BIONIC SURFACE TECHNOLOGIES
Shark Skin – how to increase the speed of a passenger plane
Flight time is money, which is why scientists worldwide have continued to explore new ways to speed up civil aviation. On the leading edge is a technology developed by two Styrian technical university graduates (TU Graz). Andreas Flanschger and Peter Leitl have created a surface material based on flow simulation. It allows for optimum air passage reducing drag by up to 8 percent. The source of their inspiration was sharkskin, or rather, the tiny riblets in the skin that make sharks swim faster than their prey. Bionic surfaces are applied as lacquer coating or foil on aircrafts, wind turbines, boats or sports equipment worldwide.
VIRTUAL VEHICLE RESEARCH CENTER
Digital Dummies – how to test cars before they are built
During automobile production every single component – an average of 30,000 per vehicle – undergoes rigorous testing: it is essential to check how well the components interact with each other and cope with extreme situations. The Virtual Vehicle, a competence centre headquartered in Graz, has developed a new co-simulation system. “ICOS” is the first innovation of its kind to simulate the interaction of all car components with each other and thus shortens the development time remarkably, saving money. The system is used in the fields of rail transport, shipping, complex transport logistics, aviation etc .. Furthermore, more than 100 Styrian scientists are also active in investigating future topics such as e-cars, hybrids and automated driving.
The Lace Grid – How to crochet your fence
For almost three decades the Styrian company Securo has become synonymous with solid, high-quality fences. Notable examples can be seen at the Athens International Airport of Spata, the Schönbrunn Zoo, or the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. Specialising in fence design, Securo has also made a mark on the architectural scene. A unique technique invented by Eva Burtscher allows steel wire to be crocheted like lace. The results are ornaments, blossoms, sculptures or abstract wire elements, ranging from designed rolled goods to tailor-made fences consisting of individual fields. The technique works with furniture as well, such as chairs or room dividers. Over the years, Securo has made an international name for itself, currently focusing on the German and Swiss market.
Culinary Detectives – how to look inside a potato
An average of 376 million tonnes of potatoes are harvested throughout the world every year, each tuber being unique. Unlike outer quality features such as size, inner defects will not be detected until the product is processed. A particular problem are the sugar ends, hidden sugar deposits that cause black ends in chips (French fries). Now a southeast Styrian company has developed the world’s first food analysis system that is capable of screening food with shortwave infrared radiation. The device scans more than 80,000 measuring points of a fruit/vegetable within a second and identifies defects not visible to the naked eye. The invention has improved both the screening efficiency and the overall product quality level. An enhanced version of the technology is also available to scan nuts, berries and seeds for tiny foreign bodies. Companies in Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, the U.S. and Canada currently use the Styrian technology.
Health at the touch of a button – how to print your medicine
Like clothes, drugs are usually off-the-shelf items – standardised products with exactly the same composition, regardless of the patients’ age, sex, weight or height. RCPE has developed a method to personalise and customise drugs. Printing the medicine drop by drop onto an edible paper strip, the dosage can vary according to the relevant target group. At present, RCPE is the only pharmaceutical company worldwide to offer this paper print technology. A current project involves individually “printable” food Supplements.
Lightweights – how railcars carry more freight
Today a third of all goods in Austria is transported via railway, providing a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to road freight transport. Many freight cars are however, not only timeworn but also fail to meet current technical and economic requirements. An upper Styrian company invented “Innowaggon”, an eight-axle vehicle made of high-strength steel. Weighing 29 tons, it is 25 percent lighter than conventional railcars and currently the lightest of its kind in Europe. Less unladen weight means more payload and thus more transport efficiency. Consequently, one in eight freight cars is redundant. Available in various configurations such as wood, steel, energy (coal), construction material or liquids, 500 “InnoWaggons” are on the rails throughout Europe every day, with 500 more to follow in the coming years. In a current pilot project together with Czech railways CD Cargo, Innofreight aims to reorganise the entire brown-coal transport including freight cars and containers, as well as unloading technology and materials handling.
Crashtest Dummies – how pedestrians teach cars
In Austria alone, more than 10,000 pedestrians and cyclists are injured in traffic accidents every year. In order to counter the risk, today’s cars are equipped with safety sensors. If a collision is imminent, the board computer will intervene autonomously, warning the driver or initiating an emergency stop. Experts from 4active Systems in Traboch, Styria, have created unique dummies bearing a striking resemblance to humans. Dressed in clothes and moving like real people they are capable of activating the sensors and initiating braking manoeuvres. In the event that the test fails and a collision is unavoidable, the dummies show off their second strength: due to lightweight building, they cause no damage to the vehicle up to a speed of 60 kilometres per hour. Recently 4active Systems developed a dummy that acts like a cyclist, also providing valuable information for renowned car producers.
The Fat Flash – how to know when to act
Large sections of the population, particularly in the western world, are gaining weight, and consequently suffering from related health issues such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. According to modern medicine, not only the quantity of fat is crucial, but also where on the body it gathers. Excessive abdominal fat is particularly damaging, tripling the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Sending light waves into body tissues, the “Lipometer” invented in Graz is a unique measuring device to track down fat. A built-in sensor uses the reflection of the emitted light to determine the thickness of the fat. Now doctors are able to examine 15 body positions from neck to calve quickly and painlessly in addition to recognising risks early and taking preventive measures.
The Avalanche Airbag – how to breathe in deep snow
Over the last decade, the number of ski tourers in Austria has doubled to 500,000. On each tour, the right choice of equipment can potentially be life-saving. “Pieps Jetforce” is a revolutionary avalanche airbag developed in Lebring, Styria. Using rechargeable jet blowers instead of cartridges, the 200L airbag inflates completely with air within three seconds. After three minutes, it empties automatically, creating a life-saving air pocket for the avalanche victim. Further innovations include a fully automated probe reducing the search time by up to 60 percent and an avalanche buzzer app.
The Eye of the Laser – how to make trains safer
Chinese trains race at speeds up to 300 kilometres per hour, exposing wheels and brakes to particularly high strain. Thus, regular testing and wear measurement are essential. Nextsense has developed a new series of laser devices, substituting the previously used mechanical callipers and setting new testing standards worldwide. The device resembles a video camera. Placed underneath the vehicle, it performs a non-contact measurement, transmitting the results to a tablet within three seconds. “CALIPRI” is suitable for use in the automotive and steel industry as well. Recently, Nextsense created the world’s first profile measurement system that allows a steel quality measurement at temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celcius directly in the furnace. Thus, companies in rail production do not need to wait for their products to cool down and save considerable time.