The Senate of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) approved the establishment of seven DLR institutes in its meeting on 28 June 2017. DLR was tasked with building new institutes by a resolution of the Budgetary Committee of the Deutscher Bundestag in November 2016. Since then, the scientific concepts for these institutes have been assessed by international reviewers and representatives of the industrial sector and independent science institutions. This decision by the Senate as external committee has now given DLR the green light to begin research activities at the institutes themselves. The German government has awarded DLR 42 million euro in annual funding to complete this task. The German states hosting the institutes will contribute a total of five million euro to the annual funding as well.
Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, said: "The new institutes will enable DLR to contribute solutions to the digitalisation of industrial processes, energy supply and smart mobility, and to develop technologies of high commercial relevance. We are happy that DLR is rapidly addressing the establishment of these new institutes and will hence support the Federal Government's policies in these important and promising fields."
Contributing to the national industry sector and societal challenges
"With these new institutes, DLR will be in a better position to address the entire research chain – from fundamental research and the development of individual components and technology, to complete system design," said Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. "They will therefore make essential contributions to Germany's industrial sector and societal challenges with regard to digitalisation, mobility, logistics and energy supply. As such, they are also key factors in the implementation of DLR's overall strategy."
The reviewers confirmed that all of the activities planned at the new DLR institutes address long-term research needs and that they harmonise very well with the current DLR research portfolio. Moreover, they believe that the scientific, economic and industrial communities will each provide strong support. The new institutes are expected to contribute to the new cross-sectoral area of digitalisation as well, which DLR has incorporated into its new strategy. Moreover, they will promote interdisciplinary work and hence lead to further synergy between the research areas of aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security, as well as foster new collaborations within the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The DLR Scientific-Technical Advisory Council (Wissenschaftlich-Technischen Rat; WTR) will accompany the process of establishing the institutes. In addition, the Head Office of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres took charge of the implementation and organisation of the scientific assessments.
Following their foundation on 28 June 2017, the new DLR institutes will be opened in the coming months. With regard to the Hamburg-based institutes, the DLR Senate concurred with the assessment of the reviewers and will – contrary to the foundation concept – establish two institutes. The funding earmarked for the institute in Hamburg will now be divided among the two new institutes. With these newly founded institutes, DLR is now present in nine German states.
Short profile of the DLR institutes that will be established in the coming months:
Institute of Test and Simulation for Gas Turbines
In future, aircraft will need to be quieter, become more fuel-efficient and emit less exhaust gases. New engine technologies play a key role in the achievement of European aviation targets – as described in FlightPath 2050 and elsewhere. The Institute of Test and Simulation for Gas Turbines works on the further development of engines, coupling numerical and experimental methods and establishing a digital 'Virtual Engine' platform. An innovative test rig will enable hitherto unseen analysis of the effects of concomitant mechanical, thermal and chemical loads on new materials and components, thus providing fresh insight into the viability of new structures and manufacturing processes. Innovative test and calculation methods will enable more precise quantification, validation and improvement of the lifespan and reliability of engine components and materials exposed to high stress.
Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures
Port facilities, shipping vessels, trade routes and offshore wind farms are important infrastructures, whose security must be guaranteed at all times, even though they are located far from security forces that could intervene in case of emergency. The Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures will develop security technologies to provide precise analyses of the risks to which offshore facilities are exposed and to develop suitable security concepts on this basis. It will therefore optimise a variety of sensors, for instance land and sea-supported camera systems, for these applications. In future, data from numerous spatially distributed systems will be merged to compile a situation image that provides real-time information on risks and anomalies. Moreover, the scientists will work on the system resilience to ensure they can be restored to their initial state in the event of external or internal disturbances. In doing so, the Institute addresses important national and international challenges within maritime security.
Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualisation
Significant, cost-intensive development work and laborious testing are required before an aircraft can take off. Although precise numerical simulations of aviation settings are already well-established, actual tests are required, especially in the area of certification. A virtual aircraft that behaves precisely like an actual one in reality should help make these processes quicker, more cost-effective and, above all, safer. The Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualisation is working on a foundation of technical software for the creation of a virtual aircraft. Experts will collaborate closely with other DLR aviation institutes, conducting simulations on high-performance computers and developing multidisciplinary software platforms that can be used to comprehensively analyse and optimise the virtual aircraft. Moreover, they will also investigate new approaches and methods to analyse and manage large volumes of data and for simulation-based certification, thus significantly reducing development and authorisation costs for new products and benefiting the transportat sector as well as other branches of industry.
Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics
The aviation 'system' comprises many different areas that need to be coordinated precisely. For instance, the complex field includes the air transportation system as a whole, the individual aircraft and the production of sub-components. The Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics researches the interactions between the individual system levels. One of its goals is to ensure the safe and efficient integration of technologies from automation, digital production processes and new aircraft energy systems. The research will focus on connecting virtual product design with digital production (Industry 4.0) and on developing new solutions for the aircraft fuselage and cabin.
Institute of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul
An aircraft will experience numerous maintenance processes over the course of its life. Although important for operational safety, an aircraft is not available for ordinary flight operations when undergoing these elaborate and regular procedures. The research conducted by the Institute of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul in Hamburg will, for the first time, address the entire maintenance process – from analysis and monitoring of a structure, to the derivation of mitigative measures and their implementation. For this, innovative technologies such as augmented reality and 3D printing, are investigated in particular. The researchers will build a digital model for each aircraft that will age just like its real counterpart, undergoing the same maintenance measures and modifications. This digital twin will permanently support the efficient and predictive operation of its real counterpart. The scientists will also maintain an application centre to test the deployment of new technologies for data integration and visualisation, as well as to integrate individual process steps such as monitoring and repairs.
Institute of Data Science
The volume and diversity of scientific data – be it from Earth observation, climate or transportation research – is expanding, and not in a linear fashion, but rather exponentially. To ensure that researchers can optimally analyse the data, it needs to be stored and compiled purposefully. The Institute of Data Science will explore solutions for the management, processing and analysis of scientific information from all areas of DLR’s research. The researchers will build databases and data structures that make it possible for complex information to be quickly accessible and linked together meaningfully. In addition, the research will focus on areas of IT security, Industry 4.0, Citizen Science and the Internet of Things, in which information is automatically logged, linked and made available to networks.
Institute of Networked Energy Systems
The Oldenburg research centre previously known as 'NEXT ENERGY' will be integrated into DLR and re-strategised as the Institute of Networked Energy Systems. The Institute will complement and expand energy research at DLR. In future, the Institute will focus on developing system-oriented technologies and concepts for sustainable energy supply. This new approach aims to ensure a stable and efficient energy system, despite the weather-dependence of renewable energies and the increasingly decentralised structures. Comprising the departments of urban and building technologies, energy system technology and energy system analysis, the Institute will also address system-oriented issues for smart and efficient cross-sectoral approaches in the areas of electricity, heat and transportation. It will explore levels extending from stand-alone systems and smart buildings, through to connected residential districts and cities. The new research portfolio will also include topics relating to grid modelling and grid technologies. The Institute will cooperate closely with the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics in the area of energy systems analysis.