Reference projects

Here is a small selection of our research projects.

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  • The left side of the graphic shows a number of material stages (compounds, organic sheet, various recyclates), whilst the right side shows a number of functional demonstrators (stool, chair, lamp).
    © Studio Jonathan Radetz

    Fiber-reinforced plastics are suitable for resource-conserving and climate-friendly lightweight-construction solutions. They can make cars, building elements, furniture, containers and many other products more sustainable - particularly if renewable or recycled raw materials are thereby utilized. However, can the products also be easily recycled? Product design, technology, waste streams, economic efficiency: The influencing factors are extremely diverse. So how can marketable products made from fiber-reinforced plastics be conceptualized for a sustainable circular economy? In this project, we are working in collaboration with designer Jonathan Radetz on the development of an interdisciplinary method for this purpose. The development of a piece of seating furniture will enable us to test whether the method works in practice. Based on this, sustainable development methods could be developed in a similar way for other (composite) materials.

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  • The photo shows a model of a room layout with plywood panels and miniature figures.
    © Fraunhofer WKI | Manuela Lingnau

    In many buildings, the construction components must fulfill increased or high fire-protection regulations. Simultaneously, the requirements for the sustainability of the components are also rising. In collaboration with an industry partner, we are developing a highly fire-retardant drywall made from wood with a fire-resistance duration of at least 60 minutes. In order to achieve this, we are developing a non-combustible plywood panel as cladding. With this project, we are expanding the application possibilities of wood in residential buildings as well as in non-residential constructions such as office buildings, schools or hospitals - particularly in the higher building classes. In doing so, we are creating a sustainable solution for the construction industry and the wood-based materials industry. Through the use of domestic wood species, transport routes can be kept short and new sales markets can be created for the German forestry sector.

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  • The photo shows a rotor blade lying on the ground that has been sawed through transversely and is largely hollow. The shell is several centimeters thick and has a brownish core (balsa wood). In the central area, it is reinforced along the entire length of the rotor blade with a dark gray material (fiber-reinforced plastic). In addition, two internal walls (webs) made from balsa wood are present in the central area which also extend along the entire length of the rotor blade.
    © Fraunhofer WKI | Peter Meinlschmidt

    The primary objective of the EU project RECREATE is the development of innovative technologies for promoting the profitable re-utilization of end-of-life composite components for industrial applications. The project is divided into different technological use cases and addresses a multitude of different target sectors such as wind energy or the automotive industry. The Fraunhofer institutes IWU and WKI are working in collaboration with further partners on the design and manufacture of reusable fiber-composite structures for a wind-power rotor blade.

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  • The photo shows a piece of glued laminated timber with finger-jointing.
    © Daniel Vol / Fraunhofer

    Buildings, bridges and towers made from wood bind CO2 from the atmosphere and therefore contribute towards climate protection. For spruce – the classic source of construction timber – the growth conditions in Europe are becoming increasingly poor as a result of climate change. In addition, spruce wood has a limited durability. In collaboration with partners from industry and research, we are developing a sustainable and economical solution: a glued laminated timber made from robinia. This deciduous tree can cope better with the changing climate conditions than spruce and grows almost twice as fast. Robinia wood is as strong as oak and as resilient as tropical wood. Consequently, not only could robinia replace spruce and reduce the use of biocides, but the utilization of tropical wood and of finite resources such as steel and concrete could also be reduced through building products made from robinia.

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  • The photo shows several quadratic samples of a thin plywood board. On the upper surface of each of the samples of wood-based material is a mound of black-brown, foam-like material with a porous structure. The size and shape of the mound is different for each sample.
    © Fraunhofer WKI | Manuela Lingnau

    Wood is constantly gaining in importance as a natural and sustainable construction material for buildings. As yet, however, no satisfactory fire-protection solution exists for wood in exterior applications. A lack of flame retardancy is an exclusion criterion for wooden components in tall or large-scale buildings (building classes 4 and 5), unless an expensive and time-consuming approval is applied for in individual cases. In collaboration with our project partner, we are developing an environmentally friendly flame-retardant coating for wood which is exposed to the elements. This should not require an additional top coat and should be transparent when applied. As a result, we are helping to increase the utilization of wooden façades and other exterior components made from wood in the construction industry - for example in high-rise buildings, schools and hospitals.

