Departmental WebPage

Dr. Oliver Steinbock

Dr. Oliver Steinbock

Cottrell Professor

Ph.D. (1993) Georg-August University Gottingen and the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Physiology (Germany)

Contact Information
Email:steinbck [at]
Location Information
Office:3001 CSL
Lab:3802 CSL
Chemistry Research
Research Website
2 Graduate; 1 Postdocs

Research Interest

Oscillations and other periodic rhythms are common phenomena in physics and biology. Certain oscillations govern everyone’s life, such as day/night rhythm and heart beat. For a long time, chemists believed that their field of research was excluded from this pulsating universe. Today, however, we know that many reactions are more than simple one-way streets. Chemical systems can show oscillatory, quasiperiodic, or even chaotic behavior. More surprisingly, a large number of aqueous reaction media can form pr opagating waves which share intriguing features with propagating waves in neuronal or cardiac tissue. Thin layers of these reaction solutions generate macroscopic patterns such as rotating spiral waves (see the figure) that sometimes can be seen with the naked eye. The list of systems in which these rotating spirals have been observed is long and ranges from catalytic surfaces to heart muscles and brain tissue.

Our group is studying these fascinating wave patterns in two different experimental systems. The first one is classical Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, which is probably the most established model in the field of chemical self-organization (like the fruitfly Drosophila in genetics). The second one is the corrosion of steel in acidic media, which is of great interest from a technological point of view. Although by common conception corrosion is a purely destructive process, it actually produces a wealth of dynamic patterns that teach us important lessons about the nucleation and growth of rust.

Other projects in our group include the investigation of simple guest-host equilibria of cyclodextrins using capillary electrophoresis and the study of phase transitions in swelling/shrinking hydrogels. Although our primary focus lies in the physical chemistry of the involved processes, both projects have the potential to lead to medical application in the field of self-regulatory drug delivery.

Examples of our current goals are:
  • control of localized corrosion structures on steel
  • characterization and explanation of wave phenomena during the electroless deposition of metals
  • investigation of excitation waves in systems with anomalous dispersion
  • exploration of possible ways to relay and to process information with chemical waves
  • microfabrication of patterned support matrices for self-organizing reaction media
  • measurement of reaction kinetics using nanoliter volumes

Six-armed spiral wave


Makki Rabih; Steinbock Oliver. Synthesis of Inorganic Tubes under Actively Controlled Growth Velocities and Injection Rates. JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY C 2011, Volume: 115 Issue: 34, 17046-17053
Dutta Sumana; Steinbock Oliver. Spiral defect drift in the wave fields of multiple excitation patterns. : PHYSICAL REVIEW E 2011, Volume: 83 Issue: 5 Article Number: 056213
Dutta Sumana; Steinbock Oliver. Topologically Mismatched Pinning of Scroll Waves. JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS 2011, Volume: 2 Issue: 9, 945-949
Makki Rabih; Steinbock Oliver. Characterization of micro and macro tubular growth in reaction-precipitation systems. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 2011, Volume: 241 Meeting Abstract: 347-PHYS
Dutta Sumana; Steinbock Oliver. SELF-AVOIDING CHIRAL WALKS. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BIFURCATION AND CHAOS 2010, Volume: 20 Issue: 11, 3717-3723