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Eduard Arzt awarded the highest European research prize

The materials scientist Professor Eduard Arzt, Scientific Director and Chairman of the INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials, has been awarded an advanced grant of around 2.5 million euros by the European Research Council (ERC).

Over the next five years, he will use this to develop three-dimensional structures and surfaces whose functions can be turned on and off by external stimuli. The ERC’s advanced grants honor European researchers who have already made outstanding achievements in pioneering research.

Professor Arzt is pursuing various long-term goals in his research. On the one hand, for example, highly sensitive wafers or lens systems could eventually be picked and transported in production processes by switchable adhesion without leaving residues and without causing damage, without using grippers or suckers.

Medical implants, where adhesion only commences when required, can make the work of surgeons easier. On the other hand, new surface microstructures can also offer the possibility of selectively changing the feeling of touch. So in future, for example, automobile steering wheels could send out a hazard warning through a sudden change in the surface; on smooth touchscreens, a keyboard will be felt by the touch of a button and as a result use the sense of touch in the communication between man and computer.

Whilst static adhesion systems for level hard surfaces have been subject to in-depth investigation for some time, virtually no research has been conducted on the realization of switchable adhesion or adhesion to soft surfaces. “Controlled adhesion and detachment – this is a principle that is found in nature. Geckos use it to move on smooth, rough, flexible and rigid substrates, on walls and even upside down.

Their adhesive ability is based on very fine hairs, known as fibrils, on their feet”, explains the Scientific Director and Chairman at the INM. “With the ERC project, we are conducting research into a new generation of synthetic gecko structures. By changing the temperature, by electric fields or other external influences, it should be possible to switch adhesion on and off as required.

A second focus is on understanding how gecko structures can adhere to flexible surfaces, for example human skin. This principle will be further developed for touch structures and biomedical applications. Ultimately our aim is to demonstrate the feasibility of bioinspired surfaces on a larger scale in order to work out the basis for cost-effective production”, explains the materials scientist.


Personal details
Professor Eduard Arzt studied physics and mathematics at the University of Vienna, graduating in 1980. From 1980 to 1990, he worked in research at Cambridge University (UK), Stanford University (USA) and at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research (Stuttgart). From 1990 to 2007, he was Director at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research. Since 2007, he has been Scientific Director and Chairman at the INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials and Professor for New Materials at Saarland University.
The ERC and pioneering research
The ERC promotes basic research referred to as pioneering research or “frontier research”. These terms describe ground-breaking and visionary research removing the boundaries between basic and applied research, between classic disciplines and between research and technology.
With its program, the ERC’s aim in the long-term is to become the leader in technological and scientific advances in Europe and the world. A mixture of basic and applied research will increase the competitiveness and attractiveness of the European Research Area. Research is centered on both immediate and also future scientific and social subjects.
Achieving these goals requires excellent and creative researchers from the natural sciences, engineering, arts, social and life sciences who can also develop new ideas beyond the boundaries of their field. With the help of these exceptional scientists, the ERC is driving forward the institutionalization of cutting-edge European research at individual level and the establishment of an extensive European knowledge pool.


Prof. Dr. Eduard Arzt
INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials
Scientific Director
Phone: +49681-9300-500
INM conducts research and development to create new materials – for today, tomorrow and beyond. Chemists, physicists, biologists, materials scientists and engineers team up to focus on these essential questions: Which material properties are new, how can they be investigated and how can they be tailored for industrial applications in the future? Four research thrusts determine the current developments at INM: New materials for energy application, new concepts for implant surfaces, new surfaces for tribological applications and nanosafety/nanobio interaction. Research at INM is performed in three fields: Chemical Nanotechnology, Interface Materials, and Materials in Biology.

INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials, situated in Saarbruecken, is an internationally leading centre for materials research. It is an institute of the Leibniz Association and has about 190 employees.

Dr. Carola Jung | idw
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