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Discovering Secrets of Surfaces at the Science Market

September 19, 2017

At the Science Market (Mainzer Wissenschaftsmarkt) from September 9 to 10, 2017, visitors had the chance to get to know and engage with the researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P).

The yearly visit at the Science Market held in the historical downtown of Mainz is a scheduled weekend getaway for many. True to the motto „Human and Environment“ science has come to live in town on the 9th and 10th of September. As every year, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research was presenting itself with its own stall. The public and visitors were informed about the research activities of the institute and could conduct hands-on experiments on their own.

The experiments on hydrophobic surfaces exerted a strong pull to many visitors. A tie immersed in red wine from which the wine simply drips off when taken out of the glass was particularly interesting. Children full of excitement yelled at their mothers: “Mom, there is clothing which cannot get dirty anymore!” The visitors could also marvel at rolling droplets collecting and removing dirt from surfaces. The lotus leaves demonstrated the difference between superhydrophobic, or say water-repellent, leaves and ordinary leaves.

Visitors could puddle cement with their own hands. The cement has been rendered inviscid via the addition of small amounts of a polymeric additive. The secret behind this modification is the formation of a thin polymer layer on the tiny cement grains, which enables them to slide relative to each other. With the help of prepared molds, the logo of the Max Planck Institute, as well as the rabbit mascot, were cast a couple of a hundred times. After a short drying time, the cast figurines could be taken home as a souvenir. This experiment with the flowable cement reminded many visitors of their own experience with building materials. Statements like “that would have been a useful polymer when we had been building our house” were common and led to many discussions with the scientists present.

Prof. Doris Vollmer and Dr. Rüdiger Berger, the two scientists responsible for this year´s Science Market, have prepared the experiments together with many dedicated helpers belonging to the research group of Professor Butt. Both of them already look forward to the next time!

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