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Fraunhofer USA Turns 15

Photonics.com
Oct 2009
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 21, 2009 – Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest institution for applied research, is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its subsidiary, Fraunhofer USA, on Oct. 22.

Today six Fraunhofer centers are closely cooperating with top universities in the US to engineer solutions in the energy, health, coatings, laser, manufacturing, software and entertainment industries.

“Can a German organization for applied research be successful in the world’s leading economic and scientific market? Fifteen years ago when Fraunhofer USA was founded, we could not be sure. But now we know the answer: Yes, we can,” said professor Hans-Jörg Bulliger, president of Fraunhofer.

Meanwhile, Fraunhofer USA’s six centers collectively generated $30 million in sales last year alone and has grown into an institution with almost 200 employees. The centers collaborate with a number of American research institutions and elite universities, including MIT and Johns Hopkins University.

Together with their contractual industry partners, they jointly engineer new production techniques, medications and software designs, standing at the gateway between university-based research and commerce-based practices, said the institute.

“Our growth has been possible because our partnering Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany recognize the value of our insights into emerging high-tech markets and the quick path to those markets that result from our collaborations,” explained Dr. William Hartman, Fraunhofer USA’s executive vice president. “We are proud to be a partner in facilitating important international exchange in both applied research and education.”

Powerful Software Analysis Tool: Brainchild of an Excellent Cooperation

“Defective software can become a costly matter,” said professor Rance Cleaveland, director of the Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering CESE. “While testing NASA communications software, we determined that the transmission of image data from Mercury to the control center on Earth would need a third more time than expected, because data was unnecessarily retransmitted under certain circumstances. Had this problem not been detected, then the costs of transmissions would have skyrocketed by thousands of dollars.”

Error detection became possible through SAVE, the acronym for Software Architecture Visualization and Evaluation. SAVE was developed by a German-American research team: Researchers at Fraunhofer USA are working together with experts from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, as well as with colleagues at the German parent entity, the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE.

“SAVE also displays the software structure of complex programs in an easy-to-read way. That’s important when you want to systematically analyze programs and track errors that could lead to unexpected and undesirable conditions,” said Cleaveland.

CESE and IESE meanwhile submitted a joint application to patent the new analysis method of SAVE. The advantages of this software are already delivering profitable benefits to NASA, to the US-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which analyzes the reliability of medical technology, and to the industry partners of the German institute.

Diamonds: Transatlantic Collaboration Ensures Success

The diamond has long been the symbol for fidelity and stability. The gem also plays a critical role in the long-standing collaboration between Fraunhofer researchers in Germany and in the US, where the use of diamonds pertains less to symbolism and more to practical matters.

Diamonds are a coveted and precious commodity, which is why scientists and engineers for years now have been seeking methods to produce them affordably. Professor Jes Asmussen’s research group at Michigan State University has been developing diamond technology since the 1980s. The group developed plasma machines and processes to efficiently make diamonds from methane and hydrogen gases using chemical vapor deposition. The success of the group caught the attention of the engineers at the Fraunhofer Center for Coatings and Laser Applications. Subsequently, both institutions joined together as teams and continued to advance this method.

“It was often the technical details that determined success or failure,” Thomas Schuelke of CCL explained. “During the synthesis process, the pressure and temperature conditions have to be set and adjusted with absolute precision. We studied these parameters and then started to automate the manufacturing process. Ultimately, a new kind of production machine that meets industry standards emerged. It can finish diamond monocrystals for the jewelry business and for the electronics industry.”

This machine technology has become commercially available since then: industry partner Lamda Technologies builds and distributes the diamond production machines in the US and world markets.

“Our work indicates that the Fraunhofer model – the research at the interface between basic principles and industrial applications – has again proven its value in the USA,” added Schuelke.

Together with his work group, which includes a growing membership of German graduate students who come to the US for six months to familiarize themselves with the country, people and work ethic, Schuelke is working assiduously on the next generation of machines and processes for diamond harvesting on a mass scale. They would like to enable industry to simultaneously produce several diamonds of more than one cubic centimeter in size.

“We have to consider several technical details at this stage. We need to increase operating pressures and modify the synthesis process accordingly,” explained Schuelke. “The atmospheric pressure plasma technology also holds much promise. Here’s where our colleagues’ experience at the German parent institute comes into play, and it is extremely useful to us. We are in constant contact with the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden.”

For more information, visit: http://www.fraunhofer.org/  






GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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