Making the University More Sustainable
The Fund supports sustainability initiatives at the University ranging from small wind turbines to living algae facades.
The next fuding round for sustainable projects will open in 2023, the application for the submision of proposals is July 31, 2023.
With the Sustainability Fund, RWTH Aachen University provides funding for projects seeking to make the University's operations more sustainable. The goal is to enhance operations so as to reduce resource consumption and facilitate the transition towards climate neutrality. The Fund, which also seeks to promote responsible, inclusive collaboration, contributes to implementing RWTH's sustainability mission statement.
One of the objectives of the initiative is to encourage University members to improve RWTH’s environmental performance and to translate their sustainability research into practice. In the pilot phase of the Sustainability Fund between 2022 and 2025, 450,000 euros will be available for sustainability projects. In 2022, six projects are being funded and receive between 5,000 and 25,000 euros each.
“By acting as individuals and together as a community we can make a difference and succeed in making RWTH more sustainable. Only by joining forces can we make the best possible contribution to developing science and preparing society for the future. We are committed to this goal, and we must demonstrate that we can achieve a great deal with dedication and determination, even with limited resources," said Professor Ulrich Rüdiger, the rector of RWTH Aachen University.
Six Sustainability Projects to Receive Funding
The Institute of Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design (SLA) is set to receive funding for designing and setting up modular vertical axis wind turbines on RWTH buildings to provide sustainable electricity. By connecting several of the small wind turbines, which are designed for versatile use, it becomes possible to obtain the necessary power output on site. It is planned to use novel non-wovens for the blades, which the SLA has developed together with the Institute für Textiltechnik. The nonwovens are created by upcycling carbon fiber waste from the automotive industry.
Coordinated by John Bergmann and Mina Su, the student council of the Faculty of Architecture is developing sustainable support offerings for students with the help of digital media. The student council's internal sustainability group wants to address the current situation, which requires students to use A0 prints for presentations which are corrected by the instructor and then disposed of. The Covid-19 pandemic proved that such waste of resources is unnecessary and that notes can also be taken using digital media. To test this out and to establish a more sustainable architectural teaching in the long term, a so-called Promethean Board will be purchased with the help of the Sustainability Fund.
The construction industry is an important lever in the implementation of a well-functioning circular economy. The Center for Sustainable Hydrogen Systems (CSHS) and the Center for Circular Economy (CCE) have now joined forces to create a guideline for the design of recyclable and energy-optimized research buildings. The project is jointly led by Junior Professor Linda Hildebrand and the Center spokespersons, Professor Stefan Pischinger and Professor Bernd Friedrich. The guideline will also serve as the basis for a joint research building for the two centers. The building will pool the complementary expertise of both research areas under one roof and serve as a central point of contact sustainability research. The building shall also provide a best-practice example for a recycling-friendly and energy-efficient building.
The "BauGrünKit" is a do-it-yourself kit for co-productive greening of university buildings. It can be provided by the university to students and employees to green smaller roof or facade sections on their own initiative. Due to its small size and the do-it-yourself approach, the BauGrünKit provides quick and uncomplicated support. It provides habitat and food for different animal and plant species and can be adapted to specific species and locations. The Institute of Landscape Architecture, the Institute of Textile Technology, and the RWTH Language Center, at whose facilities a prototypical BauGrünKit will be tested, are partnering in the project.
The Institute for Fluid Power Drives and Systems (ifas), headed by Professor Katharina Schmitz, is working on a real-time power measurement system for large-scale test benches. The institute operates various test benches with high electrical power demand that are operated continuously at several hundred kW for days or weeks, for example for large-scale map measurements or durability tests. At the same time, the institute is working on determining the CO2 footprint in the production and operation of fluid power components as part of publicly funded projects, so that awareness of this issue is constantly growing. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the effects of test bench operation among institute members and to make operation more efficient. On the other hand, public awareness for this issue is to be raised by stating the amounts of energy used to generate research data in publications.
An innovative living algae facade for energy-saving and for carbon dioxide and nitrogen fixation is developed in a joint project by the Institute of Applied Microbiology, the Institute of Biology III (Plant Physiology), and the Junior Professorship of Computational Life Sciences. The goal of this project is to design and implement a facade made of microalgae or cyanobacteria that serves three different purposes: First, improving the thermal insulation of the building. Second, the microbes bind the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in urban areas. Unfiltered urban air is introduced at the underside of a facade panel and, in combination with the sunlight-induced photosynthesis by the algae, biomass and oxygen are produced and released at the top. Third, the cyanobacteria are capable of fixing nitrogen to generate fertilizer.
Accompanying the algae reactor project, concepts for plastic avoidance and energy conservation are being implemented at the Institute of Applied Microbiology and the Institute of Biology III (Plant Physiology). The approaches involve students in research projects to evaluate photofermentations in relation to energy balance and technical performance. This application serves as a pilot project and can be extended to the entire facade of the Biology Building or other buildings if the pilot turns out to be successful.
RWTH Rector Ulrich Rüdiger met with representatives from the six projects receiving financial support from the RWTH Sustainability Fund.