Examples and Achievements

Researchers from the Helmholtz Association collaborate with industry partners, start businesses, license their inventions, and make research infrastructure available.

Solidarity in the fight against cancer

DKFZ and Bayer forge a strategic alliance

How can findings from biomedical laboratories be transferred into practice more quickly? To try to make this happen, in 2008 the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Bayer AG entered into a long-term partnership. Experts from the two organisations work on joint projects to study molecules and mechanisms that might hold the key to developing new cancer therapies. The researchers are also investigating new kinds of diagnostic procedures that can monitor the progress of individual cases and predict chances of success. The strategic alliance allows the two partners to pool their strengths: The DKFZ stands for excellence in basic research, whereas Bayer has many years of experience developing pharmaceutical agents. The two partners share the funding equally. In 2009 and 2010 a total of €3.5 million flowed into the alliance. The money can be used as deemed necessary for current projects. A joint committee selects projects and decides where funding is to be applied. The scientists in the two areas – basic research and industrial research – get together to exchange information and findings in regular project group meetings and a joint scientific symposium.

The future of the electric powertrain

KIT and Daimler AG enter into innovative collaboration

What’s best – a battery, a fuel cell or a hybrid engine? Electric powertrains for cars are still in their infancy. Before a decision can be made, the various concepts have to be tested for their suitability for daily use. And, of course, further basic research is necessary. In order to do just that, in late 2008 the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) got together with Daimler AG in a special strategic partnership – the “Project House e-drive”. Teams from the two partners work together in “project houses” for a period of time. The projects are also open to further members. KIT provides the spaces and laboratories for e-drive as well as its expertise in power electronics, control technology, energy storage systems and electric machines. Daimler AG will keep the Project House supplied with research contracts over a longer period of time and equip it with its own employees. The e-drive project will receive extra assistance from an HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) professorship, funded by Daimler for at least the next five years. The economics ministry of the state of Baden-Württemberg will support the basic research at the Project House with €500,000 each year.

Proton therapy for the eye

HZB and Charité hospital use radiation to treat eye tumours 

Each year around 500 to 600 people in Germany are diagnosed with a malignant uveal melanoma. An irradiation facility, unique in Germany, at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) has now treated more than 1,500 patients, including some from neighbouring countries. In more than 97 percent of cases the proton beams were able to completely destroy the tumour in the eye. Proton beams are particularly suitable for sensitive parts of the body like the eye because their radius of operation can be adjusted with great precision. This medical technique is usually able to save not just the eye but also to restore an acceptable level of vision. The origins of the machine go back to the early 1990s, when Prof. M. H. Foerster of the eye clinic at the Benjamin Franklin university hospital, now part of the Charité, approached what is now the HZB, which was using proton beams from its particle accelerator in physics experiments. Physicists and medical experts worked together to build an irradiation station at the HZB, developing a control system that allowed them to precisely adjust and dose the proton beam for each individual case. The HZB facility has been successfully treating patients since 1998. Over the years the system has been continually updated and improved and is one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the world. The Charité has been purchasing treatments as a service from HZB since 2007.

Natural gas pipelines monitored from the air

E.ON Ruhrgas subsidiary Open Grid Europe uses laser system developed by German Aerospace

Europe’s long distance natural gas pipelines are an astounding 250,000 km in length. In the past, routine checks have been carried out with special monitoring equipment to detect potential leaks. Now the checks have been made much more straightforward thanks to CHARM®, a helicopter-borne system developed by the German Aerospace Center in collaboration with the company Adlares GmbH in Teltow, near Berlin. The system was commissioned by E.ON Ruhrgas AG. The acronym stands for CH4 Airborne Remote Monitoring and won the German Aerospace Center’s innovation award in 2006. In 2008 it was authorised to check gas pipelines by the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW). The heart of the CHARM® system is an infrared laser that emits light of two different wavelengths. One of the light beams is absorbed by methane, which is the primary component of natural gas. The other is not absorbed; it merely serves as a reference signal. A detector analyses the light as it bounces back and uses the reference beam to eliminate atmosphere and terrain influences. This allows monitors to check for even the smallest amounts of leaking gas over a stretch of 50 to 90 km of pipeline per hour. Manual checks on the ground using a gas leak detector can only cover around 8 km per day.

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  • Photo of Arne Meyer-Haake