Mechanical and Process Engineering

The Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering (MBVT) comprises the teaching units of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering, whose 31 professors represent a diverse range of subjects in teaching and research. The internal institutes work closely with the UDE’s affiliates: The Institute for Energy and Environmental Technology (IUTA e.V.), the IWW Water Centre, the Development Centre for Ship Technology and Transport Systems (DST e.V.) and the Fuel Cell Research Center (ZBT). Their direct collaboration promotes and underscores the applied nature of engineering research.

Research highlights

DFG Research Unit 1993, ‘Multifunctional Conversion of Chemical Species and Energy’ (spokesperson: Professor Burak Atakan, Chair of Thermodynamics), has entered its third phase.

The group studies the use of reciprocating engines as chemical reactors in the production of basic chemicals. Through closely coordinated simulations and experiments, the researchers were able to shed light on the way additives behave in the fuel-rich conversion of methane to syngas. Their current research explores concepts for reducing the amounts of additives required and the chemical implementation and utilisation of CO2 in combustion engines. Another three renowned researchers recently joined the research unit as Mercator Fellows: Professor Eric Peterson (Texas A&M University, USA), Professor Sergey Cheskis (Tel Aviv University, Israel) and Professor Ali Güngör (Ege University, Turkey).

The Chair of Reactive Fluids focuses on fundamental research into combustion processes and particle synthesis in the gas phase. In the DFG Priority Programme 1980, ‘SpraySyn’, a group of researchers coordinated by Professor Christof Schulz examines the synthesis of functional materials in spray flames. Following a successful evaluation in 2020, the project has secured 7.6 million euros in funding for the next three-year period. Eight of the 18 funded periods are based at the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering. Within the scope of this priority programme and Research Unit 2284, headed by Professor Schulz, the Faculty organised the 4th International Symposium on Gas-phase Synthesis of Functional Nanomaterials in 2020. The online event was attended by 180 visitors from around the world.

The recent appointment of Junior Professor Doris Segets plays an important role in the processing of said materials into functional layers for use in batteries and fuel cells, for example. Her specialism complements the department’s existing range of research areas and strengthens the connection between material synthesis and applications. 

Members of the Chair of Reactive Fluids have developed a new anode material for batteries based on carbon and silicon. In collaboration with Evonik Industries, the team is currently working on advancing the manufacturing process and moving it to an industrial scale. The three-year project ‘HOSALIB – High-Performance Silicon-Carbon Composite as Anode Material for Lithium-Ion Batteries’ has secured 2.3 million euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. It focuses on manufacturing and processing the materials in question. The EU project Hyflexpower is dedicated to the study of another important aspect of future energy systems: led by Siemens, the consortium researches the use of hydrogen in gas turbines while building the world’s first power-to-x-to-power demonstration plant with a hydrogen gas turbine. Within the scope of this project, the Chair of Reactive Fluids is developing ways of using endoscopic methods to measure flame positions and surface temperatures in the combustion chambers.

The Chair of Thermal Process Engineering focuses on fundamental research into the separation technique of adsorption. It secured three new DFG-funded projects in 2019 and 2020.

Supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) is a fluid whose particular properties facilitate innovative solutions in heat and material transfer. CO2OLHEAT is the fourth project of Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, that is based at the Chair of Turbomachinery. Its objective is to develop a sCO2-based power plant and demonstrate its operational flexibility, reliability and suitability for temperatures above 350°C. The project team is working with industry partners to produce a prototype. CO2OLHEAT is based on similar EU-funded projects under UDE leadership, during which the basic concepts, proper functioning and sophistication of the system were proven both in theory and on the test bed. Another EU-funded project in the same field is ‘sCO2-4-NPP’. It is dedicated to the development of an innovative, sCO2-based heat removal system intended to improve the safety of nuclear power plants.

The Institute of Ship Technology, Ocean Engineering and Transport Systems (ISMT) focuses on numerical and experimental research of multiphase flows and fluid-structure interactions in the maritime context. Its members have carried out and published many studies into sloshing, cavitation and vortex-induced oscillations, including new methods of predicting cavitation-induced erosion. In partnership with the Department of Physics at Novosibirsk State University, the Institute has conducted experiments on passive cavitation control.

Inland shipping on rivers and canals is a competitive and sustainable transportation system that has always been a crucial location factor for industry in North Rhine-Westphalia and beyond. That is why the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering (MBVT) has recently launched several major collaborative projects that will make inland vessels fit for the digital twenty-first century. The Chair of Mechatronics, the ISMT,  and the Chair of Dynamics and Control collaborate closely with the DST and their international industry partners. Funding is provided by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Government and the European Union.

The team behind the project ‘AutoBin – Simulation and Demonstration of Automated Driving in Inland Navigation’ works on equipping an inland vessel with an extensive sensor and actuator system. (‘AutoBin’ is short for autonomes Binnenschiff, autonomous inland vessel.)  Using a simulator, they are developing an AI-based navigation system that can safely steer a vessel from its point of departure to its destination. After training the AI in the simulator, the researchers test and demonstrate the navigation system using the fully equipped inland vessel.

