Research News Archive 2012

December 2012#

Machines with built-in copy protection (Fraunhofer AISEC)

Pirated goods cost German industry billions, and expensive industrial goods like machining systems are becoming a growing target. Scientists are turning the tables on the forgers by studying their methods and developing anti-counterfeit solutions. 

Composites for large-scale manufacturing (Fraunhofer ICT)

Continuous fiber-reinforced composites with thermoplastic matrix resins are very well suited for use in automotive manufacturing. However, to manufacture them is complicated. A new approach now makes it possible to use the injection molding process. 

Putting electronic cigarettes to the test (Fraunhofer WKI)

Are e-cigarettes harmful to users? An unresolved question. It’s harder still to judge the danger to bystanders. How many different substances do e-smokers exhale – and what are they? A new study brings light to the shadows. 

Copper, gold and tin for efficient chips (Fraunhofer IMS)

With gold, copper or tin and special galvanizing processes, scientists are improving the function of semi-conductors and making the manufacture of microelectronic systems a child‘s play. Especially the LED industry could profit from this. 

Keeping ship hulls free of marine organisms (Fraunhofer IWM)

Special underwater coatings prevent shells and other organisms from growing on the hull of ships – but biocide paints are ecologically harmful. Together with the industry, researchers have developed more environmentally-friendly alternatives. 

Wireless communication’s crystal ball (Fraunhofer ESK)

By now, wireless connections like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are just as commonplace in industry. Yet systems often interfere with one another as data is being exchanged. Now, “Awair” will not only detect available frequencies but will predict them, too. 

Tasty and gluten-free (Fraunhofer IVV)

Cereals are good for you, supplying the body with carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. Yet some people are intolerant to the gluten protein they contain. Now, researchers are developing new recipes for tasty, gluten-free pasta and pastries.

November 2012#

The energy of stunt kites (Fraunhofer IPA) 

It may seem as though the German plains are all but tapped out when it comes to wind energy production. To refute this theory researchers are sending stunt kites into the skies to harness the wind and convert the kinetic energy generated into electricity. 

Production of FRP components without release agents (Fraunhofer IFAM) 

Up to now, releasing components from molds has called for release agents. The problem is that the residues of these agents left behind must then be costly removed. Now, there is an alternative: a specially coated release film that leaves no residues. 

Looking for information? (Fraunhofer COMEDD)

Putting on a pair of novel data glasses with an OLED microdisplay allows you to see not only the real world, but also a wealth of virtual information. Imagine looking through a repair manual; the trick here is that you turn the pages using just your eyes. 

Dealing with power outages more efficiently (Fraunhofer FIT) 

When there is a power failure, the utility companies, public officials and emergency services must work together quickly. Researchers have created a new planning software product that enables all participants to be better prepared for emergency situations. 

Ultrasensitive photon hunter (Fraunhofer IMS)

When it comes to imaging, every single photon counts if there is barely any available light. This is the point where the latest technologies often reach their limits. Researchers have now developed a diode that can read photons faster than ever before. 

Quality products from rubber residues (Fraunhofer UMSICHT)

Rubber residues can be downcycled to floor coverings and safety crashpads, and for the first time, also processed into high-quality plastics. A new kind of material makes it possible: the environmentally-friendly material mix is called EPMT. 

Pressure switch inside the head (Fraunhofer IBMT)

An increase in cerebral pressure may cause dementia and could destroy the brain. Companies have been seeking to find monitoring sensors that can be implanted into the brain, and read from outside the body. A tiny sensor may provide the help needed.

October 2012#

Artificial cornea gives the gift of vision (Fraunhofer IAP)

Blindness is often caused by corneal diseases. The established treatment is a corneal transplant, but in many cases this is not possible and donor corneas are often hard to come by. In the future, an artificial cornea could make up for this deficiency and save the vision of those affected.

Solar cells made from black silicon (Fraunhofer HHI)

Solar cells convert three-quarters of the energy contained in the Sun‘s spectrum into electricity – yet the infrared spectrum is entirely lost in standard solar cells. In contrast, black silicon solar cells are specifi cally designed to absorb this part of the Sun‘s spectrum – and researchers have recently succeeded in doubling their overall efficiency.

