How the Fraunhofer CPM functions

What is a Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence?


A Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence facilitates cooperative development and processing of a system-related topic by means of a research structure across institutes. As regards organization, a research cluster corresponds to a “virtual institute”, spread across multiple locations. The research cluster does not aim at a temporary execution of a single project, but instead pursues a road map for long-term development of a complex technology trend.

A Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence is characterized by quick innovation and adaptation processes in the areas of acquisition, research, development, production andmanagement:

  • Strategy development and planning always have shorter interval loops and as such is only temporarily valid. Purpose driven…
  • Hierarchical orientation and silos at Fraunhofer lead to slower implementation of new topics.
  • Access to distributed resources and infrastructure. Competence bundling and synergies: interdisciplinary “creative thinking” for new solutions
  • Flexible reaction to markets and customer queries: scientific flexibility and agility for quicker market launch
  • The current form of cooperation and co-creation at Fraunhofer is often inadequate for tackling the challenges of quickly addressing and implementing interdisciplinary topics (term, financial extent...)
  • Digital transformation (e.g. of materials, manufacturing, systems) is too challenging/barely affordable for a single institute

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What is the goal of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Programmable Materials CPM?


In order to design and produce programmable materials, the cluster of excellence merges the competencies of the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM, IAP, IWU, ICT and IBP. Together, they have a complete understanding of materials and materials-based processes, from the molecular to the macroscopic scale. In conjunction with partner institutes, they develop programmable materials in two specific core topics with the focus being on transport properties and mechanical material properties, i.e. properties that normally cannot be changed in customary materials and are therefore of special interest.

The aim of the cluster is the programming of logic into materials for targeted modification or adaptation, such as the shape, optical or mechanical properties. For this, the internal structure of materials
should be understood, designed and engineered in the cluster, which takes into account the different orders of magnitude from the molecular level for the chemical and structural properties (particularly at boundaries) up to the macroscopic objects. This enables a functional component design by mastering the complex (internal) material structure and the programming of material properties.

The cluster represents the technological potential of programmable materials for different markets using function demonstrators. These include self-cleaning membrane filters for water treatment systems, materials with programmable heat transfer for energy-efficient heat management in mechanical engineering, automotive and construction industries, coupling and positioning systems that can be controlled by programmable friction and a programmable micropump and filter system for medicinal applications.

With the cluster of excellence programmable materials, the participants should bring out a manifestation of the research area of programmable materials by forming a scientific community, e.g. through joint publications and a series of conferences, which will kick off in 2020. After this the project is scheduled to go on for five years, then the cluster will be converted into an institute of sorts and established permanently.

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Who is behind this?


The research cluster of programmable materials is characterized by the five core institutes - Fraunhofer IWM, IAP, IWU, IBP and ICT. They define the contextual alignment of the cluster via the core topics - programmable transport properties and mechanical programmable materials.

The core institutes deal with the core topics in terms of the content and cover the entire value-added chain – right from the basic understanding of the mechanisms of materials (IWM, IAP, ICT) to its manufacture within both micro and macro scales (IWU, IAP, ICT, IWM) right up to the use in large-scale systems and applications (IBP, IWU, ICT).

On the one hand, partner institutes help in bringing in additional competencies and on the other hand, they must try to use programmable materials in specific market segments at a later stage (after roughly two years).

The cluster is advised by an advisory board, which critically scrutinizes the objective and further development in the international context as well as the connectivity of the cluster, and makes recommendations to the steering committee.

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Core Institutes of the Cluster