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Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

The institute was founded as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin in 1912 and became a member of the Max Planck Society in 1949. Its present research work includes studies on the concentration and the isotopic composition of trace elements in the atmosphere and in extraterrestrial material such as meteorites and rock samples from the Moon and Mars, as well as research on the chemical and temporal evolution of the Earth´s mantle and crust.

Experimental studies on the exchange of trace gases and aerosols between biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere are at the center of the research efforts in the Biogeochemistry Department. Present research topics are: emissions from biomass burning; aerosols and their impact on climate; impact of fire on forest and savanna ecosystems; plant physiology and biogenic emissions of hydrocarbons and sulfur compounds; trace gases and land-use in tropical and mid-lattitude regions; emissions of trace gases from the oceans; global cycles of trace gases.

The research interests in the Atmospheric Chemistry Department focus on the study of ozone and other atmospheric photo-oxidants, their chemical reactions and global cycles. The investigations require highly sensitive measurements of ozone precursors, key breakdown products of hydrocarbons and radicals to characterize chemical reaction chains. The processes are studied through kinetic and photochemical laboratory investigations, in situ and remote sensing measurements. Further activities include development of numerical models to describe meteorological and chemical processes in the atmosphere, to simulate the complex atmospheric interactions and to test the theory through intensive ground-based, ship, aircraft and satellite measurement campaigns. The Junior Research Group is engaged in development, testing, and use of numerical models to investigate the physical and chemical processes, in particular those related to convective storms, which influence the chemical composition of the present and future atmosphere in tropical regions, especially southern Asia and the Indian Ocean.

The Geochemistry Department explores the chemical composition and the temporal evolution of the Earth´s mantle and crust. Important tools for studying various geological processes include mass spectrometric measurements of isotopic abundances of chemical elements produced by natural radioactive decay (e.g., uranium to lead, rubidium to strontium, samarium to neodymium) as well as of elemental abundances of trace elements found in rocks and minerals. Model calculations simulate global circulation of the Earth´s interior with regard to the differentiation of the crust and mantle as well as to the internal recycling of the differentiated material. Regional studies are performed in combination with geological and petrographic fieldwork. Palaeo-oceanographic and climatological studies use Th-U chronometry and isotopic tracers. The High Pressure Group determines phase equilibria and measures thermodynamic properties of metals and minerals under pressure and temperature conditions existing in the Earth´s deep mantle and core (up to 2000000 atm and 5000 °C).

The Cosmochemistry Department conducts mass spectrometric trace element analyses and measurements of isotopic abundances to determine the physical and chemical conditions of processes in the early solar system. In addition, knowledge of the temporal evolution of these processes is obtained through the decay products of now extinct radionuclides. Further work focuses on the study of presolar material from meteorites, particularly with regard to nucleosynthetic processes within stars; the interaction of cosmic radiation with matter; meteorite research using chemical, radiochemical, physical, and mineralogical-petrologic methods; age determination of extraterrestrial material using various radioactive decay systems; exploration of the terrestrial planets with special emphasis on Mars; and the development and implementation of experiments on board space probes.

The Department Cloud Physics and Chemistry, a joint research group at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the University Mainz, is investigating the chemical and physical processes which determine cloud formation. The influence of clouds and aerosol particles on climate are among the most important processes in the climate system which are currently insufficiently understood. In addition to this, clouds at high altitudes (polar stratospheric clouds) play an important role in polar ozone destruction. The group will investigate the formation of clouds and cloud condensation nuclei from aerosol particles by measuring aerosol and cloud parameters like chemical composition, size distribution, charge, etc.. These measurements include laboratory experiments as well as ground based and aircraft based field experiments. To determine the chemical composition, mass spectrometric techniques are used; optical particle counters and electrostatic classifiers are used for the measurement of size distributions. In the vertical wind tunnel at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics at the University, single cloud droplets can be freely suspended to study their dynamic behaviour.

In 2002 the institute had a staff of 198 coworkers including 36 scientists and 40 junior scientists; in addition there were 39 scientists with third-party funding and 7 guest scientists.


Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Hahn-Meitner-Weg 1
55128 Mainz
Tel: +49 (6131) 305 - 0
Fax: +49 (6131) 305 388

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