2020 Innovation Award
The award is presented anually to recognize highly promising innovations and inventions by RWTH researchers.
RWTH seeks to foster of innovation and entrepreneurship among its students and academic staff and to support the process of turning new ideas into impactful solutions. Since 2014, it has presented its annual Innovation Award, which honors university projects that contribute to enhancing the innovative capacity of the Aachen region.
The “HBOX” project developed by the Department of Cardiovascular Engineering won the first place award in the 2020 round; the “Storm” and “BioThrust” projects developed by the RWTH Software Modeling and Verification Group and the Chair of Chemical Process Engineering, respectively, shared second place.
RWTH Innovation GmbH supports the award and assists with the evaluation of entries. The submitted ideas are evaluated according to criteria such as technology advancement, innovation potential, customer benefit, potential for further development, commercial potential, and overall impression.
When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it enters the blood via the lungs. This can result in a massive undersupply of oxygen, which is particularly critical for the heart and brain. Currently, there are two treatment options, neither of which is ideal: Masks delivering pure oxygen are readily available, but they are not effective. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is another option, but there are currently only four pressure chambers on standby throughout Germany.
For these reasons, Matthias Menne, Peter Schlanstein, Niklas Steuer, and Professor Ulrich Steinseifer from the Department of Cardiovascular Engineering are developing a portable pressure chamber for blood, the “HBOX.” HBOX presents a solution which is both simple and effective, as it addresses the problem right where the oxygen transport is actually blocked. The device can be produced in large numbers and be used right at the scene of an accident. A spin-off company will be founded in 2021 to bring the HBOX to market as quickly as possible.
Software systems are ubiquitous – they are being used in aircraft, satellites, or medical devices, for example. Software errors can therefore result in significant financial or even human losses. At the same time, systems are becoming increasingly complex, making it nearly impossible to find and fix all potential sources of errors.
Tim Quatmann, Matthias Volk, and Professor Joost-Pieter Katoen from the Chair of Software Modeling and Verification are developing the “Storm” model checker, which verifies software systems and guarantees that they are error-free. Uncertainties in software systems can be taken into account during the analysis and, for example, the probability of a system failure within the next two days can be calculated.
In fermentation processes with aerobic organisms or cell cultivation, nutrient media are supplied with oxygen via bubble aeration. The foaming caused by this leads to problems such as process control issues or deviations in reaction conditions, product purities, and product quantities. Chemical antifoaming agents also have adverse effects on other processes.
Patrick Bongartz, Moritz Meyer, and Professor Matthias Wessling from the Chair of Chemical Process Engineering have developed the “BioThrust” technology to allow bubble-free aeration of bioreactors. Two product lines are being prepared: One line with stirrers that simultaneously introduce gas bubbles into the reactor and, due to their high porosity, lead to improved gas supply than previous systems. Another line allows the bubble-free aeration of bioreactors. To this end, the research team has developed a membrane module that diffusively introduces gas in-situ, that is, directly into the reactor, and at the same time mixes the broth.
As a result, even sensitive bioprocesses such as cell cultures can be supplied with sufficient oxygen. Biopharmaceutical and other biotechnological products can thus be produced more economically and ecologically.