The research area of Complex Materials at the Erich Schmid Institute encompasses a wide variety of materials and material systems. For example, complex materials include a range of functional materials such as employed in information technology sectors, for high temperature applications, or in fusion energy applications as well as biological and composite materials. These are made of multiple materials or phases, thin films, have a hierarchical structure or have no long range atomic order. The mechanical, electrical, magnetic, and thermal properties of complex materials are often derived from the interfaces between the differing materials, phases, or even atomic bonding. 

A major area of  study at the institute is the quantitative understanding of the synthesis – microstructure – property relationships paving the way for materials design and life time predictions of complex materials. More specifically, the fracture and crack propagation through multi-layered and nanocrystalline materials produced with HPT is being investigated experimentally and theoretically. Biological materials such as wood, bone, and dentin have been extensively studied experimentally with nanoindentation and X-ray diffraction. Thin film systems and the resulting interfaces are heavily examined. Methods to measure the interface adhesion of metal-ceramic interfaces found in semiconductors and metal-polymer interfaces in flexible electronics and printed circuit boards have been developed at ESI.

At the nanoscale the interface structure and chemistry are also being studied with advanced transmission electron microscopy methods to gain a better understanding of interface phenomenon. Other research includes testing intermetallic alloys for turbines and refractory metals as well materials in fusion reactors. The institute benefits from its interaction with leading industrial partners and close connections to the national and international scientific community.