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Fraunhofer developing fuel cell system to power the home

As the world shifts to alternative forms of energy, ways to make homes less dependent on the grid continue to gather steam. Fuel cells, which are more efficient and have lower emissions than internal combustion engines seem like a logical candidate for taking up the slack, so the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) in Dresden is partnering with the heater manufacturer Vaillant to develop a domestic fuel cell system that uses natural gas to produce both heating and electricity.Read More

Aircraft

Shape-changing wings inspire more efficient aircraft designs

We tend to think of aeronautical engineering as having left the birds standing still sometime around the First World War, but since jet fighters can’t perch and quadcopters can’t snag salmon out of a stream, we still have a few things to learn. Taking a couple of pages from the avian playbook, Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems (ENAS) and its partners are developing wing flaps for airplanes that change shape like a bird’s wing for greater efficiency.Read More

Science

First fundamentally new lubricant in decades created from liquid crystals

The world uses tens of millions of tons of lubricant every year, from the smallest part of a micro-precision instrument to the expansion rollers on the largest bridges. Most are oil based, though others use powders, and even metals, and it’s been that way for decades. That could be changing as the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials, Nematel GmbH, and Dr. Tillwich GmbH have developed a new class of lubricants that are based on liquid crystals instead of oil. According to Fraunhofer, this is the first fundamentally new lubricant developed in twenty years.Read More

Science

Shape-changing mirror puts lasers in focus

One cinematic cliché we've all seen is when the hero deflects the villain's dastardly laser beam with a hastily snatched hand mirror, sending it back at his adversary. Physics, ever the wet blanket, says that this is a highly improbable scenario. Focusing high-powered lasers isn't easy. A powerful laser distorts the mirror, throwing the beam off and spreading it out uselessly. To combat this, Fraunhofer is developing a lens that can deform itself to compensate for heating and other distortion factors to keep lasers focused on target.Read More

Robotics

Snake-like robot to help automate aircraft wing construction

Although modern jet airliners may be at the cutting edge of technology, assembling them is, in many ways, still as much of a craft as 18th century shipbuilding, requiring loads of skill and manual labor to get the job done. The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) in Chemnitz, Germany wants to bring airplane construction into the 21st century with a snake-like robot that can assemble airplane wings by reaching into narrow, hard to reach cavities. Read More

Electronics

MARS prototype puts retinal scanning technology in the palm of a hand

Retinal scans have a lot going for them as a form of identification. You can’t forget your retinas, they're unique, they’re a lot harder to steal than passwords, and Captain Kirk uses them. The problem is, the technology needed to run a reliable retinal scan is often bulky, expensive, and hard to use. Scientists at the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) have shrunk down retinal scanning technology in the hopes of making retinal scans a more widespread identification technology.Read More

Electronics

Gallium nitride transistors promise brighter future for LEDs

Although known for long life and low energy consumption, the LED uses a DC power supply, or driver, to overcome its sensitivity to current fluctuations, and it’s the high-frequency, high-speed switching transistors in this driver that’s made the LED so costly for use in large-scale commercial applications dominated by fluorescent and incandescent lighting. But that’s about to change. Fraunhofer researchers are developing a new, more economical means of making the high-performance gallium nitride transistors needed for the LED’s high-efficiency driver.Read More

Environment

Wood foam may be a new form of green home insulation

Insulating your home may help the environment by lowering your energy usage, but unfortunately the petroleum-based foam that's typically used as insulation isn't all that eco-friendly itself. Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, however, have developed a reportedly greener alternative that they claim works just as well – it's foam made from wood. Read More

Health & Wellbeing

Sensor system designed to help seniors who have fallen and can't get up

For seniors in general, falls can result result in broken hips or other serious injuries. For seniors living alone, however, there's also a good chance that they could end up lying on the floor for up to several hours before anyone else knows what's happened. User-triggered radio devices such as Life Alert are helpful up to a point, although they're not much good if the user isn't carrying them at the time, or if they get knocked unconscious. That's why a group of German companies are developing the automatic safe@home system. Read More

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