute is

    rich of scientific developments whichnucleated from here or were at least

    eimsignificantly influenced by contribu-

    tions from this place. Most note-

    worthy is the foundation of modern

    interest in surface science of poly-

    meric materials which started here in

    the mid-eighties when the institute

    organized a national research project

    on Ultrathin Layers of Polymers -

    UDS as Novel Materials in Optics,

    Electronics, and Biomedicine. Simi-

    larly, modern interest in the phenom-

    ena related to the glassy state of

    polymers and organic materials

    started here with the foundation of

    a now terminated Center of Excel-

    lence (SFB). The contributions to the

    methodology of NMR spectroscopy

    which are key to todays knowledge

    on the dynamical properties of poly-

    mers need to be mentioned as well.

    Contributions to the synthetic meth-

    odology, notably in the area of poly-

    conjugated and all-aromatic macro-

    molecules were basic to further

    significant work concerning uncon-

    ventional electrical and optical

    including nonlinear optical properties

    of polymers. More recently strong

    computer simulation efforts in con-

    junction with analytic theory comple-

    ment the experimental activities lead-

    ing to new joint developments.

    Cooperation with industry has

    always played an important role

    and was significantly supported over

    the years by the materials research

    programs of the Federal Ministry of

    Education and Research. In addition,

    numerous direct interactions with

    larger and smaller industries have

    always been common and character-

    istic for the institutes research strat-

    egy. The latter was based from the

    very beginning of the institute on the

    fact that the production, processing,

    application, and technology of poly-

    meric materials are rich sources of

    most intriguing phenomena worth to

    excite scientific as well as academic


    For the future we expect the

    institute to gain further strength from

    its established interaction betweentheory, metho...