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https://www.dresden.de/en/business/tomorrow-s-home/future-materials-eng.php 10.06.2021 10:38:38 Uhr 20.06.2021 03:07:01 Uhr
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© Iurii Vakaliuk, IMB, TU Dresden

Future Materials

Dresden is one of the most important hubs for materials research in Europe, whether it be for microelectronics, lightweight design, energy technologies, innovative construction materials or quantum materials. These are all sustainable materials that drive technological innovations and make the city known worldwide – they are future materials.

Carbon concrete material cycle

The TU Dresden, the Fraunhofer and Leibniz Institutes and the Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) are the leading institutions when it comes to materials research. Supported by established networks and joint projects, they have already produced a number of successful spin-offs. The Materialforschungsverbund Dresden (MFD), EnergySaxony and EFDS Europäische Forschungsgesellschaft Dünne Schichten (European Society of Thin Films) are all important industry networks. At a member meeting, C³ – Carbon Concrete Composite e. V. and Industrieverband TUDALIT e. V. both spoke out in favour of a merger between them to become the world’s largest industrial and research association in carbon-concrete construction.

Sustainable construction materials made in Dresden

The world's first building made of carbon concrete called "Cube" is being built in Dresden.
The world's first building made of carbon concrete called "Cube" is being built in Dresden.

The world’s first building to be made of carbon concrete is currently being erected on the grounds of the TU Dresden. The CUBE construction does not contain any reinforced concrete whatsoever. It is primarily made using locally produced mat-shaped carbon reinforcements and the odd glass reinforcement rod. The building combines the research results from construction research project C³ – Carbon Concrete Composite e. V., into which the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has poured more than 45 million Euros’ worth of funding. Another great example of the material’s practical implementation in Dresden is the widening of the city’s Carolabrücke bridge, completed in 2021. The extension is made from carbon concrete, creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

Carbon concrete enables savings of over 50 per cent on concrete, and some 70 per cent savings on CO2, making it a genuine future material. Recycling the composite material and integrating it into economically viable cycle processes is the objective of a new C3 research project, which would bring tremendous benefits for the environment and society as a whole. The material can be used in both old and new buildings.

The lightweight road to success

Lightweight design is currently in high demand for many applications in Germany, and Dresden is one of the country’s leading competence centres for this. The Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK) at the TU Dresden is a key source of ideas and inspiration here at an international level. The ILK works with industry leaders like Rolls-Royce, who also run research centres at the institute, to create technological developments in aircraft construction and automotive engineering.

futureSAX presents: herone GmbH

herone GmbH researches customised fibre composites and carbon components for the aerospace industry, as well as hydrogen tanks. The City of Dresden helped the company set up its own production plant, which, from 2021, will be able to manufacture large series of German-made high-tech products for applications such as passenger drones.

Start-up company Robin was the first to use carbon fibres in an injection-moulding machine’s composite C-frame to build a machine weighing under 140 kilograms. As such, it can, for example, be affixed to a robot and freely moved around a space. This mobility and flexibility in the system technology will revolutionise injection-moulding when it comes to manufacturing hybrid components.

The textile industry was long considered a dying industry in Germany, particularly in eastern Germany. Modern high-performance fibres for sports textiles, security applications, construction, and lightweight-design trends for cars and aviation have, in recent years, unlocked new prospects and completely transformed the industry. The Institute of Textile Machinery and High-Performance Material Technology (ITM) at the TU Dresden has a global reputation as one of the most important sources of ideas and inspiration for these high-tech textiles. In addition to innovative products, the institute also develops the necessary manufacturing technologies and even the production machinery itself. Automation, digital networking and simulation-based process chains are just as much a focus here as maximum resource efficiency and sustainability.

Energy materials for the future

The change in energy policy ("Energiewende") and now also the EU’s Green Deal are revolutionising the energy markets. Innovative methods of energy production and storage technologies for green energies are required in order to further reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and even become climate-neutral in the long term. The key focus here is on environmentally-friendly and sustainable production processes that can replace conflict minerals or design the processes and technologies as a circular economy. The ultimate aim is to recover raw materials, such as cobalt, nickel, copper, lithium etc., at the end of the product life cycle, re-integrate them into production, and thus close material cycles. Digitalisation also plays a key role here.

Scientists at Fraunhofer IKTS developed ceramic technology concepts for the design of highly efficient Power-to-X processes
Scientists at Fraunhofer IKTS developed ceramic technology concepts for the design of highly efficient Power-to-X processes

As part of research projects worth millions of Euros, major Dresden research players, such as the TU Dresden, the HZDR, and the IKTS and IWS Fraunhofer Institutes have, together with their partners, helped ensure Germany has a stake in the future-focused batteries industry at an international level. The battery technologies and production processes developed by them are now being used in industrial projects involving national and international partners or by start-ups like NorcSi GmbH. The German federal government is endeavouring to competitively expand battery production in Germany, and four competency clusters within the BMBF’s overarching battery-research concept have been tasked with swiftly applying research results in practice. One of the project partners here is the Fraunhofer IKTS Dresden.

Sunfire hydrogen plant
Sunfire hydrogen plant

Sunfire GmbH has become the most successful Fraunhofer spin-off in Dresden. The Dresden-based hydrogen-technology provider bought Swiss company IHT Industrie Haute Technology in 2021 in a bid to become one of the world’s leading providers of industrial electrolysis solutions. Along with ThyssenKrupp and Siemens, Sunfire is now thus the third largest provider of this technology in Germany, and has been named a member of the Clean Hydrogen Alliance by the EU Commission. This alliance brings together eighteen top managers of leading EU industrial companies.

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