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  • The picture shows in the center a plate made of a dark brown material. Next to it lies drawn silverware.
    © Fraunhofer WKI

    Many single-use plastic products are banned in the EU. Reusable products often present a more environmentally and climate-friendly alternative and are, in some cases, already stipulated by law. For some areas of application where a reusable solution is difficult to implement, there is, however, a lack of functional, environmentally friendly single-use solutions. One possible approach which is still permitted: single-use products made from unmodified natural polymers. For this purpose, we are working in collaboration with research and industry partners on the development of food-safe polymer films on the basis of regionally available, plant-based residues from food production. The production and transformation into single-use tableware and other products is to be carried out using existing equipment. In this way, we are creating an economically attractive solution in compliance with the German bioeconomy strategy.

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  • Die Computergrafik zeigt einen Holzbalken. Auf der Oberseite des Balkens liegt eine Platte, die sich aus drei Schichten zusammensetzt (von unten nach oben): Holzschalung, Klebschicht, Beton.
    © Fraunhofer WKI | Christoph Pöhler

    Resource conservation and energy efficiency determine the future of construction. Wood is an environmentally friendly and versatile building material. In addition to its ecological assessment, it also offers some technical advantages. Innovative timber-hybrid systems have even better mechanical properties, higher durability and allow for slender structures. Therefore, they are not only more resource efficient but also expand the architectural scope. In this project, we investigate and optimize the long-term behavior of wood hybrid systems, thereby laying the foundation for their use in the construction industry. Our main goal is to significantly increase the use of wood in building construction.

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  • The photo shows an office with three computer workstations, each with one person sitting and working. Corona viruses are "floating" in the air (graphic visualization).
    © Shutterstock / Fraunhofer WKI

    The Corona pandemic has demonstrated the importance of protecting people against infection through airborne pathogens in indoor environments. Air-purification systems can significantly contribute towards this. Currently, however, there is no uniform procedure for testing their effectiveness. We are developing a possible test standard in order to close this gap. In the future, this should facilitate the health evaluation of workplaces with regard to viruses and other airborne pathogens.

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  • Leading-technology project: Bio-based fuel cells

    FC-Bio – Project start / November 01, 2021

    The 3D computer graphic shows the structure of a fuel-cell stack: two rectangular flat blocks (endplates) on the outside, with several thin plates of the same height and width in between. The overall form of the stack resembles an accordion.
    © ZBT GmbH

    In its Nationale Wasserstoffstrategie (national hydrogen strategy) in 2020, the German government committed to establishing green hydrogen as the key technology for the energy revolution. Demand for hydrogen fuel cells will therefore increase in the future, for example for the expansion of electromobility through fuel-cell vehicles, emergency power supply or as combined heat-and-power plants for the dual generation of electricity and heat for industry (process heat) as well as office and residential buildings (heating). Until now, fuel cells have mainly been comprised of metal and petrochemical plastics. The aim of this project with two research partners is a bio-based fuel-cell system. It should not only be more sustainable but also more compact, lighter and less expensive than conventional systems. To achieve this, the Fraunhofer WKI is developing high-performance wood-based materials and biopolymers for the production of electrically conductive compounds.

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  • The photo shows a ceiling-high, complex item of technical equipment with diverse tubing. In the central area, a continuous veneer of around 1.5 meters in width is shooting out. A pile of roughly folded veneer is accumulating on the hall floor.
    © Fraunhofer WKI | Manuela Lingnau

    After the Second World War, many pine trees were planted in Northern Germany, which are now becoming ready for felling at relatively the same time. As not all the trees can be felled, processed and marketed in one go, considerable quantities of pine wood with large trunk diameters will be available in the future (large-dimension pine wood). In addition, pine copes better with climate change than spruce and other native tree species and is therefore regarded as a tree of the future. This results in a variety of consequences for the utilization strategies and value chains of the forestry and wood-based-materials industries. In collaboration with two research partners, we will analyze this holistically and develop decision-making aids. Our focus at the Fraunhofer WKI is directed at the development of multi-layer composite materials made from large-dimension pine wood for load-bearing purposes. We thereby want to open up the widest possible field of application with high revenue potential for pine - particularly in the construction and automotive industries.

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