Conserving resources through efficient processes and drives
One intensively discussed aspect for the success of the energy transition is the increasing decoupling of economic growth from energy and material consumption. In many industrialized nations, major successes have been achieved in this regard through increases in energy and material efficiency. These are largely based on many small improvements, but also on increased consideration of the circular economy.
Improvement of electric drives plays decisive role for energy consumption
In the area of material and energy efficiency, Fraunhofer IFAM is particularly pushing forward developments which promise advantages not only in the product creation phase, but also in the product use phase and the after-use phase. A wide range of examples can be found here, from efficient electric motors, friction-minimized surfaces and lightweight construction to process innovations in casting technology.
Electric drives are responsible for around 40% of global electricity consumption. Accordingly, improving electric drives, despite their typically high efficiency, has a major impact on electrical energy consumption. The improvement of these drives can be achieved by a targeted design of the electric motors and optimization in terms of manufacturing technology. The focus of Fraunhofer IFAM is on the validation of new manufacturing approaches, such as casting solutions for rotors and housings, additive manufacturing of soft magnetic materials, or highly thermally conductive casting compounds.
Coatings reduce friction for increased energy efficiency
When technical machines are used for production or transport, solid-state friction and wear always occur. In order to improve energy efficiency in production and transportation, Fraunhofer IFAM has been working for over a decade on friction-reducing coatings, some of which are based on bionic active principles. In addition to the area of solid friction, our employees also address the area of flow. Riblet coatings, for example, have been developed to reduce flow resistance. This can increase the efficiency of aircraft or wind turbines or reduce energy loss in pipelines.
In addition to friction, the weight of structures and components also plays a major role in energy consumption in many applications. A classic example here is lightweight construction in the mobility sector. The materials used are becoming more and more specific to the respective function. Fraunhofer IFAM supports the chain from material development, process technology, component design, validation and qualification, and design to joining technology for both metallic and polymer lightweight materials.
In the area of lightweight metallic materials, the focus is on resource-saving production of components in casting and die casting processes. The use of salt core technology in aluminum die casting increases energy efficiency through resource-saving material use and the substitution of cast core materials with reusable salt. By using 3D printing processes with light metals, structurally and functionally optimized components can be manufactured with minimal material input.
In the area of polymer lightweight materials, Fraunhofer IFAM is developing new polymer systems based on renewable raw materials, systems for improved recyclability, and is working on processing methods which conserve materials and resources.
In addition, the institute's core competence "adhesive bonding" is the central joining technology for lightweight construction and enables material-specific lightweight construction to be carried out in efficient processes. In addition to the joining of different materials to form a high-performance overall system, separable adhesive bonds for the separation of bonded components and structures by type are a current research topic.