Civil Engineering

In addition to its traditional tasks, the Department of Civil Engineering studies virtual and icy worlds. Through national and international projects, it has established and intensified multiple research partnerships. The department’s research portfolio covers a great deal of ground from the robustness of small steel screws to the structure of the Antarctic ice sheet, from direct applications to the theoretical foundations of molecular structures.

Research highlights

The Chair of Mechanics will be coordinating the second funding period of the DFG Priority Programme SPP 1748 ‘Reliable Simulation Techniques in Solid Mechanics. Development of Non-standard Discretization Methods, Mechanical and Mathematical Analysis’. It also contributes two projects itself and is represented in two other Priority Programmes. In SPP 2013 ‘Targeted Use of Forming Induced Residual Stresses in Metal Components’, the Chair researches the numerical representation of residual stresses in forging. Within the scope of SPP 2020 ‘Cyclic deterioration of High-Performance Concrete in an experimental-virtual lab’, the Chair advances computer-supported modelling of deterioration processes in fibre-reinforced high-performance concretes. Members of the Chair also contribute to projects in CRC/TRR 270, where they analyse magneto-mechanical meso structures produced through additive manufacturing, and SPP 2256, where they study homogenisation for the prediction of complex phenomena in micro-structural materials.

Within the scope of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s funding programme for research into condensed matter and as part of the ISOPAC project, the Chair of Materials Science has been operating the solid-state beamline at the CERN’s ISOLDE (Isotope mass Separator On-Line) facility for four years. Researchers at the beamline examine solid structures using the nuclear measurement method PAC (Perturbed gamma-gamma-Angular Correlation). They have recently secured 1.2 million euros in funding for a new measuring station for magnetically and electrically ordered crystals. Their research is highly relevant for data storage technologies.

Textile membranes in construction are one of the key research areas of the Chair of Metal and Lightweight Structures. In the past, the Chair has collaborated with the Chair of Continuum Mechanics at Ruhr University Bochum in a DFG-funded project. The follow-up project now focuses on the development of adaptive numerical simulation methods and the history dependence and shear stiffness of architectural membranes. In another project funded by the DFG, members of the Chair are experimentally researching the mechanical load-bearing behaviour of sustainably produced ETFE films and structures. Preparations are currently underway for experiments on the roof of the UDE’s Essen campus to examine the long-term weathering properties of membrane materials.

The Chair of Mobility and Urban Planning works on the topic of cities and mobility in two transdisciplinary projects. The project ‘Spurwechsel Zollverein’ of the Innogy Foundation investigates which forms of mobility people choose, why they make those choices, and how a lasting, socially just transformation of traffic in the north of Essen can be achieved. Today, the region between Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Wuppertal and the Rhine County of Neuss is already home to many competences that will be relevant to hydrogen-powered mobility in the near future. ‘Kompetenzregion Wasserstoff – Düssel.Rhein.Wupper’, the winning project in the state competition on hydrogen-powered mobility, is picking up speed. So far, the project team has established a developmental space for a comprehensive forecasting concept on the topic of hydrogen-based mobility.

At the Chair of Structural Concrete, the development and optimisation of high-performance materials and bearing structures constitute key research areas. The high-performance aerogel concrete (HPAC), a stable, heat-insulating, lightweight concrete developed in collaboration with the German Aerospace Center, has been optimised to suit building components under bending stress by testing reinforced HPAC test pieces for their moment and shear force bearing capacity. In a collaborative research project undertaken with the Chair of Theoretical Physics of the University of Cologne, members of the department are examining the setting behaviour of concrete in zero gravity. This endeavour will involve experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Chair of Structural Analysis of Plates and Shells develops efficient methods of automating discretisation and calculation processes for structure-mechanical and multi-physical questions. These projects belong to two key research areas: Tailored Materials at the Faculty and Materials Chain at the UA Ruhr. The DFG funds the development of a radiation-based measuring system for characterising highly anisotropic, viscoelastic polymers. This project is conducted in partnership with the Chair of Measurement Engineering at Paderborn University.  Another DFG-funded project focuses on the development of efficient methods of automated mesh generation and the simulation of wave propagation processes in three-dimensional, highly heterogeneous continua. Such processes are important when designing security-critical infrastructure and radiation-based processes for geological exploration.