Wireless data at top speed (Fraunhofer IPMS/Jürgen Lösel)

Digital cameras and camcorders deliver high resolution film sequences that are several gigabytes in size. These can take several minutes to transfer wirelessly to your home computer via Bluetooth. Now there is a speedy alternative: the “multi-gigabit communication module” is six times faster than a USB cable.

Fast toothpaste check (Fraunhofer IWM)

There are various types of toothpaste available on the market. They come as pastes and gels, there are some that guard against tooth decay or protect teeth from acid attack, others that are designed for sensitive teeth. But which toothpastes clean well? Which preserve the tooth enamel? A new evaluation method sheds light on the subject.

Using less gas and oil to get where you’re going (Fraunhofer IWU)

A quick pit-stop at the gas station is enough to put a good dent in your wallet. New technology is set to lower the high cost of filling up your car, by enabling combustion engines to consume two to three percent less gas and signifi cantly less oil, while eliminating a step in engine production.

Lightning, strike! (Fraunhofer IBP)

Every year several millions of tons of building rubble are produced. An efficient way of recycling concrete – the building material of the 20th and 21st century – does not yet exist. Researchers are working on new recycling methods, and with the aid of lightning bolts, they can break down the mixture of cement and aggregate into its components.

September 2012#

Measuring glucose without needle pricks (Fraunhofer IMS)

Pricking a finger everyday is just part of everyday life for many diabetes patients. A non-invasive measurement approach could release them from the constant pain of pin pricks. The linchpin is a biosensor engineered by Fraunhofer researchers: A tiny chip combines measurement and digital analysis – and can be radioed to a mobile device.

Manufacturing crack-resistant lightweight components (Fraunhofer IWM)

Cold cracking in high-strength steel presents major quality assurance challenges for the automotive and machine-building industries, since cracks are difficult to predict – until now. A new process can determine, as early as the design stage, if critical conditions for such damage can be prevented. This lowers development times and costs.

Turning ideas into products faster (Fraunhofer IFF)

Together with the specialty chemicals company LANXESS, Fraunhofer researchers have engineered and built a system in record time, which produces reverse osmosis mem- brane elements for water treatment. Virtual engineering allowed research and development to proceed simultaneously.

Wireless window sentinel (Fraunhofer IIS)

Window contacts tell users if a window is open or closed. Typically, such sensors are wire-based. Scientists working with industry partners recently developed a new system that operates without wires or batteries. It draws its power from its environment: from sunlight and ambient heat.

More accurate wind energy forecasts (Fraunhofer IWES)

Wind power is one of the most important forms of renewable energy. In order to exploit inland wind as effectively as possible, turbines must be optimally positioned and dimensioned. A 200-meter high wind measuring mast delivers precise data that can also be used to forecast energy yields.

A smart fabric sets off the alarm (Fraunhofer IZM)

Researchers have developed a new kind of anti-theft system, based on a woven fabric that triggers an alarm when penetrated by intruders. The smart fabric enables the exact location of the break-in to be identified, and is significantly cheaper than other burglary detection systems. It is also suitable as an invisible means of protecting entire buildings.

August 2012#

Using wastewater as fertilizer
 (Fraunhofer IGB)

Sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure are valuable sources of fertilizer for food production. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants.

Smart wireless power outlets
 (Fraunhofer ESK)

Many homeowners dream of being able to wash a load of laundry when the photovoltaic panels on the roof are delivering a maximum of electricity, even when they are not at home. A new Internet-enabled power outlet will soon allow users to control household appliances via their smartphone, and reduce their energy costs into the bargain.

Wind farms: A danger to ultra-light aircraft? (Fraunhofer IWES)

Airfields for ultra-light aircraft are typically constructed on level ground – and so are wind farms. However, do wind power plants generate turbulence that could endanger lightweight planes? A simulation can compute how these power plants influence aircraft at various wind speeds and wind directions.

Minimally invasive building renovation
 (Fraunhofer IBP)

Renovation projects to improve the energy performance of residential buildings involve a lot of messy construction work. Researchers have come up with a new modernization concept that reduces on-site installation times. Prefabricated multifunctional window modules offer a more convenient alternative to the usual renovation methods.

Cost-effective production of infrared lenses
 (Fraunhofer IWM)

If visibility is poor, thermal cameras can warn drivers of people or animals on the road. Yet such devices have been very expensive – until now. An important step has been taken to manufacture them more cheaply. A new process will make the infrared lenses – a component of such cameras – up to 70 percent cheaper.

