Mechanical and Process Engineering

The Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering (MBVT) comprises the teaching units of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering, in which a total of 31 professors represent a diverse range of subjects in teaching and research. The internal institutes work closely with those affiliated with the UDE: 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). This direct collaboration promotes and underscores the applied nature of engineering research.

Research Highlights

In the spring of 2018, the Institute of Mechanical Process Engineering/Water Technology (MVT/WT) succeeded in collaboration with other partners from the Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU) at the UDE in securing 8.8 million € in funding under the “NRW Research Infrastructures” competition for construction of the FutureWaterCampus (FWC). The new research building will bring together water experts from diverse research institutions in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) with practitioners in the field. One of the three research priorities in the FWC will be membrane technology, which is represented by Professors Stefan Panglisch and Mathias Ulbricht (Faculty of Chemistry). The NRW Science Ministry has also announced that it will continue to fund the “Future Water” research group, which is coordinated by the ZWU. From 2019, this graduate research group will be receiving 2.2 million € for a further three-and-a-half years. In it, twelve doctoral researchers are working on subjects such as wastewater disposal, water renaturation, and more accurate testing methods for identifying pathogens. Other partners from industry, associations and academia, including Ruhr University Bochum (RUB), are taking part in the group alongside MVT/WT.

Since 2015, the FOR 2284 Research Unit (spokesperson: Prof. Christof Schulz, Institute of Reactive Fluids) has been working on the targeted depiction of complex nanoparticles in the gas phase. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the second stage of the Research Unit for a further three years from 2018. Nine of its projects are based in the MBVT and Electrical Engineering departments and at the UDE-affiliated institute IUTA. Three international researchers are also involved in the Unit’s work. They are Profs. Igor Rahinov (Open University of Israel), Stephen Tse (Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA), and Kyle Daun (Waterloo University, Ontario/Canada). They will spend several months in Duisburg as Mercator Fellows.

The DFG has also been funding Priority Programme SPP 1980 “Nano Particle Synthesis in Spray Flames, SpraySyn: Measurement, Simulation, Processes” with a total of 8.5 million € since 2017. The spokesperson is Prof. Christof Schulz from Reactive Fluids. The Faculty of Engineering is involved in six of the 16 funded subprojects. In September 2018, the Priority Programme and Research Unit 2284 together hosted the “3rd Symposium on Gas-Phase Synthesis of Nanomaterials”, which was attended by around 100 international delegates. Reactive Fluids is also participating in the newly established Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio (CRC/TRR) 247 “Heterogeneous Oxidation Catalysis in the Liquid Phase” with a project on the targeted spray flame synthesis of perovskites and spinels.

DFG Research Unit 1993 on “Multi-functional Conversion of Chemical Species and Energy” (spokesperson: Prof. Burak Atakan, Institute of Thermodynamics), which is exploring the use of combustion engines as chemical reactors to produce bulk chemicals, is successfully continuing its work in a second phase. It has been able to show in experiments that syngas can be produced in an engine from methane with additives and the process is more thermodynamically efficient than other methods. Thermoeconomic analyses additionally showed that these processes are also economically competitive.

One of the research priorities of the Institute of Dynamics and Control is experimental modelling and control of stress dynamics in plants. This interdisciplinary research takes place at the intersection between control engineering, plant physiology and agricultural science. It is directed towards gaining an understanding of the system dynamics of the processes and thereby improving the sustainability of farming methods and towards smart farming applications. Several publications have appeared in ecology modelling and plant sciences. In 2018, a doctoral dissertation in the Institute was honoured at a leading convention in the field (see “Awards and Distinctions” section).

Since the beginning of 2018, the Institute of Mechatronics has been working with the Institute of Construction Operations and Construction Industry (Department of Civil Engineering) and their partners Duisburger Hafen AG and RWE Supply & Trading on the “LeanDeR” project to establish a multimodal infrastructure for liquid gas (LNG). The project is developing an integrated and sustainable LNG logistics concept over several planning stages, which will be tested and evaluated under practical conditions in pilot operation at the port of Duisburg. The project is receiving 740,000 € in funding from the European Regional Development Fund (EFRE/ERDF).

