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As the name already suggests, the Fraunhofer Institute for Large Structures in Production Engineering IGP, based in Rostock, focuses its research on the innovative design of the production of large structures. On the basis of applied research, the IGP develops and realises concepts for product and process innovations in various future industries with cooperation and project partners. Currently, the research portfolio includes manufacturing processes, automation technology, quality technology, company organisation and product development for the business areas of ships and offshore, construction, steel construction as well as aircraft and rail vehicle construction. One of the central projects is currently dedicated to the not inconsiderable question of how shipping can finally become more sustainable in the future.

A turnaround in transport on the seven seas as well

To answer this question, the researchers at the IGP want to develop engine technology for the sustainable use of PtX fuels (Power-to-X, stands for electricity-based fuels), among other things, at a large engine test field in the Rostock seaport. In this way, the Fraunhofer Institute wants to support the maritime industry in particular in becoming more environmentally friendly. "The development of alternative propulsion systems and solutions for converting existing fleets are essential in order to achieve ambitious climate policy goals as quickly as possible and sustainably at the same time," says Professor Wilko Flügge, director of the IGP.

Complex tasks require cooperative know-how

In addition to the Hydrogen Application Centre - which in turn is part of the Hydrogen Research Factory MV, which Fraunhofer IGP launched together with the Leibnitz Institutes for Catalysis (LIKAT) and for Plasma Research and Technology (INP) - other cooperation partners are on board for the implementation of the plans: the Chair of Piston Engines and Combustion Engines (LKV) at the University of Rostock as well as FVTR GmbH (Rostock Research Centre for Combustion Engines and Thermodynamics). The work of the Hydrogen Application Centre covers several topics within the project, but the core element is the aforementioned large engine test field. "We are investigating how hydrogen can be used as a primary fuel or additive. In addition, we are looking at the combustion of hydrogen derivatives such as methanol or other e-fuels," says project leader Dr Benjamin Illgen. "We are also building up expertise in the field of fuel cell technology and the associated field of battery technology. We want to map the research field of energy converters as holistically as possible." The large engine test field will also be available to companies for testing their engines.

Turning old into sustainable

Incidentally, the approach anchored in the project applies not only to equipping future ship models but also to upgrading existing ones. Thus, the topic of retrofitting existing ship fleets is specifically included, as these usually have very long life cycles, so that they are often in use for up to 30 years. In order to make them fit for sustainable technologies, the IGP is researching retrofit solutions for tank systems, pipes and tubes. Aspects from the areas of logistics, installation space optimisation and ship structure are also on the agenda. Finally, the Hydrogen Application Centre is also dedicated to establishing a carbon cycle economy. Under the technical direction of the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis (LIKAT), technologies are being developed to capture and reuse CO2 after the combustion of carbon-containing e-fuels.