The aim of the research is not only to gain new scientific knowledge and methods, but above all to transfer these findings to industrial practice, especially to medium-sized companies. The Institute’s fields of work can be assigned to the following four main topics:

Aerosols and particles

Air pollution control and gas process tech­nology

Resources and energy

Analytics and measurement

Aerosols and particles

At IUTA, the key topic “Aerosols & Particles” is addressed primarily with regard to the three aspects of: production and formation; occupational health and safety and environmental protection; and measurement and characterisation.

To this end, IUTA has pilot plants for the production of nanoparticles on a kg/h scale using the flame, hot-wall and microwave plasma process that are unique in the world. In close cooperation with the corresponding main area of research of the University of Duisburg-Essen (CENIDE), new nanoparticles are produced for technical applications and the production processes are optimised. The size and shape of the synthesised particles depend strongly on the selected production parameters such as pressure, concentration and temperature. Currently, the focus of the syntheses is on oxidic and non-oxidic semiconductor materials such as TiO2, Fe2O3, SiO2 and silicon as well as tertiary oxides such as ZrxCe1-xO2. Many potential applications require the transfer of the synthesised powder into processable liquids. For this reason, the synthesis plants are supplemented with scrubber systems, which are used to wash the particles directly out of the process gas.

In parallel, working groups are focusing on the behaviour, risks and environmental effects of ultrafine particles and fine dusts. They are investigating, for example, the spread of released particles in air, water and soil, and issues relating to the field of occupational safety. One example is release during grinding: A test rig developed as part of a Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) project allows for standardised material stressing and has now been successfully used in three international research projects. Released materials can also be investigated with regard to their possible behaviour and fate in the environment (e.g. by means of soil column experiments) and, in close cooperation with partners, with regard to their possible harmful effects on health.

The third focus is the physical-chemical characterisation of the particles both in their original form (e.g. using scanning-electron microscopy) and in other media, e.g. in liquids, embedded in composites, etc.

Air pollution control and gas process technology

In this field, IUTA makes use of its expertise in the fields of chemical, thermal and mechan­ical process engineering. Depending on requirements, the adsorption, absorption, catalysis and filtration processes are used. The range of applications extends from the prevention of process-related emissions from production plants through to the protection of people and products. For selected applications, the necessary measuring devices, sensors and detectors as well as actuators are also being (further) developed and adapted to gas and liquid phase applications (e.g. phase Doppler anemometers, Raman spectrometers, etc.). The aim is to develop new components or tailor-made processes that are characterised by a high separation performance combined with the greatest possible resource and energy efficiency.

Current research projects deal, for example, with the absorption and re-emission of mercury in scrubbers, a sampling system for aerosols contaminated with legionella from recooling plants, and with networked sensors for the monitoring and demand-oriented replacement of filters in ventilation and air-conditioning systems. In many cases, multi-phase flow simulation (CFD) is used for theoretical and experimental investigations, in order to be able to derive statements about the local energy and mass transport, in particular for unsteady processes in apparatus. The expertise extends here from particle separation in electrostatic precipitators to the simulation of particle transport and separation in porous structures such as textile filters or foams.

A special unique selling point of IUTA is the filtration centre, which has a wide range of measuring equipment and a large number of sophisticated test benches. These can be used both for testing filters and adsorbents in accordance with standards and for the development of new materials and measuring methods. The areas of application include a wide range of vehicle interior filters, ventilation and air conditioning systems, compressed air filters and the removal of toxic pollutant gases from air flows.

Resources and energy

In this field, IUTA is addressing not only work on energy efficiency in the environment of environmental technology facilities, but also the aspects of recycling and resource conservation. The application focuses are the recycling of electronic equipment and the treatment of process and waste water.

For example, IUTA has been operating a disposal centre for 27 years that has all the necessary permits and certifications. Due to the unique selling proposition of having its own specialist waste management company, the Institute has a special practical orientation and can assess problems from the waste management industry at first hand and find business-oriented solutions. In addition to its technical tasks, the company is aware of its social responsibility and implements this in the form of training and qualification measures in the specialist waste management company.

The second focus is on (toxic) trace substances, especially in water treatment. Here, IUTA has a pilot plant for membrane filtration using reverse osmosis (UO), ultrafiltration (UF) and microfiltration (MF). The Institute is the contact partner for questions concerning membrane selection for specific wastewaters, piloting and optimisation as well as for the investigation of damage to membrane elements.

Many drugs used in human and veterinary medicine (e.g. cytostatics for cancer therapy), biocides and pesticides used in agriculture, and household and industrial chemicals have a considerable toxic and ecotoxic potential even in low concentrations. Effective measures are therefore required to protect employees and the environment during the production, storage, transport, preparation, application and disposal of these substances and materials contaminated with them. IUTA is contributing with scientific research and technical developments, e.g. for the oxidative and adsorptive treatment of wastewater, to the improvement of occupational safety and environmental protection. In addition, services are offered for trace substance analysis, bio- and environmental monitoring and screening investigations using high-resolution mass spectrometry. In addition to the detection and evaluation of findings from the instrumental target-component analysis, effect-related analysis methods are developed and coupled with instrumental analysis.

Analytics and measurement

In this area, IUTA employees develop both methods and measuring instruments for chemical analysis and physical particle measurement technology. In addition to a wide range of analytical detection and investigation methods for element and species analysis, especially gas and ion chromatography, the employees are mainly engaged in the development of innovative coupling and detection methods. The focus of scientific investigations is on four-dimensional separation and detection systems based on two-dimensional liquid chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry and (high-resolution) mass spectrometry.

A current field of application is chemo- and antibody therapies. Here, the production of patient-specific application solutions takes place in specialist pharmacies. Apart from an optical or gravimetric check, no quality control of the identity of the delivered active ingredient or the actual concentration of the prepared application solution has so far been carried out on site. Deliberate underdosing, counterfeit drugs, but also stability problems due to a cold chain not being maintained can have a negative effect on the quality of the product. In addition to the standard analysis established at IUTA and by monitoring authorities, fast and easy-to-use on-site analysis methods are therefore required. IUTA uses spectroscopic methods such as Raman spectroscopy, which can be coupled both online and offline with liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.