The ‘FernBin’ (remote-controlled, coordinated piloting in inland navigation) project team develops methods and assistance systems for controlling inland vessels remotely. They are also working on an onshore control station with interfaces to the vessel, operating elements and user interfaces. Not only are they using a real test vessel, they are simultaneously developing a digital twin ship, which faithfully mirrors the handling of the original. This digital twin will be used as an onshore control station for testing, development and ship crew training purposes.

The Test and Management Centre for Autonomous Inland Waterway Vessels (VeLAbi) at the Ministry of Transport of North Rhine-Westphalia was proposed and established in the context of this project. With a diameter of eight metres, the simulator is a 360° projection of a ship’s bridge. It generates a seamless, stereoscopic 3D image on a projection surface of approximately 67 m2. In addition to this projection technique, the researchers use virtual and augmented reality glasses enabling them to interact directly with the virtual environment.

The Chair of Energy Technology focuses on three key research areas. The first is dedicated to modelling and analysing energy systems, in particular, cogeneration and innovative heating networks. Its members have carried out various projects within the scope of the development of the large housing development of Duisburg-Wedau. In the second key research area, researchers carry out scientific analyses of the use of hydrogen, such as its storage as gas in high-pressure tanks or its storage as liquid ammonia. The third key research area revolves around the development of electrochemical energy converters – specifically, fuel cells and new battery technologies – in partnership with Grillo and Varta Microbattery.

The Chair of Environmental Process Engineering and Plant Design researches future energy supply systems and plants that use renewable energy sources to provide electricity, heat and consumables (fuels, basic chemicals). For the project ‘Bicarb2Fuel’, funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, the Chair of Environmental Process Engineering and Plant Design collaborates with Mitsubishi Power Europe GmbH. Its objective is to demonstrate an energy-efficient method of carbon capture and subsequent methane and methanol synthesis. The members of the Chair are developing a pilot plant that carries out all required steps in the absorption–desorption process. At the same time, thermodynamic and reaction-kinetic data are captured in a laboratory in order to facilitate precise catalyst and process optimisation and model simulations.

The Chair of Materials Science and Engineering has been working with Professor Alexander Hartmaier of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Advanced Materials Simulation (ICAMS) at Ruhr University Bochum on researching deformation and failure mechanisms in austenitic steel under coupled compressive and torsional loading since 2020. This DFG-funded collaborative project uses high-resolution electron microscopy to examine damage at the microstructural level. Its insights inform micromechanical models that make the behaviour of austenitic steels under complex pressure significantly more predictable.


Shortly after joining UDE, Professor Doris Segets 2020 was admitted to the Junge Akademie at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Professor Burak Atakan was conferred the lifetime honorific title of Fellow of T  he Combustion Institute in 2020.

Several doctoral candidates of the Faculty have won awards for their outstanding dissertations:

Dr Dennis Roskosch won the MegaWATT Award in 2019

Dr Andreas Peters won the Georg Weinblum Award in 2020

Dr Marcel Richter and Dr Florian Möllenbruck won the VGB Innovation Award in 2019 and 2020, respectively.


Prizes have been awarded for shorter formats presented at conferences, too:

Sebastian Grimm won a prize for the best poster at Euro-CVD 2019 in Luxembourg

Florian Möllenbruck won the Werner von Boie Award   at the Power Plant Technology Congress 2019 in Dresden

Jonas Ambrosy and his co-authors won the poster prize of the 2020 annual conference of the ProcessNet subject divisions of Fluid Separations, Extraction and Adsorption in Berchtesgaden.

      Christian Mauer and his co-authors won the poster prize of the 2020 annual conference of ProcessNet in Aachen.

Qi Deng and her co-authors won the Student Paper Award of the IEEE Conference on Cognitive and Computational Aspects of Situation Management 2020, organised online by the University of Victoria (BC, Canada)

Roland Boumann and his co-authors won the Best Research Paper Award of the 6th International Symposium on Robotics and Mechatronics 2020 in Taipei (Taiwan).

Partnerships and international affairs

In April 2020, Professor Dieter Schramm of the Chair of Mechatronics became a visiting professor at the Dalian University of Technology (China). Dr Frederic Kracht, also from the Chair of Mechatronics, is a visiting scholar at the same institution. The partnership is dedicated to research into the mechanical load on fuel cell vehicles as conditioned by driving dynamics and environmental factors. It also involves the development of a platform for designing vehicles and driving simulators based on digital twins.

Members of the Faculty participate actively in their scientific communities and organise important conferences. In 2019, the VDI/ProcessNet Thermodynamics Colloquium took place at the University of Duisburg-Essen. More than 200 visitors attended the event, which featured early-career researchers from German institutions reporting on their research in thermodynamics. The Chair of General Business Administration and International Automotive Management organised the 11th Wissenschaftsforum Mobilität in 2019. Due to the immense growth of the forum, its 400 participants from the academic, business and political spheres gathered at the City Palais Duisburg, rather than the University, to discuss more than 80 contributions. For the first time since the inception of the event, an exhibition was set up in the city centre to educate the interested public about new approaches to mobility. The Institute of Ship Technology, Ocean Engineering and Transport Systems organised two international conferences: the Autonomous Inland and Short Sea Shipping Conference 2019 and the 14th OpenFOAM Workshop.

