Fraunhofer WKI celebrates 75 years of research into resource- and climate-friendly materials for a future worth living in

Press release /

Around 50 guests celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI on 30th June 2022 - with one year’s delay as a result of the pandemic. Dr. Sabine Johannsen, State Secretary in the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture, and Dr. Thorsten Kornblum, Lord Mayor of Braunschweig, emphasized in their congratulatory speeches the relevance of the Fraunhofer WKI for the Lower Saxony research landscape. In a video greeting, the President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Professor Dr.-Ing. habil. Reimund Neugebauer, praised the continuous and far-reaching contribution of the Fraunhofer WKI towards achieving a bio-based circular economy.

The photo shows a group of four people.
© Dennis Brandt Fotografie
Image (from left to right): State Secretary Dr. Sabine Johannsen, Lord Mayor Dr. Thorsten Kornblum, Professor Dr.-Ing. Bohumil Kasal (Director of the Fraunhofer WKI), Professor Dr. Angela Ittel (President of the Technische Universität Braunschweig).

The celebration took place at the new research location “Center for Light and Environmentally-Friendly Structures ZELUBA®”, where researchers from the Fraunhofer WKI have been developing sustainable lightweight-construction solutions for the building industry since June 2021. The guests from politics, research and industry were introduced to the festive occasion through greetings, reviews and outlooks. Subsequently, the guests were shown around the new building and were provided with exclusive insights into research practice.

The scientists demonstrated, amongst other items, a weaving machine on which they produce technical textiles with the highest possible organic content. The highly functional fabrics are used for the development of sustainable lightweight-construction materials. These include fiber-reinforced plastics for vehicle components and slender hybrid structures in timber construction, as well as textile-reinforced concrete as a lightweight alternative to steel-reinforced concrete.

Furthermore, the visitors were able to follow how a sustainable stand-up paddleboard is created from the balsa-wood core of discarded wind-turbine rotor blades and fiber-reinforced bioplastics. In a live simulation, the guests experienced the testing of the vibration behavior of new construction systems by means of a shaking table. With this dynamic test facility, individual components and complete constructions are examined with regard to their structural dynamic properties - for maximum safety of buildings or vehicles against wind loads, earthquakes or vibrations.

“The work carried out at the Fraunhofer WKI is of high scientific relevance - and not only in Lower Saxony. Continuing on from its founder Dr. Wilhelm Klauditz, the institute has also managed to operate very successfully internationally throughout the past decades thanks to its many dedicated employees,” said Dr. Sabine Johannsen, State Secretary in the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture. “The State Government has therefore also provided significant financial support for the construction of the Center for Light and Environmentally-Friendly Structures as well as for preceding research projects. I am convinced that in the future, the Fraunhofer WKI will continue to play a pioneering role in research into bio-based materials and components - both within and beyond the state borders of Lower Saxony.”

The importance of the Fraunhofer WKI for Braunschweig as a research location was emphasized by the Lord Mayor of Braunschweig, Dr. Thorsten Kornblum: “The forest and the raw material wood have a significant function in Braunschweig - the center of the most research-intensive region in Europe. The sustainable utilization of resources and innovative ideas for climate and environmental protection are central questions concerning the future, and Braunschweig can be proud to be the home of so many scientific facilities and institutes which are working on creative answers and which are able to present this in a vivid way - for example, the Fraunhofer WKI, which occupies a unique position. With the construction of the new ZELUBA® on the TU Braunschweig campus, the already existing cooperation between the institutions will be expanded and the Braunschweig research region as a whole will be strengthened.”

With a wealth of experience spanning more than 75 years, the Fraunhofer WKI is today dedicated to a broad field of research, thereby addressing current global challenges, explained the President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Professor Dr.-Ing. habil. Reimund Neugebauer: “Climate change and population growth are creating completely new demands on the functionality and environmental balance of buildings - as a result, the excellent research conducted by the Fraunhofer WKI is becoming even more important. Almost all processes and materials resulting from the institute’s research activities are used industrially. The Fraunhofer WKI is therefore not only providing an important contribution towards the development of a bio-based circular economy and the future of construction, but also to Germany’s overall competitiveness.”

On the basis of this wealth of experience, the Director of the Fraunhofer WKI, Professor Dr.-Ing. Bohumil Kasal, takes an optimistic view of the future: “We want to further expand our strong position in the field of renewable raw materials through new collaborations and thematic fields. We see exceptional development opportunities in the areas of sustainable mobility with bio-based materials; recycling; indoor-air quality and 3D printing. For the construction sector, the areas of structural engineering, fire protection and hybrid material systems are key. We consider the aforementioned fields to be essential topics for the future.”

Within the framework of the anniversary event, Professor Kasal awarded the Wilhelm Klauditz Medal to the former president of the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Jürgen Hesselbach, in recognition of his many years of service to the Fraunhofer WKI.

A Fraunhofer podcast is available on the topic of 75 years of research into sustainable materials. In the interview, Professor Kasal provides an account of the history, current projects and future challenges at the Fraunhofer WKI.

To the podcast

History of the Fraunhofer WKI

The founder, Dr. Wilhelm Klauditz, was a pulp chemist and was engaged in research into the extraction of paper and pulp from wood. At an early stage, he recognized the technical and economic importance of wood-based materials and is credited as being the inventor of particle board. In 1946, with the establishment of the “Versuchs- und Beratungsstelle für technische Holznutzung des Vereins für Technische Holzfragen e.V.” (Testing and consulting center for technical wood utilization of the Association for Technical Wood Issues) in Braunschweig, he laid the foundation for the Fraunhofer WKI and its research tradition, which continues to this day: the efficient production of materials and products from renewable raw materials and their comprehensive use. One could say: Klauditz was a pioneer of the bioeconomy.

The researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI develop modern technologies for converting wood and other plant-based raw resources into chemical products and materials, thereby advancing the development of a bioeconomy. Application possibilities range from lightweight components for vehicles, through environmentally friendly insulation materials and lightweight hybrid material systems for the construction industry, and on to plant-based paints, printing inks and adhesives.

With the Application Center for Wood Fiber Research HOFZET® in Hanover, the main location and the ZELUBA® in Braunschweig as well as the incorporation into the Open Hybrid LabFactory in Wolfsburg, the Fraunhofer WKI is providing a significant contribution towards the research landscape of Lower Saxony.

Further information on the history of the institute:
History of the Fraunhofer WKI

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