”Polymer synthesis“ forms the basis for our further development of classic polymers such as polyurethanes, polyesters and polyamides, with the aim of improving their functionalities, performance and range of application. Our research focuses on increased sustainability – for example plastics made from bio-based raw materials or the complete recycling of used plastics - and the synthesis of additives such as flame retardants, sustainable plasticizer systems or compatibilizers for new plastic compounds. Modern flame retardant systems no longer require halogen-containing components. Recent polymer developments aim to combine thermoplastic and thermoset functionalities for use in high-strength bonding, self-healing systems or in the manufacture of plastic actuators.
The research group for ”material development and compounding technologies“ develops new compounding processes and material formulations. Particularly important topics include extractive compounding processes to reduce emissions, the removal of impurities to facilitate recycling, and innovative reactive extrusion for polymer synthesis or polymer modification in twin-screw extruders. Innovative materials are produced using modern processing technology, for example in the field of biobased or nano-functionalized polymer compounds for high-quality injection molding materials and for additive manufacturing processes.
In the thematic field of ”foam technologies“ we work on particle foam technology and the manufacture of foamed semi-finished products in the direct foaming process. Besides the optimization of conventional materials, we are concerned with the foaming of biobased and technical polymers that are more resistant to increased temperatures. New sintering technologies, such as radio frequency technology, are opening up completely new areas of application, for example by enabling the production of particle foam components from materials that could not previously be sintered. The development of autoclave technology for the production of particle foam materials increases the range of materials that can be processed.
The research group for ”injection and compression molding“ focuses on standard and specialized processes in the injection molding and flow compression molding of (fiber composite) materials. The integration of local, wound or tapelaid fiber composite structures along the load path in injection molded components significantly improves the mechanical properties between load application points. Our newly installed, cutting-edge SMC line opens up new possibilities in the production of SMC semi-finished products.
The industrialization of process chains for the production of highly resilient, continuousfiber-reinforced lightweight structures is our main research topic in the area of ”structural composites“. The core technologies involved are resin transfer molding, wet compression molding, thermoplastic tape laying and pultrusion. The placement of textile and pre-impregnated semi-finished products to produce preforms, their handling and combination with polymer foams and metallic structures and subsequent resin infusion or shaping are important steps within the processing chains.
In the field of ”microwave and plasma technology“ we develop customized equipment, measurement technology and methods for thermal processing and coating. Applications include microwave-based heating of polymers, accelerated curing of adhesives and resin systems, microwave-assisted chemical reaction technology and coating or modification of surfaces in the plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition process. A particular focus is on corrosion-resistant layers and nanoporous adhesive layers. Our investment in a plasma system operating at atmospheric pressure enables the integration of selected coating processes into existing industrial process chains.
Our team for ”material characterization and failure analysis“ carries out comprehensive investigations into polymer materials along the entire processing chain, from the raw material through to the component. In the event of damage or failure, we offer systematic analysis of the causes of the damage and the influences leading to failure, using analytical and technological measurement methods. In addition to the standardized testing of standard materials, we can also test fiber composites and polymer rigid foams, and can characterize polymer compounds with regard to their acoustic damping behavior.
In the field of ”online process monitoring“, spectral and microwave-based measurement methods are developed for process-integrated material monitoring and for process control. Our projects in the context of Industry 4.0 build on our significant experience in the process integration of sensors and processspecific know-how in the evaluation of the raw data obtained. The application and integration of big data and AI algorithms enables the quicker stabilization of immature processes.
In the area of ”recycling and waste management“ we develop processes and technologies for the material recycling of polymers, aiming for a complete reintroduction into high-quality applications. The focus is on technologies for the recycling of composite materials (GFRP, CFRP). Depending on their application, some thermoplastics in the consumer sector have to undergo an extraction process before they can be reused, in order to remove associated components such as flame retardants, colorants or other additives. In the case of thermoset polymer systems, a different recycling concept is followed. This involves chemical, solvolytic cleavage into components that can be very specifically repolymerized to form plastics in this system class. As an example, aircraft seats containing polyurethane foam were processed, the separated polyurethane was depolymerized and, after purification of the resulting decomposition products, a targeted synthesis of new seat foams with intrinsic flame retardancy was carried out. An accompanying life-cycle assessment quantified the sustainability of these systems according to various impact categories.