Fraunhofer IST

Surfaces and coatings for sustainable products as well as associated production systems are the world of the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST in Braunschweig. As an internationally recognized partner for research and development, the institute taps the synergies of process, process and production engineering. Based on the principle of sustainability, around 110 employees design systems from the material to the process to the component and from the process chain to the factory and recycling.

Current focal points in the business areas of mechanical engineering, tools and automotive technology, aerospace, energy and electronics, optics, and life science and environment are:

  • Cyber-physical Systems / Computational Surface Engineering & Science
  • Smart surfaces
  • Sensors / Industry 4.0
  • Energy storage and systems
  • Multifunctional surfaces
  • Precision optical coatings

Together with customers and partners from industry and research the Fraunhofer IST develops tailor-made solutions – from prototypes and production scenarios to scaling up to industrial scales, and all this with a view to economic efficiency and ecological sustainability. In addition to application-oriented research, the scientific fundamentals are also explored in cooperation with universities and non-university research institutions. In addition to direct contract research, many projects are funded with public funds from the state of Lower Saxony, the federal government, the European Union and other institutions.

Coating and surface technology is a key technology for the manufacture of novel products and systems: By modifying, structuring and coating surfaces, decorative surfaces, protective coatings, surfaces with a wide variety of functions can be realized. Friction reduction, wear and corrosion protection, optical properties through to smart sensory properties are examples of this.

Extensive equipment is available at the Fraunhofer IST for this purpose. Technologies include:

  • Electrochemical processes, especially electroplating,
  • Atmospheric pressure plasma process,
  • Low-pressure plasma processes with a focus on magnetron sputtering, highly ionized plasmas and plasma-activated vapor phase deposition, as well as
  • chemical vapor deposition with a focus on hot wire CVD and
  • the atomic layer deposition (ALD).

One of the institute’s particular strengths is its ability to design the optimum process chain for the task in hand on the basis of this broad spectrum of technologies and processes as well as coating materials.

To this end the Fraunhofer IST not only has very well equipped analytics but also extensive experience in the modeling and simulation of both product properties and the associated processes and production systems.

At the Braunschweig site, the institute has 4000 m² of office and laboratory space. In addition, a further 1500 m² of laboratory and office space is available at the Application Center for Plasma and Photonics of the Fraunhofer IST at the Göttingen location.

Together with the Fraunhofer Institutes IKTS and IFAM, the Fraunhofer IST is a supporting pillar in the Fraunhofer Project Center for Energy Storage and Systems ZESS, which was opened on February 7, 2019. The focus of the Fraunhofer IST is on the one hand on the development of future energy storage systems and the process technology for their production and on the other hand on the associated factory systems and life cycle management. The occupation of a new research building for up to 100 employees at the Braunschweig research airport is planned for the end of 2023. During the transition phase, laboratory space in the Lower Saxony Research Center for Automotive Engineering (NFF) and offices in the Lilienthalhaus at the Braunschweig Research Airport will be available to employees.

In addition, since the end of 2019 the Fraunhofer IST has been a partner in the Fraunhofer project center of the Open Hybrid LabFactory (OHLF) in Wolfsburg. The joint activities with the Fraunhofer Institutes IFAM, IWU and WKI and in cooperation with institutes of the Technical University of Braunschweig focus on hybrid and functionally integrated multi-material designs. Surface technology is key here, on the one hand to increase the stability of composite materials and on the other hand to design the boundary layers of the hybrid components in such a way that durable, aging-resistant connections to complex components can be created. In particular, the Fraunhofer IST also addresses issues relating to active coatings (e.g. self-cleaning), functional coatings, coatings with anti-adhesive properties and the associated production systems for interiors and exteriors in the automotive sector.

The range of services offered by the Fraunhofer IST is complemented by the competences of other institutes of the Fraunhofer Group “Light & Surfaces” and by the competences of the Institutes for Surface Technology IOT and for Machine Tools and Manufacturing Technology IWF of the Technical University of Braunschweig, which are headed by the institute directors of the IST Prof. Dr. Günter Bräuer and Prof. Dr. Christoph Herrmann, each in personal union.