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Fraunhofer

Automotive

Plastic engine parts could lead to lighter cars

Recent government requirements for greater fuel efficiency have led to lighter cars hitting the market, but there's only so much that can be shaved off the body and chassis. To find further weight reductions, a Fraunhofer project group is developing ways of building engine cylinder blocks that are partly plastic.Read More

Health & Wellbeing

CareJack vest takes soft (and smart) approach to lifting heavy loads

Being a nurse, construction worker, or grocery stocker is a taxing and potentially risky job. Claiming almost 10 percent of lost days of work in Germany are due to lower back problems, Fraunhofer researchers in conjunction with industry partners are developing CareJack, an orthopedic prosthetic embedded with flexible, smart electronics to ensure those lifting heavy loads don't have to go home early.Read More

Environment

Modular biobattery plant turns a wide range of biomass into energy

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have developed a "biobattery" in the form of a highly efficient biogas plant that can turn raw materials like straw, scrap wood and sludge into a variety of useful energy sources including electricity, purified gas and engine oil. The new plant design, currently being put to the test in a prototype plant in Germany, is said to be highly modular and economically viable even at the small scale.Read More

Marine

New navigation module to help future freighters act as their own sails

In 2013, Norway's Lade AS unveiled designs for Vindskip, a "hybrid" merchant ship which aims to harness the wind courtesy of a specially-shaped hull, in the process taking the burden off of its natural-gas powered engines and saving fuel. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute's Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (CML) have been working to help realize this goal by developing an algorithm that will allow the Vindskip's navigation system to use the combination of power and sail at its most economical. Read More

Solar-powered chip reminds you to shut your windows

Although it may be handy to have sensors in your windows that remind you if you've left them open, running electrical wiring to all those sensors (or regularly changing their batteries) could be a hassle. A new window-monitoring radio sensor chip, however, gets all the power it needs from the sun. Read More

Science

Fraunhofer developing polymer test to ward off skunky beer

There's nothing quite as refreshing as a glass of beer on a hot day and nothing more disgusting than discovering that the beer has gone off in the bottle, leaving a sour, cloudy mess. To save innocent palates and Sunday barbecues, the Fraunhofer Institute is developing a new polymer powder that can quickly detect pathogens in beer before they can ruin the brew. Read More

Automotive

Cotton cars to bring down costs of composites

Built in East Germany, the Trabant 601 was notorious for its many faults – not the least of which was a body made out of Duroplast, a hard plastic made of cotton waste and phenol resins that led those in the West to describe the car as being made of cardboard. However, it now looks as if the Trabant is getting the last laugh as scientists look at ways of making cars out of cotton and other botanical fibers formed into a new class of hybrid composites.Read More

Science

De-icing system targets wind farm efficiency in cold climates

Given that the sterotypical image of the world's northern regions involves howling winds, why don't we see more wind turbines in such places? Well, it's largely because those turbines' blades would ice up a lot. The added weight could cause them to turn more slowly, to break down by throwing off their balance, and it could cause their operators to shut them down during potentially icy weather. The European Union Windheat Project is aiming to change that, with a carbon nanotube-based de-icing system. Read More

Science

Science discovers how to make the "perfect" chocolate coating

As anyone who has taken a candy bar out of a car glovebox on a hot day can tell you, heat is not a friend to chocolate. And it's not just a matter of discovering that a tasty snack has become a gooey mess. It can also mean going for a nice choccy biccy only to find the chocolate coated with an unappetizing white film. It isn't a mold, it isn't unhealthy, and it doesn't affect the taste, but it is unpleasant and bakers and chocolatiers would rather do without it. To make mid-morning snacks a bit less harrowing, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute have studied the phenomenon and have come up with the answer for what causes the film to form and how to prevent it.Read More

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