History of the Fraunhofer IST

25 years Fraunhofer IST – it was on this occasion that the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST and the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz Institute WKI opened their doors on July 18, 2015 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm for a fascinating look behind the scenes of Europe’s largest research company.

With numerous hands-on activities and demonstrations, the two Braunschweig institutes invited visitors to obtain an overview of current questions and answers in the field of surface engineering and thin films as well as wood research. 

Some of the exhibits presented by Fraunhofer IST are described in more detail below.

Healing with plasma

Medical plasma discharge on human fingers.
© Fraunhofer IST, Jan Benz

Plasma skin therapy with the PlasmaDerm® hand-held unit at the Fraunhofer Application Centre for Plasma and Photonics APP.

Skin disorders are among the widespread diseases in this country. Neurodermatitis, psoriasis and venous ulcers due to diabetes or varicose veins often cause years of suffering for patients. The Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST in Braunschweig in cooperation with the company CINOGY and the Clinic for Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology at the Göttingen University Hospital successfully developed the novel PlasmaDerm® solution for the treatment of wounds and skin diseases. Plasma generated directly on the skin promotes wound healing.  

Cost reduction with antifouling films

Water drops on steel with a antifouling coating.
© Fraunhofer IST, Jan Benz

Drops of water on a steel surface with anti-fouling coating.

We are all familiar with lime deposits in the electric kettle or coffee maker and water spots on last posts. These problems are manageable in the household. Things are a bit different for industrial systems however: especially in large-scale production with liquid media, fouling often requires elaborate cleaning cycles resulting in extended machine downtime. A system for the pasteurisation of milk for example is shut down and cleaned after just one process cycle, because milk proteins for instance form deposits in pipes, boilers or heat exchangers of the equipment that is used. Coatings for various surfaces that can drastically reduce such fouling effects have been developed at Fraunhofer IST.  

Water purification with diamonds

Breakdown of blue textile dye with diamond electrodes.
© Fraunhofer IST, Jan Benz

Breakdown of blue textile dye with diamond electrodes.

Water purification and disinfection without the addition of chemicals – made possible by diamond-coated electrodes. Glittering diamonds are not just valuable jewels but also a natural cleaning agent. They help clean wastewater and disinfect water. The trick: Free radicals form in water on electrodes coated with conductive diamonds. These aggressive particles destroy organic harmful substances such as solvents, pesticides and pharmaceuticals but also bacteria in the water through oxidation. Using the diamond electrodes is especially well suited for harmful substances and germs that are very difficult or impossible to eliminate using conventional methods.  

Photocatalysis – cleaning with light

Photocatalysis: Cleaning with light.
© Fraunhofer IST, Jan Benz

Cleaning with light.

A bit of sunlight – and surfaces clean themselves. What sounds like magic is performed by titanium dioxide molecules integrated into the surface: Activated by UV light, they trigger a reaction that wipes out bacteria, algae and fungi. They first destroy the cell wall and then penetrate the cytoplasm – the basic substance of the cell – where they damage the bacterial DNA. The effect: Rather than adhering to the surface, dirt from organic substances is broken down.