Eco-Computer with a natural wood look (Fraunhofer IZM)

Surfing for hours on the Internet consumes a lot of electricity and is harmful to the environment. However, a new ecological PC saves energy as it operates: It produces about 70 percent less CO2 than conventional computers. As the first computer of its class, it obtained the “EU Ecolabel,” the environmental label of the European Union.

July 2012#

Anti-aging elixir for solar cells
 (Fraunhofe CSE)

Photovoltaic modules deliver power without risks to the environment and climate. But solar-power is expensive. Therefore, it is imperative that the modules last as long as possible, 25 years or more. Fraunhofer researchers in the USA are now investigating materials to protect solar cells from environmental influences to meet that goal.

Sailing with nerves of glass
 (Fraunhofer HHI)

In the world of racing, tiny details can be the difference between victory and defeat. It is no wonder, then, that manufacturers of racing yachts are always on the lookout for new technologies to optimize boats and sails. An ingenious new sensor technology now helps them to extend the boundaries of what is possible.

Keeping electric vehicle batteries cool
 (Fraunhofer UMSICHT)

Heat can damage the batteries of electric vehicles – even just driving fast on the freeway in summer temperatures can overheat the battery. An innovative new coolant conducts heat away from the battery three times more effectively than water, keeping the battery temperature within an acceptable range even in extreme driving situations.

Cleaning with sunlight (Fraunhofer IST)

The sun breaks through the clouds – and surfaces start cleaning themselves! It may sound like magic, but in fact it’s all thanks to the addition of titanium dioxide molecules. Activated by UV light, they trigger a reaction which destroys bacteria, algae and fungi, keeping items such as the armrests of garden chairs nice and clean.

Non-slip tracheal implants (Fraunhofer IGB)

If a person‘s windpipe is constricted, an operation in which the surgeon inserts a stent to enlarge the trachea is often the only way to relieve their respiratory distress. But this grid-like implant can slip out of position, closing off the windpipe altogether. Researchers are working on a special surface coating for the stents to keep them in place.

Feel-good glass for windows (Fraunhofer ISC)

Daylight acts on our body clock and stimulates the brain. Fraunhofer researchers have made use of this knowledge and worked with industry partners to develop a coating for panes of glass that lets through more light. Above all, it promotes the passage through the glass of those wavelengths of light that govern our hormonal balance.

June 2012#

Repelling the drop on top (Fraunhofer IWM)

It would make life a lot easier if the surfaces of window panes, corrosion coatings or microfluidic systems in medical labs could keep themselves free of water and other liquids. A new simulation program can now work out just how such surfaces have to look for a variety of applications.

Artificial muscle as shock absorber (Fraunhofer LBF)

Engineers are working on intelligent materials that can diminish vibrations and extract power from the environment. These electro-active elastomers could dampen annoying vibrations in a car, for example, or supply wireless power to sensors in otherwise inaccessible places.

Compact and flexible thermal storage (Fraunhofer IGB)

Biogas plants, combined heat and power plants don’t just generate electricity, they also produce heat. However, unlike the electricity they yield, the heat generally dissipates unused. A new technology is set to change this: It will allow the heat to be stored lossfree in the smallest of spaces for lengthy periods of time, for use as and when required.

Naturally adhesive (Fraunhofer UMSICHT)

Until now most adhesives have been manufactured from petroleum-based materials. However, they can also be obtained from renewable raw materials – for example from proteins, natural rubber, starch, or cellulose. Fraunhofer researchers are working on new formulas for industrial applications.

Virtual plant planning, retrofitting and maintenance (Fraunhofer IFF)

Process plants have useful lives of thirty to fifty years, during which time they are routinely retrofitted. Virtual reality software simplifies and helps keep track of retrofit planning and testing. Fraunhofer researchers and BASF SE are jointly developing VR solutions for the plant life cycle.

Browsing without the hurdles (Fraunhofer FIT)

The majority of websites have major shortcomings. Unclean programming frequently causes excessive load times. Companies are only gradually recognizing the advantages of a barrier-free Internet. Fraunhofer researchers are crafting tools that can be used to monitor compliance with web standards.

