Hans Christian Öttinger

Hans Christian Öttinger

ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

1958 – Present

Theoretical Physicist
Awarded Bingham Medal 2008

Hans Christian Öttinger was born in 1958 and obtained a diploma in quantum field theory at the University of Freiburg in Germany in 1981. He then earned a Ph.D. in Physics in 1983 and completed his Habilitation in Theoretical Physics in 1988 under the direction of Professor J. Honerkamp. His work in the field of rheology began in 1986 while a post-doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison working under the guidance of Professor R.B. Bird. Öttinger came to ETH Zurich in 1989 as a researcher in the Polymer Physics Group of Professor Joachim Meissner. After Meissner’s retirement in 1996, Hans Christian became Professor of Polymer Physics. During his tenure at ETH, Hans Christian has held the position of Head of the Institute of Polymers and Chairman of the Department of Materials.

Öttinger’s research within the field of complex fluids can be broadly grouped into two areas: kinetic theory & stochastic simulation techniques, and non-equilibrium thermodynamics. In addition, Hans Christian was involved in several experimental projects that built upon existing strengths at ETH in the rheometry of polymeric liquids and developed new expertise in the area of non-Newtonian fluid dynamics in complex flow fields. His first contributions involved the generalization and extension of classical theories describing systems ranging from dilute solutions to liquid crystalline polymers. His most important contributions in this area have been in the application of stochastic simulation techniques for polymeric liquids and he was the author of a seminal book on this subject: Stochastic Processes in Polymeric Fluids. In addition, Hans Christian developed a method known as Calculation Of Non-Newtonian Flow: Finite Elements and Stochastic SImulation Technique, or CONNFFESSIT. The CONNFFESSIT approach, or methods derived from these original ideas, are now widely used by rheologists and fluid dynamicists.

Subsequently he developed a frame-work for non-equilibrium thermodynamics known as GENERIC (General Equation for the Non-Equilibrium Reversible-Irreversible Coupling), which has had a dramatic impact on the entire field of rheology and complex fluids. The foundation of this work is described in two highly cited papers co-authored with Miroslav Grmela in 1997. Hans Christian has continued to develop and extend the GENERIC framework, as summarized in the book Beyond Equilibrium Thermodynamics and demonstrated its applicability to a wide range of topics such as thermodynamic consistency of constitutive equations, flow-induced crystallization of molten polymers, glass-forming liquids, hydrodynamics, molecular dynamic simulations and coarse graining methods.

Öttinger is widely-respected as a person of the highest integrity who is both tenacious and playful in his pursuit of scientific truth. He is a member of the American, British and German Societies of Rheology, and the German Physical Society and Swiss Rheology Group and has been honored as a Fellow of The Society of Rheology (2015) and a Member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (2017). More recently, his interest in nonequilibrium systems and quantum implications has led him to engage in the philosophy of science and resulted in his 2018 book A Philosophical Approach to Quantum Field Theory. Öttinger also enjoys hiking, collecting rare books, listening to music, and following SC Freiburg.


Öttinger, Hans Christian, Prof. Dr. Department of Materials, ETH Zürich (accessed Aug 22, 2019).

Grmela, Miroslav; Öttinger, Hans Christian. Dynamics and thermodynamics of complex fluids. I. Development of a general formalism. Physical Review E 1997, 56(6), 6620–6632.

Öttinger, Hans Christian; Grmela, Miroslav. Dynamics and thermodynamics of complex fluids. II. Illustrations of a general formalism. Physical Review E 1997, 56(6), 6633–6655.

Öttinger, Hans Christian. Stochastic Processes in Polymeric Fluids: Tools and examples for developing simulation algorithms. Springer: Berlin, 1996.

Öttinger, Hans Christian. Beyond equilibrium thermodynamics. Wiley-Interscience: Hoboken, NJ, 2005.

Öttinger, Hans Christian. A Philosophical Approach to Quantum Field Theory. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2018.

Note: This biography is an adaptation of the following article previously published by The Society of Rheology.

Venerus, David C. Hans Christian Öttinger is 2008 Bingham Medalist. Rheology Bulletin 2008, 77(2), 4.