The Department of Civil Engineering investigates different aspects of the energy sector including building and materials for offshore wind farms and methods for energy storage, such as “power-to-gas” and pumped-storage hydroelectricity. In collaboration with the mining company RAG and the University Alliance Metropolis Ruhr (UAMR), the Institutes of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management and Geotechnical ­Engineering explore whether pumped-storage hydroelectric stations can be built into the regionally ubiquitous deep mining shafts from former coal mining.  
Another example of the multifunctional use of existing infrastructure is the research project “Sustainable urban culture in the metropolis Ruhr” (KuLaRuhr), which is being funded with 4.5 million euros by the BMBF. Here the Institute of Urban Water and Waste Management is examining whether it is possible to use the sewage system for heating power distribution. The scientists are also working on modern and sustainable rainwater management with real-time controlled small-scale reservoirs.
Also in waste management, researchers of the EU-funded project “Advanced Technologies for Water Resource Management” (ATWARM) aim to optimize sewage-plant technology using algae and fiber optics. Waste is also the topic of the “Biological Methane Oxidation” project. Funded by the DFG, this three-year project aims to prevent the emission of climate-damaging gases from waste dumps by covering them with a bio-layer. The “Energy-efficient recycling of biological waste” research project meanwhile sets out to raise ­recycling efficiency by combining composting with fermentation. The storage of the biogas ­produced in this process is the subject of the ­European research project “Innovative and competitive solutions using SS and adhesive bonding in biogas production” (BiogaSS) in collaboration with the Institute of Steel Construction.
The Institute of Concrete Structures Engineering works in the field of intelligent buildings and bridges and uses modern methods of information technology to develop adaptive bridges which automatically adjust to their load. By adapting natural structures, steel-reinforced concrete bearing structures can be designed in a fundamentally new way – towards innovative, light, free-form constructions with a high load-bearing capacity. This process is being successfully 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 techniques for inspection and testing of newly built asphalt layers are the subject of joint research between the Institutes of Road Construction and Transportation Engineering and Steel Construction .
As one of only three institutes worldwide, the Laboratory for Light-Weight Surface Structures develops complex materials testing and methods of optimizing fiber membranes for use in stadium constructions. The highly non-linear and anisotropic behaviour of such textile membranes is ­investigated and optimized by the Institutes of Steel Construction and Structural Analysis and Construction in a number of projects.
The Institutes of Material Science and Mechanics are meanwhile working on a completely different scale: the EU is supporting young doctoral students investigating the movement of materials on the nanometer scale through the Marie Curie Mobility Award, and around 1 million euros has been ­allocated to the Department of Civil Engineering. The kind of nanometer movements they are studying are vital for the stability of lithium-ion batteries and determine how strands of DNA link up. This research also opens up new techniques for measuring electrical currents in the brain. Macroscopically these movements are used in piezo injection systems and adaptive structures.
A similar topic – albeit on a larger scale – is investigated by the DFG Priority Programme “Ferroic functional materials” led by the Institute of Mechanics at the UDE. Here, the coupling of electromechanical and magnetomechanical ­materials is being investigated on the microscale in models and experiments. The fundamental understanding achieved in this way can then be used in the design of new materials. The Department of Civil Engineering is receiving around 1 million euros for the first phase of the project.