In 1992, when several research institutions and establishments of the new federal states were absorbed into the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (an organization for applied research), a golden opportunity presented itself in Dresden to continue and develop parts of the exceptional application-oriented research. In the meantime, Dresden has become the undercover Fraunhofer capital in Germany, with a total of six institutes and five other establishments. Thanks to efficient infrastructure and modern systems engineering, the Dresden institutions earn an annual turnover of more than 100 million euros, and further growth is aimed at for the next few years.
The Fraunhofer Institutes in Dresden develop products and processes right up to industrial application. In the process, individual solutions are constructed in direct contact with the client. Depending on requirements, several Fraunhofer institutions work together to also provide complex solutions. The results are made available to the industry in the form of patents, licenses, further education offers and primarily in the form of contract research projects. In this way, the organizations of numerous industries profit from the scientific-technical competence of the Fraunhofer institutions.
The Fraunhofer Institute Centre Dresden in Winterbergstraße is the second largest Fraunhofer location in Germany and the largest in the new federal states. Three Fraunhofer institutes and one member-institution operate technical, laboratory and office space of around 26,000 square metres. The institutions have research and development in the area of material and energy technology in common.
The Fraunhofer IWS, for instance, develops plasma sources which operate with atmospheric pressure and are thus particularly suited to the cost-effective production of solar cells. An equally promising approach to cost reduction is the in-line production of silicon-based thin film solar cells in a vacuum process. Here the PVD (physical vapor depositions coating) technologies developed by the Fraunhofer FEP (Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technology) anticipate a notable reduction of surface coating costs. Already today, several in-line-capable vacuum technologies for the production of thin film solar cells are available and industrially implemented, for example pretreatment in vacuums and technologies for the deposition of insulation and barrier coatings, metallic contacts, transparent electrodes or anti-reflex and protective coatings.
As a contactless and well-automated tool, the laser also offers optimization potential in solar cell production. Technology development for the edge trimming and edge insulation of mono-crystalline and multi-crystalline solar cells, for the production of contact drills and conducting paths, for the structuring of surfaces and for the improvement of solar radiation absorption as well as for the bonding of solar cells by stringers to solar panels, are therefore development focal points of the Fraunhofer IWS. And laser-beam hardening, which was patented by the scientists of the institute, has for many years found application in the field of classical power plant engineering for the improvement of efficiency and stability of rotor blades for steam turbines.
The scientists of the Fraunhofer IKTS (Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems), together with industry partners, have developed a technology that makes fuel cells cheaper and durable. They are suitable as mobile power generators for camping vehicles, boats, freight vehicles or motor cars, but also in stationary applications for the recovery of energy, heat and coolness or for the conversion of biogas into electricity in agriculture. A facility for the provision of electricity and heat on the basis of renewable raw materials is being designed and built within the framework of a research project for regenerative energy production.
At the Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden (Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing and Advanced Materials), sinter materials, which are based on metals, composite and gradient materials for thermal management in electronics as well as for thermoelectric materials, friction materials and light metals are being developed according to the application and advancement of powder metallurgical technologies. The cellular metallic materials of the Fraunhofer IFAM are characterized by very low density, excellent acoustic absorption, good thermal insulation ability and a relatively high specific surface area.
The three large topics “traffic – energy – environment” also characterize the profile of the Fraunhofer IVI (Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems). Whether in large national research projects for hybrid or complete emission-free driving technology or in European projects for the development of reliable fuel cell engines – the Fraunhofer IVI is continually aware of its responsibility towards the accomplishment of current and future tasks.
A further technology field of the Dresden Fraunhofer Institutes is microelectronics. The Fraunhofer IPMS (Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems) range is directed at clients who wish to enhance the functionality of their products through the application of organic light-emitting diodes and microsystems with innovative system properties and ever-decreasing dimensions. The focal point lies in the most diverse applications that find their way into information technology, medical engineering, environmental technology, safety engineering or the automotive supply industry, thus in almost all areas of life.
The Fraunhofer CNT (Fraunhofer Centre for Nanoelectronic Technologies), which was founded as a public-private partnership between the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, AMD Inc. (Advanced Micro Devices Incorporated) and the Quimonda AG, in the immediate proximity of the semiconductor producers, does research on further development in the areas: new materials, innovative processing technology as well as metrology and chemical analysis at atomic level. The most modern equipment allows for wafer processing with new and established methods as well as the testing of innovative material combinations.
The computer-based design of electronic connectors has already been the object of scientific work in Dresden for almost 50 years. Today, the EAS section (design automation) of the Fraunhofer IIS (Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits) develops internationally recognized processes for computer-based design of electronic and increasingly of heterogeneous systems.
A profile-determining attribute of the Fraunhofer IZFP (Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing) is the development of systems for equipment condition monitoring for clients in the aerospace, environmental engineering and chemical industries. In industry, the results based on acoustic and optical technologies are deployed in all instances where safety-related evidence and quality verification is required.
The development of intelligent production facilities, combined with the optimization of production processes relating to this, constitutes the research focus of the Fraunhofer IWU (Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology). At the Dresden location, highly integrated intelligent systems for machine and vehicle construction are developed on the basis of “smart materials”. The centre stage is taken by active components and multifunctional materials as well as the acoustic analysis for machine construction and vehicle technology.
When the complex interaction between filling, packaging and machinery taking place in the packaging processes is considered in its entirety, the Fraunhofer AVV (Fraunhofer Application Center for Processing Machinery and Packaging Technology) is an effective and qualified service provider for industrial research and development work.
The eleven Fraunhofer institutions together employ more than 1,100 people. The annual prize awarded by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft for the conversion of outstanding scientific performance into industrial use, has been awarded to Dresden institutes eight times already since 1992, a demonstration of the innovative energy of the Dresden Fraunhofer researchers.
The author was born in 1951. After diploma and doctorate in physics at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, he first worked at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) in Aachen for twelve years. Since 1997 he has been the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology (IWS) and will be acting as the spokesperson for the Fraunhofer Institution Centre in Dresden as from 2009.