Processing and formulation of polymeric materials

From raw materials to adhesives, coatings, potting compounds, plastics and fiber composites

The spectrum of expertise in the area of polymeric materials ranges from development, processing and formulation to material and component characterization, covering the entire value chain from molecule to component. The starting point is molecular design and the synthesis of raw materials for adhesives, coatings and matrix resins. The focus is on reactive systems that are processed into thermoset, elastomeric or thermoplastic polymers. The institute is intensively involved in the development of new, tailor-made polymer systems, resulting in products for applications in lightweight construction, components for electrical energy storage or medical technology.

On this page, we present a selection of our main research topics.

Novel raw materials for new adhesives


When developing new adhesives or coating materials, we first check whether the given requirement profile can be met within the scope of a job formulation using commercially available components. If this is not the case, we develop new raw materials for specific applications. These include, for example, novel polymers for toughening, fire protection additives or functionalized fillers.

In the development of new additives - such as catalysts for accelerated curing, functionalized colorants or indicators for controlling the curing state - the adhesive properties can be significantly improved even with small quantities. This enables our customers to differentiate themselves from competitive products.



In adhesive bonds, adhesion is often greater than cohesion, i. e. the inherent strength of the material. The question arises as to how this can be exploited in material development. The answer to this is the use of nanoparticles, through which a large surface area is introduced into the polymer. Here, the surface modification of the particles is at least as decisive for the resulting properties as the correct processing technique.

The modified particles are used for the formulation of adhesives, coatings, matrix resins for composites or potting compounds. The particles can be used to achieve property improvements such as simultaneous improvement of strength and elongation at break, low curing shrinkage and coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). In addition, rheological properties and fire behavior can be adjusted with their help.

Thermosets as matrix for moldable lightweight materials


Due to their good mechanical properties, fiber-reinforced thermosets are used in a wide range of applications and have become indispensable in lightweight construction. However, the extraordinarily resistant fiber-reinforced composites (FRP) are no longer formable after their manufacture. This limits the use of large-scale production processes and currently makes it virtually impossible to recycle worn-out components. The focus is therefore on research into new polymer systems that can be plastically formed despite their three-dimensional network structure.

Material development for 3D printing of plastics


Various additive manufacturing processes, such as Vat Photopolymerization (VPP), Binder Jetting (BJT) and Liquid Additive Manufacturing (LAM), use resins that are applied as a liquid and then reactively cure in the presence of a trigger (ultraviolet (UV) radiation, heat or moisture) to form the solid 3D component. The use of thermoplastic reactive resins is even possible when processing filaments in the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) process, as recent research results from Fraunhofer IFAM show. In this process, thermoset components are obtained as a result of the crosslinking reaction, which are outstanding in terms of their thermomechanical properties and media resistance.

One focus of Fraunhofer IFAM is the development of reactive resin formulations for 3D printing. Here, in addition to the final component properties, the focus of the work is on the coordination between printer and material. The materials can also be provided with the properties required for the application (impact strength, thermal conductivity, temperature resistance, etc.).

Polymer encapsulation for the protection of electronic components


With the steady increase in electronic assemblies and their use, for example in motor vehicles and sensors, the demands on their long-term stability and functional reliability are also rising. Polymer encapsulation is a suitable method for protecting these components. By potting or applying protective coatings, the components to be protected, for example a printed circuit board, are completely enclosed by a polymer to ensure their reliability. The potting leads to better heat dissipation, mechanical protection as well as protection against external influences and also electrical insulation, which means that the functionality of the components can be guaranteed even in harsh environments.