About Us

The exquisite diversity and functionality of biological materials are truly remarkable, especially as they are composed of a small set of abundant chemical elements. While engineering materials primarily require specific, often unsustainable, chemical compositions to realize their functions, nature achieves unparalleled functionality through optimized architectures that span multiple length scales. Water, with its ubiquity and unique structural dynamics, plays a pivotal role as a “working fluid” in shaping the properties and functionality of nature’s materials. Inspired by these marvels of nature, BlueMat will develop a novel class of sustainable, interactive, architected “blue” materials deriving their functionality from multiscale structures of hard matter interacting with water. This is a globally unique approach. We will mimic natural processes such as water-driven mechanical actuation, capillarity-driven water transport, humidity- dependent color or photocatalytic water splitting as observed in animals and plants, most prominently in trees, and extend them to functionalities not found in nature, such as control of acoustic and electromagnetic waves, tunable thermal emission and electrical energy storage and generation. To this end, we will study and exploit novel effects of water in nanoconfinement, combine experiments and modeling from the molecular to the device scale and bridge the gap between top-down and bottom-up fabrication methods. In parallel, an artistic perspective of water-material interaction will be addressed.

BlueMat raises fascinating and fundamentally new scientific questions and promises radically new functional properties that will be pursued up to device-level applications. This includes windows and insulation for energy efficient architecture and hydrovoltaics for electrical energy harvesting from environmental processes or waste heat. To accomplish this, BlueMat draws upon the exceptional talents of an interdisciplinary team from several world-class research institutions in Hamburg with outstanding expertise in molecular water science, multiscale materials, process engineering, and diverse application areas including micromechanics, fluidics, photonics, energy systems, computer science, and art.

The groundwork for BlueMat’s research has been laid down by many joint research activities of universities and research centers in the Hamburg area. For more than 15 years by Hamburg has been committed to the strategic scientific and technological development in the field of “New Materials” making it a central pillar for profound innovation. In 2009, the development of „Integrated Material Systems“ began as a joint project (LEXI IMS) funded by the state of Hamburg. In 2012, the DFG-funded collaborative research center CRC 986 „Tailor- Made Multiscale Materials Systems“ was established and facilitated research cooperation between the TUHH, UHH, DESY and Hereon. It achieved exceptional progress with more than 300 cross-institutional publications and has a tremendous, internationally highly recognized impact in this area. In view of this success, TUHH, UHH, Hereon, and DESY agreed in 2015 to establish the Center for Advanced Materials (ZHM) and in 2019, the Center for Integrated Multiscale Materials Systems (CIMMS). CIMMS received the North German Science Award in 2022 (“Norddeutscher Wissenschaftspreis 2022”), highlighting its scientific success. While here multi-scale, bio-inspired materials have been researched, BlueMat plans to expand this research by including the interaction of such materials with water and as such, establishing a new area of materials research. It leverages Hamburg’s worldwide unique ecosystem of brilliant X-ray analytics, basic natural sciences and engineering with a strong focus on sustainable technologies. The networking of materials sciences with digitalization and artificial intelligence is giving rise to further research topics that will shape the future of Hamburg’s science.

Development of the field new materials in Hamburg


This research initiative will support BlueMat’s application for a cluster of excellence with the long-term goal of making Hamburg a world leader in the science and technology of water-driven materials, thus continuing Hamburg’s history as a city “driven” by water and contributing to the well-being of our blue planet.

Hamburg harbor
Hamburg - a city “driven” by water