May 2012#

Optimal planning of solar power plants (Fraunhofer ITWM)

The photovoltaics industry is booming, and the market for solar farms is growing quickly all over the world. Yet, the task of planning PV power plants to make them as effi cient as possible is far from trivial. Fraunhofer researchers, working with Siemens Energy Photovoltaics, have developed software that simplifi es conceptual design.

Mini-projector for smartphones (Fraunhofer IOF)

Their very small displays sometimes make smartphones diffi cult to operate. In the future, a projector will help: if the cell phone is standing on a table, for instance, it can project a large-format display onto the table surface. The user will have the option of operating the smartphone via the projection function or from the display screen itself.

Rapid testing of food quality (Fraunhofer IPMS)

Whether fruit, meat or cheese – the quality of food is not always as consumers would like it to be. But, in future, a spectrometer will allow them to gage the quality of food before they buy it. No bigger than a sugar cube, the device is inexpensive to manufacture and could one day even be installed in smartphones.

Analyzing energy potential (Fraunhofer IIS)

Sensors, radio transmitters and GPS modules all feature low power consumption. All it takes is a few milliwatts to run them. Energy from the environment – from sources such as light or vibrations – may be enough to meet these requirements. A new measurement device can determine whether or not the energy potential is high enough.

Hip implant for long-term use (Fraunhofer IPA)

Hip replacement is one of the most frequent operations carried out in Germany. Each year, doctors implant some 200,000 artificial hip joints. Often the artificial hips need to be replaced just ten years later. In the future, a new implant currently being developed using high technology materials could help prevent premature revision surgeries.

Flying 3D eye-bots (Fraunhofer IMS)

They can be deployed as additional surveillance resources during major events, or as high-resolution 3D street imaging systems. Intelligent swarms of aerial drones are a universally useful tool for police, crisis managers and urban planners. Special 3D sensors developed by Fraunhofer researchers ensure fl awless aerobatics and prevent collisions.

April 2012#

Shooting at ceramics (Fraunhofer IWM)

Producing thin ceramic components has until now been a laborious and expensive process, as parts often get distorted during manufacture and have to be discarded as waste. Researchers are now able to reshape the surfaces of malformed components by bombarding them with tiny pellets.

Comprehensive security of built structures (Fraunhofer EMI)

How safe are buildings and tunnels in the event of fire, or if there’s an explosion or a plane crash? Are escape routes still accessible? Can people be rescued? Fraunhofer-Researchers and the Schüßler-Plan Group, an engineering consultancy, are together developing new concepts for the design and construction of bridges, tunnels and buildings.

Detecting material defects in ship propellers (Fraunhofer ITWM)

Ship propellers are as large as a single-family home – and manufacturing them is quite a challenge. During the casting process, pores and miniscule cracks can form that in the worst case may cause a blade to break. Now these massive components can be inspected for defects in a non-invasive manner, using a new kind of ultrasound process.

3D planning tool for the city of tomorrow (Fraunhofer IAO)

Noise levels, fine particulate matter, traffic volumes – these data are of interest to urban planners and residents alike. A three-dimensional presentation will soon make it easier to handle them: as the user virtually moves through his city, the corresponding data are displayed as green, yellow or red dots.

Power without the cord (Fraunhofer IKTS)

Cell phones and flashlights operate by battery without trouble. Yet because of the limited lifespan, battery power is not a feasible option for many applications in the fi elds of medicine or test engineering, such as implants or probes. Researchers have now developed a process that supplies these systems with power and without the power cord.

Listening to the radio even with an electric drive (Fraunhofer IZM)

To enable radio reception in electric vehicles, manufacturers must install filters and insulate cables, since electrical signals will otherwise interfere with music and speech transmissions. Now, using new calculation methods, researchers are paving the way for pure listening pleasure while also helping to lower the associated costs.

March 2012#

Vegetarian cutlet

It looks like a cutlet, it‘s juicy and fibrous like a cutlet, and it even chews with the consistency of a real cutlet – but the ingredients are 100 percent vegetable. Researchers are using a new method to prepare a meat substitute that not only tastes good, but is also environmentally sustainable.

Implant to replace defective venous valve

If heart valves don’t close properly, they are replaced. Conventional treatment of venous valve failure, however, has up to now always and exclusively been via medication. In future, an implant will assume the function of damaged valves – and a new dispensing tool means these prostheses can be made using an automated process.

