Research Highlights

The Department of Civil Engineering investi­gates different aspects of the energy sector, including building and materials for offshore wind farms and approaches to the issue of energy storage, such as pumped storage or power-to-gas methods. In collaboration with the mining company RAG and the University Alliance Ruhr (UAR), the Institutes of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management and Geotechnical Engineering are exploring whether pumped-storage hydroelectric stations can be built into former coal mining shafts and drifts.

Another example of this kind of multifunctional use of existing infrastructure is the research project “Sustainable urban culture in the metropolis Ruhr” (KuLaRuhr), which is receiving 4.5 million euros in funding from the BMBF. Here the Institute of Urban Water and Waste Management is examining whether the sewage system can be utilised for heating distribution. The scientists are also working on modern and sustainable rainwater management with real-time controlled cisterns.

Also in waste management, researchers are working as part of the EU-funded project “Advanced Technologies for Water Resource Management” (ATWARM) to optimise sewage-plant technology using algae and fibre optics. Waste is also the topic of the DFG project “Biological Methane Oxidation”, the aim of which is to prevent climate-damaging methane emissions from waste dumps by covering them with a bio-layer. Meanwhile, the “Energy-efficient recycling of biological waste” research project is looking for ways to make recycling more efficient by combining composting with fermentation. Storage of the biogas produced in this process is being explored in the European BioGaSS research project in collaboration with the Institute for Metal and Lightweight Structures.

In its work on intelligent buildings and bridges, the Institute of Concrete Structures Engineering (IfM) employs modern information technology methods to develop adaptive bridges that automatically adjust to their load. Steel-reinforced concrete bearing structures can be designed in a fundamentally new way by adapting natural structures to create innovative, very lightweight, free-form constructions with a high load-bearing capacity. This process is simulated on 2D structures as part of a DFG project.

Increasing the efficiency of road surfaces on steel bridges, quantitative evaluation of the maintenance status of asphalt anchoring, and the use of novel measurement techniques for inspection and testing of newly built asphalt layers are the subject of joint research between the Institute of Road Construction and Transportation Engineering and the Institute for Metal and Lightweight Structures.

As one of just three institutes worldwide, the Laboratory for Light-Weight Surface Structures develops complex materials testing and optimisation methods on the kinds of fibre membranes used in stadium constructions. The highly ­non-linear and anisotropic behaviour of such textile membranes is being investigated and ­optimised by the Institute for Metal and Lightweight Structures and the Institute for Structural Analysis and Construction in several projects.

The Institute of Material Science and the ­Institute of Mechanics are meanwhile working on an entirely different scale: The EU is supporting young doctoral students investigating the movement of materials on the nanometre scale through the Marie Curie Mobility Award, under which a total of one million euros have been ­allocated to the Department of Civil Engineering. Nanometre movements are vital for the stability of lithium-ion batteries and determine how strands of DNA link up. They also open up new techniques for measuring electrical currents in the brain. These movements are used macroscopically in piezo injection systems and adaptive structures. The nationwide DFG Research Unit “Ferroic functional materials”, led by the Institute of Mechanics at the UDE, investigates a similar topic. Here the researchers are investigating the coupling of electromechanical and magneto­mechanical materials on the microscale in models and experiments. The fundamental understanding achieved in this way can be used to design new materials. The Department of Civil Engineering is taking part in the project with around one million euros for the first funding period.

The DFG Priority Programme “Reliable Simu­lation Techniques in Solid Mechanics. Development of Non-standard Discretisation Methods, Mechanical and Mathematical Analysis” is coordinated by the Institute of Mechanics, which is working as part of two subprojects on the development of new hybrid finite-element methods and improving finite least-square elements for plasticity. Around 0.7 million euros in funding are going to the Institute of Mechanics and Department of Civil Engineering in the initial period.