Research News /

Exemplary civic participation in large-scale projects +++ Mobile high-tech measuring instrument determines particulate emissions +++ Instrument handle with built-in electronics makes surgery easier

Exemplary civic participation in large-scale projects

The days when big infrastructure projects were planned over citizens’ heads are well and truly over, especially since the controversy surrounding the Stuttgart 21 rail project. However, a blueprint has so far been lacking for an efficient process that allows citizens to have a say in and shape projects. The “Schwäbisch Gmünd Tunnel Dialog” project has now shown what such a process might look like. Under the guidance of the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT, a dispute that had been smoldering for several years was resolved in just six months.

The nub of the dispute concerned the installation of a dust and exhaust filter in the 2.2 kilometer long Einhorn Tunnel, which is designed to relieve road traffic in Schwäbisch Gmünd and is currently under construction. Representatives from campaign groups, government authorities, and the local companies involved in the project met up with the evaluator team a total of four times to discuss the issues. In the end, there was a high level of participation and a clear result: a filter is not required. Instead, other ways of improving air quality were identified. The test case, which was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, was unique in its depth and complexity. UMSICHT carried out detailed evaluations of the available filter technologies, including a life cycle assessment. The researchers also investigated the market potential of tunnel filters as well as the economic effects on Schwäbisch Gmünd of installing and not installing a filter.

Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT
Osterfelder Str. 3 | 46047 Oberhausen |
Contact: Dr.-Ing. Esther Stahl | Phone +49 208 8598-1158 |
Press: Iris Kumpmann | Phone +49 208 8598-1200 |


Mobile high-tech measuring instrument determines particulate emissions

Demand for wood-burning stoves has been booming for several years now. However, burning biomass such as wooden pellets, logs, and briquettes releases particulates that are damaging to people’s health. As a consequence, new particulate emission limits for freestanding fireplaces came into force in March 2010. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM in Hannover in collaboration with Vereta GmbH and the Institute of Particle Technology at Clausthal University of Technology have developed a handy system which measures particulate emissions exactly. The particulate measurement kit including measuring rod is the first mobile equipment to carry out measurements directly in the flue pipe and display and document measurement values during operation. Following a two-year trial phase in the field with chimney sweeps, the system passed the German Technical Inspection Association test in accordance with DIN 4206, thereby fulfilling the legal requirements laid down in the German Federal Immission Protection Ordinance (Bundesimmissionsschutzverordnung). To measure the concentration of particulates, the technician merely has to insert the sampling probe or measuring rod into the flue pipe. The probe draws off some of the flue gases, which are diluted with pre-treated air at the tip of the probe and then cooled in a conditioning unit. The flue gases are then fed through two optoelectronic sensors which use different measuring techniques: the aerosol light-scattering photometry method devised by the ITEM, and the aerosol photoemission method developed by Clausthal University of Technology. An algorithm combines the electrical signals from both these sensors to produce a definitive reading. The kit weighs 14 kilograms and is operational in less than three minutes.

Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM
Nikolai-Fuchs-Straße 1 | 30625 Hannover |
Contact: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Koch | Phone +49 511 5350-117 |
Press: Karola Neubert | Phone +49 511 5350-413 |


Instrument handle with built-in electronics makes surgery easier

Surgeons have to operate with the utmost precision, and manipulating surgical instruments requires acute sensitivity. Now a new vulcanized handle, which can be fitted to surgical tools such as screwdrivers and retractors, has been designed to help surgeons during operations. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart have developed the device in cooperation with the surgical instrument specialist Weber Instrumente GmbH & Co. KG. Thanks to integrated electronic components, surgeons receive feedback during operations as to whether they can insert the instrument any further. When a surgeon tightens a screw, for example, sensors measure the amount of force expended. LEDs indicate by means of an optical signal when the optimum torque has been reached. The energy required is supplied and stored via an inductive charging method. Young, less experienced surgeons stand to gain the most from this technology.

The entire electronics including sensors, evaluation technology, and LEDs is cast inside the handle. This means there is no gap in which germs could settle. Another special feature is that the instrument handle can be sterilized at 134 degrees Celsius. As the electronics is switched off during the sterilization process, it comes through the high temperatures unscathed. The researchers also want to expand the system to include a wireless interface for transmitting the sensor data to a PC, permitting the operation to be documented in detail. A first prototype will be presented at the MEDTEC trade show in Stuttgart from February 26 to 28 (Hall 3, Booth B04).

Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA
Nobelstraße 12 | 70569 Stuttgart |
Contact: Dipl.-Ing. Christof Giers | Phone +49 711 970-3635 |