The Institute of Mechatronics, Chair of General Business Administration (ABWL) & International Automotive Management, General Psychology: Cognition (INKO) and the companies Ford Werke, HEAD acoustics and Allround Team are similarly working on a collaborative basis in the ALFASY project, which deals with “age-appropriate driver assistance systems” for the growing group of older drivers. These systems must meet specific technological, safety, comfort and design requirements and are one step on the long road to self-driving cars. In the project, the Institute of Mechatronics is exploring acceptance and willingness to pay for such assistance systems, which will be used as a basis for developing corresponding business models. The project is being funded from 2017 to 2020 as part of the MobilitätLogistik.NRW competition.

Future energy supply will be exposed to much greater electricity generation fluctuations than it is today. The Institute of Environmental Process Engineering and Plant Design is therefore working in the FLEXI-TES project on making power generating plants more flexible with thermal energy storage. Its aims are to cut the minimum load, enable steep transients and optimise startup and shutdown. The studies at the UDE include the development of integration concepts for thermal energy storage and dynamic simulations of the entire power conversion process. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), with VGB PowerTech e.V., the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and several German and international electricity providers partnering the Institute.

Awards and Distinctions

Prof. Kécskeméthy (Institute of Mechanics and Robotics) was awarded an honorary doctorate by Riga Technical University (RTU) in 2018 for his interdisciplinary scientific research in robotics and mechatronics and for his contributions to promoting cooperation between the RTU and German universities and companies.

The doctoral dissertation of Friederike Kögler (Institute of Dynamics and Control) was honoured with the Ernst Klapp Future Award for “outstanding scientific quality” and for its “significance to current research in crop science” in September 2018 at the annual meeting of the German Society for Agronomy (GPW).

A number of conference papers from the Institute of Mechatronics received distinctions. Niko Maas and co-authors won the Best Paper Award at the “International Conference on Life System Modeling and Simulation 2017” in Nanjing, China, for their contribution. A paper by Muhamad Fauzi Othman and co-authors on cable-driven robots was recognised in the relevant category at the 7th International Conference on Multidisciplinary Research (ICMR) on Sciences and Engineering 2017 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

The Kurt Bartsch Prize of the Schiffsbautechnische Gesellschaft e.V. (German Society for Maritime Technology) went in both years covered by the report to newly graduated postdocs from the Institute of Ship Technology, Ocean Engineering and Transport Systems (ISMT) for their dissertations. The 2017 recipient was Jan Oberhagemann and in 2018 Jens Neugebauer. Together with his co-authors from the ISTMT, Jens Neugebauer was also honoured in 2017 at two conferences of the International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers (ISOPE) for his work on liquid sloshing in maritime transport.

VGB PowerTech e.V., an international association of companies from the electricity and heating industry, awarded its 2017 innovation prize to Tobias Vogel from the Institute of Environmental Process Engineering and Plant Technology for his dissertation.

Cooperation and International News

The Department is naturally involved in extensive and intense international collaboration. Virtually each of its Institutes conducts research with international partners, for example in EU-funded projects. The Mercator Fellows of the newly established FOR 2284 have already been mentioned above, and FOR 1993 has also been successful in securing three highly respected researchers to take part as Mercator Fellows. They are Professors Eric Peterson (Texas A&M University, USA), Sergey Cheskis (Tel Aviv University, Israel) and Ali Güngör (Ege University, Turkey). The real focus of this section, however, is not on projects but on conferences organised by the Department and on student exchange.

