Cooperation with Fraunhofer
Within the framework of the Pact for Research and Innovation, the Max Planck Society and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft intend to continue and intensify their cooperation across research areas and disciplines. With its focus centred on application, the collaboration with Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is of particular interest to the Max Planck Society. Against this background, the two organizations have been engaged in talks since spring 2004 in order to identify and support collaboration opportunities at the interface of application oriented research and basic research. This includes meanwhile the fields of computer science, materials science / nanotechnology and biotechnology, as well as the area of regenerative energies and photonics. The aim of such a venture is to bring to application the knowledge resulting from collaborative efforts, thereby making a direct contribution to the development of new technologies.
Energy transition and electromobility will be possible only with improved energy storage systems. Whether and how quickly we can do without fossil fuels depends on how efficiently and cost-effectively we can store sustainably generated energy in batteries. The research team of the CarboGels project aims to use the previously overlooked carbon–xerogel materials (CarboGels) in batteries. This is because the stable carbon materials with a particularly large number of fine pores combine the advantages of various substances that have so far been used as electrode materials in energy storage systems. They are more conductive than previous low-cost solutions and considerably less expensive than particularly high-performance materials such as graphene. The scientists in the project want to produce CarboGels on a pilot scale and use them in a redox flow battery. They also want to further improve the properties, occupational safety, and environmental compatibility of the material. In order to one day be able to use CarboGels on a large scale, the team is also creating a concept for an industrial production process with the lowest possible costs.
Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT
Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung
Duration: 2020 – 2024
The medicine of the future will be personalized. Whether the dosage of antibiotics administered in hospital or a therapy that must be constantly adapted to the course of the disease: soon, both diagnostics and therapy will be individually tailored to each patient so that the treatment will be as successful as possible. The aim of the Snifits4Health project is to replace time-consuming laboratory tests and be able to analyse blood samples quickly and on site. The researchers of the project are developing a simple medical test kit that can also be operated by the patients themselves. At its core is a microfluidic chip that is equipped with a biosensor. To do this, the Snifits4Health team combines knowledge from microfluidics, optics, synthetic chemistry, and protein engineering. The microfluidic chip is used as a carrier on which a drop of the patient’s blood is combined with a bioluminescent sensor protein. When the sensor protein interacts with an active ingredient or biomarker of a particular disease in the blood, the colour of the light emitted by the protein changes. The biosensor is specifically tailored to a certain target – for example an antibiotic – and the colour of the light changes depending on the concentration of this target substance in the blood. This allows doctors and patients to easily obtain precise information about the current state of health with the help of a small reading device and to adjust the therapy on an individual basis.
Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI
Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF
Max Planck Institute for Medical Research
Duration: 2020 – 2023
Crude oil remains the chemical industry’s most important raw material, from which plastics, paints and components of medicines are produced. The aim of the eBIOCO2 Project is to replace at least a part of the fossil fuel with CO2 for a circular economy that will reduce chemical production’s carbon footprint. The researchers aim to use CO2 for the production of various chemical products. With the help of electricity from wind and water power or photovoltaics, they plan to introduce the greenhouse gas into synthetic biochemical processes that recreate natural photosynthesis. For this they combine approaches from biochemistry, enzyme biology and synthetic biology, developing bio-electrodes to use electricity to drive enzymes that will work together to transform CO2 into usable chemical substances. The scientists will optimize this synthetic enzyme cascade with the aid of synthetic biology so that the process runs as efficiently as possible. To bring the project to a close, they will build a demonstrator to produce the amino acids alanine, glycine and aspartate from CO2 in order to prove the viability of electrically powered biocatalytic CO2 conversion.
Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology
Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology
Duration: 2019 – 2023
Artificial hearing aids – cochlear implants – stimulate the auditory nerve by means of tiny electrodes and can thus give the hearing impaired at least some hearing. Because the electrodes excite a wide range of frequencies, the brain has difficulty distinguishing between acoustic signals with similar frequencies. Cochlear implant users can therefore usually understand speech only when in a quiet environment. They can hardly perceive the melodies in speech and music. Optogenetic implants could offer an alternative to conventional prostheses. Neuroscientists can use it to switch individual nerve cells equipped with a light-sensitive ion channel – channel rhodopsin, which originates from unicellular algae – on and off in a targeted manner using light. The researchers want to show that optical stimulation by means of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) can activate nerve cells strongly enough even in living organisms. They also want to create an interface that can both emit and detect light. This would allow the efficiency of the stimulation to be measured and the intensity to be individually adapted to the patient. Intelligent implantable stimulators based on optical stimulation could also be used for other medical therapies such as laryngeal pacemakers, cardiac pacemakers, pain control, and deep brain stimulation.
