From an idea to the finished product
Discovering and driving innovations forward
Innovation is more than just a buzzword at FAU, with staff constantly exploring new ideas and carrying out innovative research. The list of ideas which were born at FAU and led to exciting discoveries, inventions and innovations is quite eye-opening.
The history of innovation at FAU at a glance
Nowadays, compressed audio formats are the standard solution for listening to music on the go. The most well-known of them all is mp3, which revolutionised how we listen to music in the late 1990s. The idea and the initial groundwork on the road to audio coding originated at FAU. The specific format was then developed in close collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) in Erlangen. The researchers who made a key contribution to the invention are all FAU alumni, and most of them studied electrical engineering.
Antipyrine (also known as phenazone)
Collaboration between chemistry and pharmacology reached its first high point in 1884: two FAU professors and a doctoral researcher succeeded in developing the first fully synthetic medicinal drug in Erlangen. Antipyrine was successfully tested on malaria patients in Italy, and replaced quinine as the most popular painkiller and antipyretic in the following years.
The beginnings of market research
A stylish (and expensive) new mobile phone is not only an excellent communication device, it is also a status symbol. Market researchers differentiate in cases such as this between core benefits and additional benefits. The economist Wilhelm Vershofen published his ‘Nürnberger Nutzenleiter’ in 1940, representing how consumers view the benefits of consumer goods. The researcher is considered one of the founding fathers of modern market research in Germany, and was a professor at the Nuremberg Commercial College (the fore-runner to today’s School of Business, Economics and Society at FAU) from 1923.
Admittedly: The first test-tube baby was born in the UK. However, the first in-vitro baby in Germany was born at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen in 1982. The expert in reproductive medicine Prof. Siegfried Trotnow and the biologist Tatjana Kniewald took a leading role in the research. A few years later, the researchers from Erlangen successfully reached two further milestones: In 1986 the birth of the first baby from a frozen embryo and one year later from a frozen egg cell. This was only possible after a considerable amount of work had gone into optimising the cooling processes.
Computed tomography has a long history. A number of inventions, innovations and developments have brought the technology to where it is today. In 1917, Johann Radon laid the mathematical foundation with the radon transformation. One of the positions he held was as a professor at FAU. Another researcher at FAU brought computed tomography a significant step forward. The physicist Willi A. Kalender developed spiral volumetric computed tomography which makes continual rotation possible.
Future-oriented work has a long history in the laboratories and scientific and academic institutions at FAU. Which innovations will it lead to? There are some exciting developments to look forward to.
A look at future innovations to be expected from FAU
One important consideration when transitioning to renewable energy is the question of how to store energy. The LOHC technology developed by scientists such as FAU professor Peter Wasserscheid has a crucial contribution to make. This technology allows hydrogen to be bound to a non-explosive and non-toxic liquid, meaning that it can be used to store renewable energy without incurring losses. LOHC can also be used as fuel for ships, trains, HGVs and buses.
Tissue from a 3D printer
The Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen has been researching artificial replacement tissues (tissue engineering) and regenerative medicine for years now. Special 3D printers can be used to arrange and place materials in a certain pattern. In the long term, tissue from 3D printers has great potential. Biofabrication could replace animal testing in fundamental research, for example, and be used to engineer replacement tissue in future, for example for cancer patients or accident victims.
Software for space research
The X-ray integral field unit (X-IFU) on board ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics), a European Space Agency (ESA) space observatory, will one day be able to observe areas of energy in space. FAU has made a significant contribution to this research: Special software developed by FAU can be used to simulate the missions. This allows devices to be fine-tuned and improved before they are actually launched into space. The telescope is due to start its research in space in the 2030s.
Europe’s time machine
FAU is working in a large European project together with more than 30 other institutions – big data, digitalisation and artificial intelligence are to be used to record the social, geographical and cultural development of Europe in the Time Machine project. The project requires close collaboration between experts in archaeology, history and computer science. It is hoped that digitally processing Europe’s cultural heritage in this way should lead to new services and products in education, the creative industry, policy-making, tourism, intelligent cities and environmental modelling.