E-nnovation Germany | The Newsletter for the German Center for Research and Innovation New York

Issue 3, June 2010
bulletLearning From Yesterday and Building a Sustainable Tomorrow
bulletInterview: Innovation as Key to Sustainability
bulletGerman Innovation of the Month: Cleaning Wastewater with Sunlight
bulletOpening of the Energie-Forschungszentrum Niedersachsen
bulletFrom Plastic Waste to Heavy-Duty Construction Material
Learning From Yesterday and Building a Sustainable Tomorrow
From June 27 to July 2, 2010, 61 Nobel Laureates in physiology, medicine, physics and chemistry and 650 young researchers from 70 countries will convene for the annual Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lake Constance, Germany. For the 60th time, Nobel Laureates and promising young talents will engage in an inter-generational dialogue on the challenges of the 21st century. They will present recent findings, reflect on their careers, and exchange ideas on topics ranging from population growth and peace, bioethics and biodiversity, to pollution and climate change. One of the core themes at this 60th anniversary meeting is sustainability.

This edition of E-NNOVATION GERMANY also focuses on sustainability: In his interview with GCRI, the Executive Director of the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems, Dr. Roland Schindler, looks at German and American cultural differences in sustainability awareness as well as the differences in the innovation climate between the two countries. The German Innovation of the Month, developed by the German Aerospace Center, uses sunlight to clean wastewater. And the newly opened Energy Research Center in the German state of Lower Saxony brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines to develop innovative solutions for tomorrow's sustainable energy use and management.

Back in our April newsletter, we asked our readers to submit an essay on which German innovation had a significant impact on their lives or careers. The winner for the round-trip economy class ticket to Germany is Leah Thomas, who wrote about how the invention of the C-Leg reverses limb loss and restores patients' quality of life. Her essay will be published when our website, www.germaninnovation.org, is launched this fall.

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Dr. Roland Schindler

Interview: Innovation as Key to Sustainability
Founded in 2008 and located within walking distance of the MIT campus, the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) offers a wide range of applied research services dedicated to the commercialization of clean energy technologies. The CSE focuses on photovoltaic (PV) modules, building energy efficiency, and the "TechBridge" commercialization program. GCRI spoke with Prof. Dr. Roland Schindler, Executive Director of the CSE, about the correlation between innovation and sustainability. Schindler, who is a 24-year veteran of Freiburg's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), has been a significant contributor to the PV industry for the last 30 years and is a world-renowned expert in silicon. He will speak at the GCRI co-sponsored "Renewable Energy and the Environment" alumni meeting of the German Academic Exchange Service and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in October. For more information on Dr. Schindler and to read the interview, please click here.

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Innovation of the Month: Cleaning Wastewater with Sunlight
Solar researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) developed a way to sanitize wastewater with the power of sunlight. The technique of photocatalytic water cleaning - combining the sun's rays with photocatalysts - can break down organic and inorganic water contaminants. Tests at the DLR-facility in Lampoldshausen have shown that pharmaceutical agents, such as antibiotics, X-ray contrast media and hormones, can be removed as securely as chlorinated hydrocarbons from polluted groundwater or toxic materials in municipal wastewater.
The heart of the technology is a solar receiver made of transparent glass pipes. The waste water, mixed with iron ions acting as photocatalysts and small quantities of hydrogen peroxide, is pumped until the desired purification level is achieved.
Launched under the name RayWox, this industrial-scale modular technology's only energy source is sunlight. The RayWOx demonstration plant was inaugurated at the DLR Lampoldshausen facility in November 2009. It emerged from the SOWARLA solar water treatment pilot project, which won the 2008 "World Award for Sustainability" of the Energy Globe Foundation. To learn more about RayWox and solar-powered water cleaning, please click here.

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Opening of the Energy Research Center of Niedersachsen (EFZN)
Lower Saxony's Minister of Science, Professor Johanna Wanka opened the Energie- Forschungszentrum Niedersachsen (EFZN) on June 17, 2010. EFZN will bring together 90 scholars from a variety of disciplines to focus on cutting-edge solutions for sustainable energy use and the development of  innovative energy management systems. What distinguishes EFZN from other energy centers is its multidisciplinary approach, which takes the entire chain of energy into account and brings together natural and social scientists, engineers, and legal scholars to address the energy sector's most pressing issues. EFZN was founded by Clausthal University of Technology in collaboration with the universities of Braunschweig, Göttingen, Hannover, and Oldenburg.  For more information on the EFZN, please click here.

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From Plastic Waste to Heavy-Duty Construction Material 
Americans buy an estimated 34.6 billion single-serving plastic water bottles each year. Almost eight out of ten end up in a landfill or incinerator. Hundreds of millions end up as litter on roads and beaches, in streams and other waterways, according to the Container Recycling Institute. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. per year.
Years before scientists had identified the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," the vortex of floating debris in the Pacific Ocean, now covering an area twice the size of Texas, a group of German engineers formed the company Reluma in Saxony. They developed a process of turning waste plastics into construction materials with applications ranging from coastal and building construction to railroad and mass transit projects. The manufacturing process was precisely designed and is strictly monitored.  Non-toxic plastics are collected and sorted, then shredded, milled, and mixed while moving under tremendous pressure along conveyor screws toward a casting mold. The forms produced are then carefully cooled. The German city of Dresden has been using Reluma railroad ties for their public streetcar transportation since 2003. To learn more, please visit www.reluma.de

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