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP
Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine
Duration: 2020 – 2022
Worldwide, increasingly more space and energy are needed to store data. The prosperity and security of our society are increasingly based on the processing and storage of large amounts of data. Because conventional hard drives are reaching their limits, the researchers of the RASCAL project want to use new findings in spintronics to establish a new storage technology. A Racetrack Memory promises a 100-fold increase in memory capacity with higher write and readout speeds. It will also work more reliably and consume less power. Spintronics uses the magnetic moment of the electron to represent and process information. The core of the new storage medium will be a magnetic nanowire on which the information will be stored in magnetic compartments – or, more precisely, in their boundaries (present/absent). This requires integrated stationary read/write heads. When a spin current is applied to the wire, the boundaries move on the wire like remote-controlled cars on a racetrack. When they pass the read/write head, data can be either stored or read. In recent years, advances have been made in racetrack memories large enough to study with optical methods. In the next step, the researchers want to make the wires smaller and integrate the read-write heads. In this way, the RASCAL team wants to create a fast and powerful storage medium that could soon be used on a large scale.
Clouds still pose a great many questions for climate researchers and meteorological services. The researchers in the TWISTER Project are investigating when clouds form, the conditions in which they form precipitation, and the conditions in which they then disperse. It is important for local weather forecasts, not least for extreme weather warnings, to be able to reproduce these processes in models. One thing is for sure – turbulent air plays a pivotal role in cloud physics. Researchers have not yet been able to measure these processes properly, however, as circulation measuring kilometres or several hundreds of metres jostle with turbulence that measure mere millimetres. The structure of the ground also has a major influence on local weather events, and not only mountains, over which clouds often gather, but also street canyons in cities, for example. The TWISTER researchers are now developing a LiDAR system to disperse three-dimensionally flows of up to one cubic metre, and to measure the air temperature and humidity. For this, they are employing three synchronized lasers that will determine the various physical quantities with different colours. Such a LiDAR device could be used for an array of atmospheric studies. In the TWISTER Project, the researchers complement the LiDAR investigations with detailed analyses of cloud microphysics, for which they launch a balloon with measurement devices into what are for them, interesting parts of a cloud. They then develop models from the data collected, taking into consideration the effects in various dimensions.
Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques
Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
Duration: 2019 – 2022
In order for electricity to come principally from renewable sources in the future, high-performance storage facilities will be necessary – for example, batteries that use readily available raw materials. These will also be required if electric cars are to increasingly replace conventional vehicles. In the ClusterBatt Project, researchers are developing materials for lithium or sodium batteries to fulfil this requirement. More specifically, they are looking at the anode, the negative pole of the electricity storage mechanism. As no satisfactory solution has yet been found, battery performance is still significantly limited. The ClusterBatt researchers are therefore counting on carbon with microscopic pores, and they will precisely adjust the size and shape of these. It is in these pores that the lithium, or in the future sodium too, will gather while charging in the form of clusters, or tiny grains. The anodes in conventional lithium batteries consist of carbon, but in the form of graphite, where the metal atoms are deposited separately between the layers. This is why current carbon anodes are not capable of reaching high storage densities. Anodes made of pure metal or an alloy are markedly superior to them in this respect, but cannot be charged and discharged as often, and have a tendency to short-circuit because the metals do not separate them in a controlled way, instead forming branches to the cathode. Through the combination of porous carbon with metal clusters, the researchers now plan to connect the advantages of the materials currently used without having to accept their drawbacks.
Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology
Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces
Duration: 2019 – 2022
Ultrasound is used in a wide variety of applications; from simple sensory systems such as for example distance measurement in a car, all the way to costly imaging processes in medicine. The sound fields necessary have been created up to now with lots of individual sound converters. However, each of these requires its own electrical activation, which on the one hand makes them expensive, and on the other complicates miniaturization. Miniaturization, would certainly be of interest for many medical applications, such as for example updated endoscopy processes. In order to solve this problem, the researchers in the Acoustogram Project have developed a process that produces sound fields similar to a hologram producing a light field that transmits a three-dimensional impression. A static phase plate forms a sound field with the help of a structured surface: Sound needs different amounts of time to traverse areas of different thickness. The researchers calculate individually how a phase plate has to be structured for each sound field. To make the method ready for practical applications and to generate three-dimensional sound fields, the team of scientists are developing efficient processes to identify the sound fields as well as the structure of the phase plates that produce these sound fields. In this, they rely on methods of machine learning. They also aim to exploit the possibilities of acoustograms to make current ultrasound techniques for medicine more compact and precise.
Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart
Duration: 2018 – 2022
To facilitate the search for sugar-based agents against pathogens and to identify appropriate substances – these are the objectives of the Glyco3Display Project. Polysaccharides, also known as glycans, are intended to block the proteins on the surface of bacteria and viruses with which the microbes latch onto and penetrate cells in our bodies. To identify such substances, the researchers produce many different glycans with an efficient method that they have already developed. They affix the polysaccharides to DNA strands that are folded into a rigid frame as in the Japanese art of origami. The sugar molecules are positioned at a determined distance from one another on the DNA frames. In this way, researchers emulate how glycans are arranged on the surface of cells. The scientists will start by testing the connections between DNA and different sugars in dissolved form. In this, with the help of dye molecules that they will fasten to the DNA frames and the ends of the sugars, they will also analyse whether the sugars in the solution are bent or stretched. This will provide clues about the structure that actually connects the pathogen proteins. The researchers will also affix the sugars with and without DNA to chips using a method developed in-house, in order to investigate many different candidates in parallel. Glycans that prove themselves in the tests will then also be tested as antibodies against pathogens in animals.
Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces
Duration: 2018 – 2022
The age of gravitational-wave astronomy has only just begun. In the future, astrophysicists hope to observe cosmic events even more closely across the tiny distortions of space-time. For this, the researchers in the High QG Project want to make the laser interferometers that they use to detect gravitational waves even more sensitive. To this end, they will start with the thin film reflective coatings of the mirrors, between which a laser beam goes back and forth, overlapping itself. The physicists want to reduce the thermal noise of these coatings. This noise comes about because materials drift through the thermal movement, and can be confused with mirror deflections, which can also be triggered by particularly heavy black holes merging. As the noise is greater with soft, thin-film materials than with harder materials like silicon, the researchers are developing nano-structured surfaces for these materials. These form waveguides, which reflect the light just as well as conventional coats. Photonic crystals, which for example create the glowing colour of some butterflies’ wings, work in a similar way.
Beyond this, the scientists are optimising acceleration sensors that measure vibrations in the earth’s surface with excellent precision. This helps astrophysicists to subtract from their data the terrestrial signals that are very similar to the traces of ripples in space-time. The sensitivity of the acceleration sensors is also affected by thermal noise, namely in the links in these sensors. By producing these joints from harder materials like glass or diamond, and linking the components of the sensors together quasi-monolithically using new techniques, they are also able to reduce the undesired residual movement here.
Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Potsdam-Golm
Duration: 2018 – 2021
In future, teamwork will also be possible in the virtual world, for example in car manufacturing. Vehicle developers often come together to discuss how the engine, electronic components and storage space need to be arranged in a car. In the CoAvatar project, researchers are developing a software program that allows them to try out virtual models immediately. Special emphasis is placed on the question of what view each team member should see in their display (HMD for head-mounted display) to enable them to arrange the elements most sensibly. Should all the developers be presented with the same view, or is it better if they all have different viewing angles, as with a real model? A second CoAvatar project is addressing similar questions. The researchers want to find out how rescue team members can be most effectively supported by augmented reality as they sweep through a smoke-filled building searching for victims for example. Is it sufficient to show a compass in the display of the firefighters’ goggles? Or should they also see floorplans of the building, perhaps even the current locations of their colleagues? To support rescue workers and car manufacturers as efficiently as possible, the scientists are studying the underlying processes by which people solve spatial problems, such as searching or configuring. Drawing on the knowledge they gain, they aim to make teamwork in virtual space as effective as possible.
Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO)
Max Planck Institut for Biological Cybernetics
Duration: 2017 - 2021
When chemists analyse car exhaust fumes or processes in a chemical reactor, they currently have to make a compromise: For meaningful infrared measurements, they can use a cumbersome and rather slow Fourier transform spectrometer that determines a high number of substances simultaneously, but cannot identify their concentration very precisely. Alternatively, they use a quick, compact laser spectrometer that measures very precisely, but only one substance. The researchers in the COSPA Project are now developing a device that brings together the advantages of the two instruments. They count on frequency combs in which sharp lines of different light colours string together like the teeth of a comb. The light combs are produced with optical tricks from a laser beam and were originally developed to very precisely measure the frequency, in other words, the colour of light. The COSPA researchers aim to implement two frequency combs for the infrared analyses: One as a light source to shine on a specimen. With another, they will analyse the light that the specimen leaves. They will then be able to extrapolate to the substances in the specimen and their concentrations from the measurements of which light colour to what extent was absorbed by the specimen. For practical applications, the researchers have to continue to develop this double-comb spectroscopy, which is already being used in basic research, for the mid-infrared range of the optical spectrum. For this, though, there are so far hardly any appropriate optical instruments. As soon as the researchers have proven with a pilot device that the process is suitable in principle for the envisaged applications, they will construct a compact prototype that can be operated by non-experts, too.
Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching
Duration: 2017 – 2020