The Institutes within the Department are very active in their scientific communities and organise important conferences. The Institute of Mechatronics, for example, was a co-organiser of the “Third International Conference on Cable-Driven Parallel Robots” (CableCon2017) in August 2017 in Quebec City, Canada. The next event in this series, CableCon2019, will be held in June 2019 in Cracow and again co-organised by Mechatronics. In December 2017, it and Chinese partners also organised the “Sino-German Symposium on Optimization and Control of Smart Cars in IoT” at Shanghai University. The event was funded by the Sino-German Science Center and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

In 2018, the Chair of ABWL & International Automotive Management organised its tenth “Wissenschaftsforum Mobilität” (Scientific Forum for Mobility) at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Last year it was attended by 250 delegates from science, business and politics. The CAR symposium, which is hosted every year by the Faculty’s CAR Institute at the RuhrCongress Bochum and attracts more than 1,200 attendees, has also been held at alternating intervals in Beijing and Shanghai.

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), Anna University Chennai and the UDE have a long history of partnership, the focus of which has mainly been on student exchange. This applied in 2018 to six Bachelor’s students from Anna University, who visited the UDE as part of the DAAD-funded WISE project, and four Bachelor’s students in Industrial Engineering and one Master’s student in Technical Logistics, who spent a semester abroad at IITM. In the spring of 2018, the second “International Doctoral Colloquium” was held at IITM in Chennai and attended by doctoral students and professors from Anna University, IITM, the UDE and the University of Passau.

Future Prospects

The Department has prepared for a reorganisation of the materials-related areas of its work. As part of this process, an internationally visible centre of excellence for metallurgy and materials is to be established in Duisburg’s Ruhrort district and will contribute to metallurgy, casting technology and materials research and development from laboratory to pilot scale becoming another unique selling point within the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr) “Materials Chain” Flagship Program.

The Institute of Ship Technology, Ocean Engineering and Transport Systems (ISMT) is working with the affiliated institute DST and the Institute of Mechatronics to establish a testing ground for automated inland waterway vessels. The federal and regional governments have indicated that they will be putting up extensive funding for this project. Nationally and internationally coordinated projects, including with partners in the Netherlands and Hungary, are also planned. Cooperation began with the Institutes of Materials Science and Reactive Fluids on the effect of cavitation on component surfaces, which has already produced conference papers and publications. Several proposals for the DFG are in preparation in this fascinating and highly interdisciplinary research field.

The newly founded interdepartmental CAR Institute will be entering into strategic cooperation with other universities and research institutes in areas such as battery materials and will be introducing and collaborating on research initiatives.

The UDE is planning a research, education and training centre in conjunction with Siemens AG for ultra-efficient turbomachinery, which will be the only one of its kind in the world. Turbomachinery is essential to the energy transition, as well as being one of the products for which Germany has unique selling points as a business location. The planned “Center of Rotating Equipment” (CoRE) will contribute significantly to research and education in the field and be a central component of a new part-time Master’s degree programme in energy transformation.

The Department is also stepping up its cooperation with the Medical Faculty. For example, a proposal has been submitted for “RehaBoard – computer assistance system for interdisciplinary treatment planning for gait disorders following stroke”, a collaborative “lead market project” between the University Hospitals of Essen and Düsseldorf, Fachklinik Rhein-Ruhr Mediclin Essen, Hochschule für Gesundheit Bochum, the UDE and ITBB GmbH, with a funding volume of 1.7 million €.

A new research profile has also been defined with the newly created professorship for Structural Dynamics. Examples of systems in this area are extruders, condensers, wind turbines, active vibration damping in buildings, ship oscillations, wave-induced oscillations of offshore structures, optimised vibroacoustics in vehicles, new drive concepts and low-vibration artificial limbs.

The Universities of Dortmund, Bochum and Duisburg-Essen benefit from the University Alliance Ruhr not only in research but also and especially in teaching. The Department will be working with the mechanical engineering faculties at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and TU Dortmund University (TUD) to develop joint strategies for even closer collaboration. The three partners are in regular contact and have already successfully applied for funding through Stiftung Mercator.