Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize 2019

Saving energy in the production of chemicals

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Dr. Michael Bortz (left) and Prof. Karl-Heinz Küfer of the Fraunhofer ITWM

©  Foto: Fraunhofer / Piotr Banczerowski

Winners of the Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize 2019:

PD Dr. Michael Bortz, Fraunhofer ITWM
Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Küfer, Fraunhofer ITWM


The production of chemicals consumes huge amounts of energy. In fact, it accounts for 20 percent of Europe's total commercial energy demand. Any reduction in this energy consumption would have a beneficial effect both on the environment and on the budgets of chemical companies. To achieve this goal, a team led by Dr. Michael Bortz and Professor Karl-Heinz Küfer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Indus­trial Mathematics ITWM developed a model-based toolbox. The algorithms com­bine machine learning methods with physical contexts to make the processes they model as realistic as possible. The result is that energy savings in the double-digit percent range have already been achieved in existing production plants.

The chemical giant BASF SE as well as the Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical com­pany LONZA Group AG see this as an immense benefit. At BASF SE, the toolbox is available to hundreds of chemical engineers. But it’s use is not limited to the chemical industry. It can be used to advantage wherever processes with a large number of influencing factors have to be controlled.

Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize

Since 1978, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has annually awarded prizes for outstanding scientific achievements by its employees that have system relevance and a poten­tial to directly and decisively help solve societal challenges and safeguard the future of Germany as a business location. More than 300 researchers have won the award to date. This year, four prizes are awarded, each worth 50,000 euros.