Daring to look into the future

Opening of further stations on the Polymer Path

October 06, 2022

The first part of the Polymer Path at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research was opened last year. With the completion of the last two stations with further exhibits on 30.09.2022, the complete path can now be visited and examined. The exhibits offer insight into various research projects at the Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) and look at the role of polymers in the future.

Two of the exhibits at the "Research" station show how fundamental research can make a decisive contribution in various areas, e.g. industry and medicine. For example, polymers are used in personalised medicine, which will be of great importance in the field of cancer therapy in the coming decades. Another area of application is, for example, polymer-based filter membranes for water purification.

The "Vision" station was developed in cooperation with the "Zukunftsinstitut". For decades, this institute has been observing and presenting megatrends that will have a formative influence on our society or are already doing so. At this final station of the path, a map resembling an public transportation map is shown that visualises these megatrends: For example, topics such as autonomous driving, shared mobility and bike boom are subordinated to the umbrella term "mobility".

After the official opening of the completed educational path by the initiator Prof. Katharina Landfester and the Managing Director of the MPI-P, Prof. Tanja Weil, the focus of the event continued to be on looking into the future of polymer research. An interdisciplinary discussion with Prof. Tim Henning from the Philosophy Department of the University of Mainz and Prof. Landfester on the "Red Sofa" dealt with the topic of nanomedicine.

Both discussed the opportunities and risks of this development with regard to the possibilities of disease diagnosis and therapy as well as the critical examination of the question of intervening in the human body with the gene scissors "Crisp". While these genetic scissors are already being used in agriculture by genetically optimising plants, their use in medicine is still disputed. Ms. Landfester concluded the controversial dialogue with the words that "ethics must always be taken into account in research, no matter how tempting the opportunities".

Another item on the programme was the humorous interlude by the actors of the science show "Forschperspektive". Two "futurologists" from a fictitious research institute interacted with the guests in a walk-act and held "volatile nanoparticles" under their noses, demonstrated with full physical effort how semi-crystalline and amorphous polymer structures really feel or demonstrated the extremely impressive model for implementing a "nano-earworm" on stage. 

The Polymer Path takes up a variety of current topics, takes a stand on problematic issues that are still associated with plastics and wants to dispel the prejudice that plastics are "evil" per se.

With the help of mostly interactive exhibits, visitors will gain insight into the complexity of polymer research and the numerous areas of application in everyday life, industry and medicine.  Everyone is invited to visit the Polymer Path. The MPI-P offers guided tours for all interested persons on request, with a special focus on school classes from grade 7.

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