Max Planck Institute for Coal Research

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Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung
AbbreviationMPI KoFo
PredecessorKaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Kohlenforschung
Formation1912; 109 years ago (1912)
TypeScientific institute
PurposeResearch on coal, organic and organometallic chemistry, catalysis and theoretical chemistry
HeadquartersMülheim an der Ruhr, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Key people
Tobias Ritter, Managing Director
Frank Neese, Director[1]
Parent organization
Max Planck Society
Website(in English)

The Max Planck Institute for Coal Research (German: Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung) is an institute located in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany specializing in chemical research on catalysis.[2] It is one of the 86 institutes in the Max Planck Society (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft). Founded in 1912 as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Coal Research (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Kohlenforschung) in Mülheim an der Ruhr to study the chemistry and uses of coal, it became an independent Max Planck Institute in 1949.


The Institute carries out basic research in organic and organometallic chemistry, in homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis as well as in theoretical chemistry. The principal aim is to develop new methods for the selective and environmentally benign preparation of new compounds and materials.

The MPI KoFo has been at the forefront of research in chemistry since its formation. One of these is the development of the Fischer–Tropsch process through the efforts of Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch in 1925 when the institute was still organized as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Kohlenforschung. Nobel Prize laureate Karl Ziegler also worked at the institute alongside Hans-Georg Gellert, one of his former students, to discover aufbau reaction (Aufbaureaktion) or growth reaction among aluminum alkyl compounds.[3]


Organic Synthesis[edit]

Research in the Organic Synthesis Department, led by Tobias Ritter, focuses on the development of novel reaction chemistry. It seeks to discover molecular structure and reactivity that can contribute to interdisciplinary solutions for challenges in science.[4]

Homogeneous Catalysis[edit]

The Homogeneous Catalysis Department, led by Benjamin List [de], focuses on the development of new catalysis concepts within the areas of organocatalysis, transition metal catalysis, and, to some extent, biocatalysis. Since 1999, the group concentrates on enantioselective organocatalysis as a fundamental approach complementing biocatalysis and transition metal catalysis. They have a profound interest in developing “new reactions”, designing and identifying new principles for the development of organocatalysts, expanding the scope of already developed catalysts such as proline, using organocatalysis in the synthesis of natural products and pharmaceuticals, and also investigating the mechanism by which organocatalysts activate their substrates. Furthermore, in 2005 the department has first conceptualized another approach to asymmetric catalysis, namely Asymmetric Counteranion-Directed Catalysis (ACDC). This idea has not only progressed within the department but also at other institutions around the globe into a general strategy for asymmetric synthesis applied in organocatalysis as well as in transition metal catalysis and Lewis acid catalysis.[5]

Heterogeneous Catalysis[edit]

The Heterogeneous Catalysis Department, led by Ferdi Schüth, is concentrated on the synthesis and characterization of inorganic materials with an application focus in heterogeneous catalysis. Especially important are high surface area materials with controlled porosity and nanostructured catalysts. Reactions studied include model reactions, such as carbon monoxide oxidation, and energy relevant conversions, i.e. methane activation, biomass conversion, ammonia decomposition and catalyzed hydrogen storage. This research is supported by studies into the fundamental processes governing solids formation.[6]

Organometallic Chemistry[edit]

The Organometallic Chemistry Department, led by Alois Fürstner, is focused on the development and understanding of organometallic reagents and catalysts, as well as on their application to the synthesis of structurally complex targets of biological significance. Particular attention is paid to the development and validation of catalytic methods for Carbon–carbon bond formation. Long term projects of current interest concern alkene and alkyne metathesis, the development and use of pi-acids (platinum, gold etc.), iron catalysis and cross coupling in general. Moreover, the group is engaged in the development of novel donor ligands, including carbenes and compounds containing formally "zerovalent" carbon atoms. All methods are scrutinized by applications to the total synthesis and "diverted total synthesis" of natural products and pharmaceutically active compounds.[7]

Theoretical Chemistry[edit]

The Department of Molecular Theory and Spectroscopy, led by Frank Neese, focuses on theoretical developments that extend the scope of computational methodology, especially for large molecules, and applies theoretical methods to study specific chemical problems, mostly in close cooperation with experimental partners. The activities of the group cover a broad methodological spectrum such as ab initio methods, density functional theory, semiempirical methods and combined quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical methods.[8]


  1. ^ "Board of Directors". Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  2. ^ Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. "General information". Retrieved March 18, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. "History of the institute". Retrieved May 1, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. "Organic Synthesis". Retrieved May 1, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. "Homogeneous catalysis". Retrieved May 1, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. "Heterogeneous catalysis". Retrieved May 1, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. "Organometallic chemistry". Retrieved May 1, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Max Planck Institute for Coal Research. "Theoretical chemistry". Retrieved May 1, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°25′4″N 6°53′11″E / 51.41778°N 6.88639°E / 51.41778; 6.88639