The Chair of Structural Analysis and Design focuses on constructive glazing and fire risk assessments. In the former field, it studies extensions of the DIN 18008 glass standard that govern the bearing capacity and fitness for purpose of point-fixed glazing. As fire safety regulations become more complex, they also become more interesting to researchers. Building components that are subject to fire safety regulations must be tested experimentally. This leads to the development of more precise fire models, which take the impact of sprinkler systems into account, for example. In particular, they facilitate more economical assessments of delicate hall structures built from steel.

Transfer and sustainability

Among other endeavours, the Department of Civil Engineering transfers its knowledge through partnerships with local authorities and charitable organisations. The Chair of Urban Water and Waste Management has begun a collaborative project with the Emschergenossenschaft. It uses existing data to develop concepts for artificial intelligence and machine learning. The researchers aim to teach water treatment plants to detect patterns and use them to develop energy management solutions and forecasts. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, the Chair of Mobility and Urban Planning maintains the research information server for the field of integrated mobility services in urban areas. As of May 2019, the Deutsches Institut für Bautechnik (DIBt) officially recognises the Chair of Metal and Lightweight Structures as a monitoring body. It is now an inspection, monitoring and certification body (identification no. NRW71) as per the state building regulations.


Dr Carina Nisters has been accepted to the Global Young Faculty.

Dr Sarah Zydorczyk received an honour for the best dissertation in the engineering sciences in 2019.

Sonja Uebing received the Best Poster Award – Second Prize of the German Association for Computational Mechanics in 2019.

Christoph Abraham received the ‘Heitkamp Ingenieur- und Kraftwerksbau’ prize for his master’s thesis in 2019.

Lukas Makevicius received the audience prize of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) for his presentation at the 6th Young Engineers Colloquium in 2019.

The article ‘Sprödbruchverhalten hochfester Schrauben großer Abmessungen bei tiefen Temperaturen’ (‘Brittle fracture of high-strength bolts of large diameters at low temperatures’) by Professor Natalie Stranghöner et al. was among the 10% most frequently downloaded publications in the STAHLBAU journal between 2018 and 2019.

Partnerships and international affairs

Professor Jörg Schröder, Dr Carina Nisters, Tommy Mielke and Felix Paul (Chair of Mechanics and Chair of Materials Science) joined an expedition to the Antarctic on the South African research vessel Agulhas II. Their participation in this undertaking was doubtlessly one of the year’s highlights in the area of international collaboration and research. It initiated a series of project proposals in partnership with the University of Cape Town. The research aims to examine and describe the mechanical properties of the Antarctic ice in a multi-scale process using methods from civil engineering.

Professor Jörg Schröder worked at the University of California, Berkeley as a visiting scholar in 2019. Professor Carolin Birk is collaborating with Professor Ean Tat Ooi of the Federation University in Ballarat, Australia on the project ‘Computational modelling of multi-physics structural damage’. The Chair of Mechanics played a major role in planning the international conference ‘European Congress on Computational Methods in Applied Sciences and Engineering (ECCOMAS) – Modern Finite Element Technologies 2019’.


Professor Dirk Wittowsky now heads the Chair of Mobility and Urban Planning. Mobility in urban spaces will be a key research topic of the chair in future.

In collaboration with the Faculties of Biology, Chemistry, Engineering Sciences and Physics, Professor Jörg Schröder has submitted an application for around 7.3 million euros in funding to acquire a new, massively parallel high-performance computer with fast connectivity to the DFG and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia as per Article 91b GG.

As mentioned in the section on international affairs, the Department plans to establish and coordinate a new, pioneering field of research focusing on the sea ice of the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean in partnership with the University of Cape Town. The project team is currently applying for an international research training group.

The Chair of Urban Water and Waste Management under Professor Renatus Widman coordinates the project management, implementation and continuous optimisation of potential uses for the new building of the FutureWaterCampus. A funding recommendation and a recommendation for starting the project measures ahead of schedule have been issued. The Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU) coordinates this interdisciplinary project.