The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry also opened in 1912. In addition to the firedamp whistle, a discovery resulting from research commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm, the institute's efforts up until 1914 were mainly devoted to research on ammonia. This was carried out by its founding director, Fritz Haber, who in 1919 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
In the First World War, Haber placed his institute at the service of the military, with research aimed at developing poison gases to be used at the front. In the 1920s, civil research came very much to the fore again. This period saw outstanding achievements at the institute in subjects such as colloid chemistry and the experimental substantiation of Bohr's model of the atom.
In 1933, however, 25% of the staff (including three departmental heads), lost their positions under a new Nazi law aimed at purging the German civil service of "Non-Aryans". Haber too was Jewish, but he was exempted from this for the meantime as a former participant in the First World War. He nonetheless refused to fire his staff and he submitted his resignation. Peter Adolf Thießen, a loyal member of the Nazi party, was then appointed director of the institute, ensuring close co-operation with the regime.
After 1945, the institute remained in Dahlem and was incorporated into the Max Planck Society as the Fritz Haber Institute.