Summer, sun and synthetic polymers

The polymer educational path was opened

It has been over 100 years since Hermann Staudinger caused a sensation with a publication on the subject of "polymers," for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1953. Today, it is impossible to imagine our everyday lives without plastics. The Polymer Educational Path has now been opened and shows a wide variety of topics around the subject of plastics.

Beautiful summer weather - the sun is shining over the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research. At the Polymer Educational Path behind the institute, the opening event is taking place - 1 ½ years have passed since planning began. Since then, fundaments have been concreted, texts written, panels printed and exhibits built.

"Unfortunately, Corona threw a spanner in the works last year, so we've now taken the 101st anniversary as the opening date," says Katharina Landfester, director at MPI-P and initiator of the path, referring to the publication Hermann Staudinger published 100 years ago, which is nowadays considered the birth of polymers.

A path to explore

The path currently shows four major stations - but more will follow. The history in the form of a timeline reports on the development of plastics and their use. It shows all kinds of interesting anecdotes and also presents products that everyone knows from everyday life - all made of plastic, of course.

The next station is an audio station - a student talks in an interview with founding father Hermann Staudinger, who is enthusiastic about all the things that have become possible today thanks to his research. The interview itself was never conducted with Herrmann Staudinger in this way, but if he were still with us, his thoughts might well sound like this with a view to the present. Urs Rüegg, Hermann Staudinger's grandson living in Switzerland, who was also able to meet him himself, found "the synthetic dialogue" to be "outstandingly authentic".

The joy at the opening of the path was all the greater when Urs Rüegg announced his visit. As the guest of honor at the event, he spoke briefly about his family and his memories of his grandfather.


Franzi goes on a discovery tour: mobile from the lab, Prof. Dr. Katharina Landfester explains individual stations to Franzi. The new image film lets us immerse ourselves in the colorful variety of topics. And a few impressions of the opening ceremony on September 3, 2021, show what polymers look like and how they can become entangled.

Further along the path is the rod maze - an installation made of wooden rods. This goes into the molecular structure of polymers and shows how molecules can arrange themselves and thus decisively determine the properties of plastics. From flexible to hard - everything can be explained by their structure.

Other stations on the trail deal with the use of polymers in cars, medicine and everyday life, as well as with their diverse physical and chemical properties. One station deals with the topic of insulation and presents an artistically abstracted, greatly enlarged section through Styrofoam. The air-filled pores that provide the insulating properties are clearly visible. The path also addresses critical issues of degradability, sustainability and recycling.

"Everywhere today we need polymers in very different ways. You can not only look at the entire thing here, but you can experience it, grasp it. You can try things out, quite interactively, so you can see where we actually use polymers everywhere today," Landfester said in her opening speech.

At the opening event, polymers are not only presented at the individual stations, but also in a variety of artistic ways - be it with a fashion show featuring polymers or a performance by dancers from the Staatstheater Mainz, who choreograph a station soon to be set up on the molecular structure of polymers.

All in all, the opening is a complete success with an exuberant atmosphere and many exciting talks and discussions about polymers. Several guided tours go along the path.

If you would also like to visit the Polymer Educational Path in Mainz, you can find more information on this at, including a form for registration.

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