Catalysis at the centre of research (1993-present)
The appointment of Manfred T. Reetz as Director in 1993 marked the beginning of a comprehensive restructuring of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. A specialist in the field of organic chemistry himself, Reetz initiated the expansion of the institute's board of directors to five directors each of whom headed a scientific department: Alois Fürstner (Department of Organometallic Chemistry), Ferdi Schüth (Department of Heterogeneous Catalysis), Walter Thiel (Theoretical Chemistry 1999-2018) and Benjamin List (Department of Homogeneous Catalysis).
The administration of the Institute was delegated to a full-time administrative manager. This change in structure was accompanied by a redefinition of the Institute’s scientific goals, which were all grouped around the central theme of catalysis.
Catalysts are of enormous economic importance since hardly any manufacturing process can do without them: they enable highly specific reactions and help carry out reactions with lower energy input. There are numerous novel compounds, materials and active substances that can only be produced by means of catalytic processes.
Since the 1990s, the campus has undergone numerous modernizations and expansions, with the introduction of new analytical methods, for example, and the establishment of computational chemistry as an independent scientific branch. In 2015 and 2018 after the retirement of Manfred T. Reetz and Walter Thiel, two new directors were appointed: Tobias Ritter (Organic Synthesis) and Frank Neese (Molecular Theory and Spectroscopy). The excellent reputation of the Institute and its outstanding facilities attract young scientists from all over the world, who find excellent conditions for their research at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung.