Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme

Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme

Basic materials research

The focus of the research at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (formerly Max Planck Institute for Metals Research) combines research expertise in the fields of material science, computer science and biology, and is involved in fundamental research in the field of autonomous intelligent systems. Up to 400 staff, about half of them scientists, work and conduct their research at the Institute’s two locations in Stuttgart and Tübingen. The five research departments in Stuttgart mainly focus on self-learning material systems, micro and nano robotics and self-organisation. On the Tübingen campus, three departments conduct research in machine learning, perception and autonomous motion.

Since it was founded in 1921 as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Metals Research in Berlin, the institute has established a name as one of the leading research institutions in this field. In 1934, it moved to Stuttgart and has since built up close ties with the University of Stuttgart. Originally, the researchers mainly investigated metals and their alloys. Over the years, the research focus shifted to non-metallic materials, in particular ceramics. Research scientists at the MPI for Metals Research were responsible for some of the pioneering achievements in materials science during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the field of high-performance ceramics. Following a resolution adopted by the Senate of the Max Planck Society in 2010, the MPI for Metals Research was restructured and its research focus shifted to the field of intelligent systems.

The goal of the researchers is to understand the principles of perception, learning and action in autonomous systems. Such systems are capable of operating successfully in complex and changing environments. The institute studies these principles in biological, computational, hybrid, and material systems ranging from nano to macro scales. This strong interdisciplinary approach is highly unique in the world. Although the research at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems is dedicated to fundamental science, it has great potential for application, for example in robotics, medical technology, or in innovative technologies based on novel materials.



Activity Research, Development, Universities


Dr. Michael Black, managing director



Bioinspired cilia help understand which movement pattern generates maximal fluid flows

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, develop artificial cilia that can be programmed to move in waves. In experiments, the…