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Understanding the behavior of liquids in porous materials is important for very different areas of our lives, ranging from the recovery of oil from rock to water holding capacities of different soils. The study presented in this video is dedicated to the quest for the mechanisms behind these processes. STEPHAN HERMINGHAUS explains that, starting out, the researchers had several ideas for what the general principle might be. They used modern techniques and 3D computer simulations to single out the right candidate. But only the rediscovery and adaption of an old two-dimensional simulation lead to the breakthrough in finding the actual mechanism.


Stefan Herminghaus is Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen (Germany) and is the head of the department ’Dynamics of Complex Fluids’. He is also Honorary Professor of Physics at the University of Göttingen.

In his research Herminghaus concentrates on complex fluids, non-equilibrium systems and irreversibility. Within his field of research he examines the behavior and consistance of liquids of different materials. He received an IBM Fellowship and was a Heisenberg Fellow. He is a Member of the German Physical Society and the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers.


Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization

No matter how well we understand how a single droplet of water is formed in the laboratory, we cannot predict how countless droplets form clouds that substantially affect the Earth’s climate. And although we can accurately characterize a single neuron’s impulse, we do not yet understand how billions of them form a single thought. In such systems, animate or inanimate, processes of self-organization are at work: Many interacting parts organize themselves independently, without external control, into a complex whole.

At our institute we explore the mechanisms underlying these processes in order to gain a detailed understanding of complex systems. Also the major challenges of the 21st century, from climate change and economic crises to problems in energy supply and transport, are closely linked to these scientific questions. Without a deep understanding of dynamics and self-organization in complex and highly networked systems we cannot face these challenges. With our basic research not only do we want to deepen our understanding of nature, but also want to contribute to a sustainable existence on this planet.

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Original publication

The Role of Local Instabilities in Fluid Invasion into Permeable Media

Singh Kamaljit, Scholl Hagen, Brinkmann Martin, Scheel Mario, Herminghaus Stephan, Seemann Ralf and Di Michiel Marco
Scientific Reports
Published in 2017

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