In a multidisciplinary consortium comprising the social sciences, economic sciences and engineering sciences, researchers of the University Alliance (UA) Ruhr explore ways of making mobility in the Ruhr Area sustainable. The ‘InnaMoRuhr’ project aims to improve the network between the four sites of the UA Ruhr without producing additional emissions in order to achieve a lasting, positive change in the mobility behaviour of its students and employees. The Ministry of Transport of North Rhine-Westphalia is funding the project with 2.4 million euros for a three-year period. From our faculty, the Chair of General Business Administration and International Automotive Management participates in InnaMoRuhr.

The virtual institute KWK.NRW is an important collaboration of the Chair of Energy Technology. In this project, the Gas- und Wärme-Institut Essen e.V., the Fuel Cell Research Center (ZBT) and several chairs of the University of Duisburg-Essen work on pooling cogeneration expertise from across the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Many other university institutes, associations and companies support the virtual institute as affiliated partners.

Transfer and sustainability

Three employees of the Chair of General Business Administration and International Automotive Management, Dr Florian Knobbe, Stefan Sommer and Gregor Szybisty, have come together to offer smart, wireless charging systems. They founded a business named gapcharge, which won national and international start-up competitions. A prototype of their charging system was released in May  2020; it already features some additional digital functions. In August 2020, gapcharge was accepted into the High-Tech.NRW accelerator programme. Its founders are poised to start serial production of their system in 2021. The Chair of Energy Technology has produced its first successful start-up, too: Lagom Energy GmbH provides energy system analyses.

The Chair of Turbomachinery actively promotes the productive, pioneering exchange and transfer of knowledge between industry and research. With the establishment of CoRE, the Center of Rotating Equipment, the University of Duisburg-Essen and Siemens Energy jointly created a globally unique research, education and training centre dedicated to turbomachinery. Their partnership boosts transfer and exchange activities between theory, practice and industry in turbomachinery, a field in which Germany has an outstanding density of resources that make it a leader at the global level.

Work involving industry standards often leads the way for new economic and technical developments. Professor Doris Segets of the Chair of Reactive Fluids coordinates the ‘NoRu’ project, which seeks to standardise the characterisation of carbon blacks for fuel cells and batteries. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The researchers behind NoRu are developing the foundation of a DIN/ISO standard for carbon materials used in batteries and fuel cells. The Chair of Energy Technology, the Fuel Cell Research Center (ZBT) and the Berlin-based company LUM GmbH are members of the consortium.


Due to the close relationship between issues in energy technology and issues in economics, the benefits of collaboration between the corresponding chairs are self-evident. The project initiated by Professor Christof Schulz, Professor Jutta Geldermann and Professor Angelika Heinzel in collaboration with partners from Ruhr University Bochum within the framework of the Clusters4Future initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research constitutes a highly promising, concrete future opportunity in the field of functional materials The consortium has reached the final stage of the initiative’s application process with its proposal ‘WISDOM4E – Knowledge-based design of complex materials and systems for sustainable electrochemical energy storage and conversion’. The proposed research topic belongs to a field that is of strategic importance for UDE and the University Alliance (UA) Ruhr. It has received 500,000 euros in funding to prepare a full proposal. The final selection round will take place in 2021; the winning project will be funded for up to nine years with up to 5 million euros per year.

Professor Steven Ding’s (EIT) and Professor Dirk Söffker’s (MBVT) chairs focus on control systems and automation, in particular, error detection, damage diagnostics and prognoses of the behaviour of technical systems. It stands to reason that there should be a degree programme representing the research topics of both chairs. The new ‘Automation and Safety’ programme has been established with two separate pathways: ‘Automation Control Engineering’ and ‘Safe Systems’.

Automated waterway traffic holds great potential, but acceptance of self-driving vehicles depends largely on inherent risks. Safety improvements over manual driving will be the main benchmark for future developments in this field, and they are the primary objective of the proposed project ‘SafeBin’. It focuses on assessing the risks of (partially) automated inland vessels with regard to system malfunctions, any danger which automated systems may pose to humans and the environment, potential risk reduction measures, and ways of detecting and overcoming hazardous situations and malfunctions during operation.

The Chair of Turbomachinery operates a four-stage axial compressor to study wet compression. It has recently been granted approximately 1 million euros in funding for equipment to process the ambient air and injected water. This will allow the researchers to study the flow in axial compressors operating with water vapour at inlet temperatures of up to 100° C.

The Institute of Ship Technology, Ocean Engineering and Transport Systems plans to intensify its research activities in the fields of sloshing, cavitation and fluid-structure interactions. Multiple research proposals on these topics have been submitted. A laser laboratory for the experimental study of cavitation at the microscopic level will soon begin operations.