Karlsruher Institute for Technology: Hannover Messe 2021: Bionic surfaces, flexible production and the smallest transistor in the world

A plant-inspired anti-reflective film, a flexible production system for individualized products and a digital assembly assistant. The smallest transistor in the world and climate-neutral synthetic fuels. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) will present these and other research and innovation topics at the Hannover Messe 2021. At the digital event from April 12 to 16, KIT will present selected highlights at the virtual booths “Future Hub” and “Energy Solutions”. The two live streams provide an overview on April 13, 2021 from 11:00 am to 11:25 am for the “Future Hub” and on April 14 from 10:30 am to 10:55 am for the “Energy Solutions”.

Videos, photos and further information on all KIT exhibits at the Hannover Messe 2021 in the digital press kit: www.sek.kit.edu/hannovermesse2021

“Whether with megatrends such as digitization or the switch to climate-friendly production – the world of industry is in a state of upheaval. At this year’s Hannover Messe, we will be presenting developments with which we can actively help shape this change, ”says the President of KIT, Professor Holger Hanselka. “At two virtual booths, we are presenting technologies, processes and projects that all make one thing clear: a resilient and innovative industry thrives on the pioneering work of researchers – and this is where we make a decisive contribution.”

At the start of the Hannover Messe 2021, Professor Holger Hanselka, together with Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek and other participants from politics and business, will discuss the topic of “Circular Economy – From the Idea for implementation ”to be on the podium.

Whether car equipment or sports shoes – producing individually designed high-quality industrial and consumer goods in small quantities economically and competitively requires flexible manufacturing processes. The value stream kinematics make it possible to combine the high productivity and accuracy of special machines with the flexibility and adaptability of industrial robots. This innovative production system focuses on the mapping of entire production flows using uniform standard kinematics that can be freely positioned in space and coupled if necessary for greater rigidity and accuracy. This makes them suitable for a wide range of process tasks, from handling to machining and assembly, for example, to quality assurance.

Nature often has the best ideas. In the course of evolution, many plants and animals have developed nano and micro-structured surfaces with fascinating properties. Bionics imitates them and makes them technically usable: Based on the model of the white beetle Cyphochilus insulanus, a nanostructured polymer film forms a brilliant white coating for various products. A nano fur inspired by aquatic plants with specially arranged structures on a plastic film separates oil and water effectively and makes it possible to remove oil spills on bodies of water quickly and in an environmentally friendly manner.

This innovation is also inspired by nature: the spin-off from KIT Phytonics presents an anti-reflective film that creates the velvety matt color impression of flower petals on surfaces. On photographs, display boards, pieces of furniture, packaging, facades and solar modules, the film can almost completely suppress reflection for all wavelengths and angles of incidence of light. With solar modules, this leads to an increase in yield of up to ten percent. The film produced in the roll-to-roll process is inexpensive, mechanically flexible and resistant to environmental influences.

Machine tools have to be serviced regularly, defective components have to be replaced in good time. An intelligent camera system for quantifying surface defects on ball screws, such as those used in lathes for precision guidance in the manufacture of cylindrical components, allows image-based, direct monitoring of the spindle surface. It consists of a camera system with lighting attached to the ball screw nut, combined with a machine learning model trained on image data.

The start-up Kimoknow, which emerged from the KIT, has developed a technology with which machine vision becomes more accessible for everyone, especially where it was previously not economical. For example, the digital assembly assistant “KIMO” enables more efficient collaboration between man and machine. Using AR glasses and object recognition, he supports specialists in the assembly of complex devices, makes the process more efficient and increases the quality of the products. To train the system to recognize objects in a time-saving and cost-saving manner, Kimoknow uses image data from computer-aided development processes (CAD) and from Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). The effort is thus considerably reduced and enables far more diverse applications than before.

reFuels aims to be able to refuel all vehicles with regenerative fuels in order to quickly provide a supplementary solution for CO2-neutral mobility. It deals with the composition, production and use of regenerative fuels and uses innovative infrastructures for this purpose: A facility already exists at KIT for the bioliq® process, with which high-quality fuels can be produced from biogenic raw and residual materials, for example straw , which supplies gasoline. The worldwide unique Energy Lab 2.0 at KIT combines the most modern technologies for the generation and use of electrical, thermal and chemical energy such as gas turbines, power-to-methane and water electrolysis; it also produces different fuel components.


Whether in data centers, PCs, smartphones or embedded systems for various applications from household to medical technology – the central element of digital data processing is the transistor. The smallest transistor in the world switches electricity via the controlled reversible movement of a single atom. This quantum electronic element enables switching energies that are 10,000 times lower than those of conventional silicon technologies. The single-atom transistor works at room temperature. It works in a gel electrolyte that combines the advantages of a solid with the electrochemical properties of a liquid. With this tiny transistor as a functional element, the energy efficiency of digital data processing could be increased enormously.


From the charger for the smartphone to the charging station for the electric car: Switching power supplies are ubiquitous in the power supply of electrical devices. Thanks to their precise and flexible control, the newly developed digital power supply units are particularly suitable for industrial applications with high dynamic requirements. A new modulation method for the digital and highly dynamic control of power supply units allows the use of film capacitors with only slightly increased installation space. The longevity of the film capacitors reduces the failure rate of the switched-mode power supply units and thus increases the service life of the end devices. The power supply units can be integrated into the Internet of Things for remote maintenance or remote diagnosis via an online monitor. Digital power supplies are thus promoting Industry 4.0.


With the software developed by the start-up greenventory, energy supply and climate protection concepts, for example for production sites, dealer networks or districts, can be created much faster and of higher quality than before. The software offers companies and cities the spatially and temporally high-resolution database required for forward planning. This contains all energy-relevant building parameters and includes the network infrastructure as well as potential for wind power and photovoltaic systems. In a holistic system analysis, the software looks at heat, electricity and mobility together. With greenventory, the latest energy industry findings reach users directly.


At the virtual booth of Siemens AG, KIT is presenting a new solution for battery production: With the Coil2Stack process, battery cell stacks can be produced efficiently, precisely and flexibly. A newly designed production system with movable axes conveys, cuts and handles electrode and separator sheets of variable widths and lengths and stacks them precisely and without damage. The procedure accelerates the production process and makes the production line independent of formats. Coil2Stack also allows stepped cell stacks, which makes integration into products – for example notebooks – much easier.


Ready for entry into electromobility: The wbk Institute for Production Technology at KIT is presenting the three research projects SmartBatteryMaker, Fit4E and the Stator Production Training Factory of the Electromobility Transformation Hub in the Baden-Württemberg pavilion. These combine flexible solution approaches and needs-based training models in order to enable mechanical and plant engineering companies in particular to successfully make the transition to battery, fuel cell and electric motor production.


As “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment. The aim is to make significant contributions to global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. To this end, around 9,600 employees work together on a broad disciplinary basis in the natural, engineering, economic, humanities and social sciences. The KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, economy and science through a research-oriented university course. The innovation activity at KIT bridges the gap between knowledge and application for social benefit, economic prosperity and the preservation of our natural foundations of life.

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