Swarming and transporting

On its own, an ant is not particularly clever. But in a community, the insects can solve complicated tasks. Researchers intend to put this „swarm intelligence“ to use in the logistics field. Lots of autonomous transport shuttles would provide an alternative to traditional materials-handling technology.

Environmentally-friendly cleaning and washing

More and more everyday products are based on renewable resources, with household cleaners now containing active cleaning substances (surfactants) made from plant oils and sugar. These fat and dirt removers are especially environmentally friendly and effective when produced using biotechnology, with the aid of fungi and bacteria.

Building lightweight trains

The less trains weigh, the more economical they are to run. A new material capable of withstanding even extreme stresses has now been developed. It is suitable for a variety of applications, not least diesel engine housings on trains – and it makes these components over 35 percent lighter than their steel and aluminum counterparts.

First aid for winemakers

Whether or not a wine turns out to be as outstanding as the winemaker hopes depends on the quality of the yeasts; they control the fermentation process and create the distinctive flavor. A new sensor allows winemakers to establish whether the grape must contains the right sort of microorganisms before fermentation has even begun.

February 2012#

Robot reconnoiters uncharted terrain

Mobile robots have many uses. They serve as cleaners, carry out inspections and search for survivors of disasters. But often, there is no map to guide them through unknown territory. Researchers have now developed a mobile robot that can roam uncharted terrain and simultaneously map it – all thanks to an algorithm toolbox.

Broadband internet for everyone

In the developing world, 96 percent of all households have no internet access. Even in Germany, many regions are still without broadband connectivity. But in future, a revolutionary new technology for wireless networks will allow the gaps in rural internet provision to be closed at significantly less cost.

Fuel from market waste

Mushy tomatoes, brown bananas and overripe cherries – to date, waste from whole-sale markets has ended up on the compost heap at best. In the future it will be put to better use: Researchers have developed a new facility that ferments this waste to make methane, which can be used to power vehicles.

Tailor-made search tools for the web

For companies, customer feedback is a matter of strategic importance. Smart apps for the semantic analysis of user opinions from the web help businesses keep an eye on feedback. Users benefit as well: With the „Eat and Drink“ app, the user can quickly learn all about the special features of restaurants, cafes and bars.

Fresh city tomatoes, any time

Why not produce lettuce, beans and tomatoes where most of the consumers are to be found: in the city? The flat roofs of many buildings are well-suited for growing vegetables. Rooftop greenhouses can also make use of a building‘s waste heat and cleaned waste water.

Jointly utilizing LTE networks

Data-intensive Internet applications on smartphones, tablets and laptops are more popular than ever before. The result: Traffic on the mobile network is increasing at a blinding speed. Intelligent technologies are intended to increase the data rates on the new LTE network. The solution is to use the mobile networks jointly.

January 2012#

Sky light sky bright - in the office

Working under the open sky – it sounds enticing, but it’s seldom really a practical option. Now, a dynamic luminous ceiling brings the sky into office spaces by creating the effect of passing clouds. This kind of lighting generates a pleasant working environment.

Fewer animal experiments thanks to nanosensors

Experiments on animals have been the subject of criticism for decades, but there is no prospect of a move away from them any time soon. The number of tests involving laboratory animals has in fact gone up. Now, researchers have found an alternative approach: they hope sensor nanoparticles will reduce the need for animal testing.

Time recording up one's sleeve

Optimized operations are essential to globally competitive companies. Until now, inspectors have timed procedures, usually manually, in order to organize manual assembly operations efficiently – a method prone to error. A new system records times automatically and cuts costs for companies.

Simulating firefighting operations on a PC

Firefighters often put their lives at risk during operations, so it is essential they have reliable tools to help them do their job. Now, a modular simulation kit is set to help develop new information and communication technologies – and ensure they are tailored to firefighters’ needs from the outset.

High-speed CMOS sensors provide better images

Conventional CMOS image sensors are not suitable for low-light applications such as fluorescence, since large pixels arranged in a matrix do not support high readout speeds. A new optoelectronic component speeds up this process. It has already been patented.

Film coatings made from whey

Convenience foods are growing in popularity, and the food they contain is usually protected by films based on petrochemicals. Now researchers have not only developed a biomaterial from whey protein, they have also come up with a commercially viable method of producing multifunctional films on an industrial scale.