Joint Research Agenda

Research conducted within the scope of the Materials Chain covers all stages of modern materials science from designing, manufacturing and refining of materials to their characterisation, and fashioning within production processes. Our focus is on basic research orientated towards current demands. With state-of-the-art technologies and methods, we take up the major challenges for new materials posed by modern society in areas like environment and climate protection, communication, security, medical technology and the mobility of the future. In a holistic approach covering the complete materials chain from atoms to products, researchers from manifold sub-disciplines join forces to address critical links in this chain. In order to mend the scientific disconnect between materials science and manufacturing technology that emerged from longstanding specialization, the Materials Chain provides the unified approach to materials, manufacturing and products that is needed, stimulating intense interaction between different scientific disciplines.


To sharpen our research profile, we bundled the expertise and methodological know-how of the diverse sub-disciplines in four hubs. They represent the fields of excellence within the Materials Chain and figure as the paramount infrastructural building-blocks of our network. The hubs strengthen the already existing structures of research and technology across the three locations by relying on a joint approach to research in materials science. We realize that collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore, our principal interest is to further cultivate already existing research collaborations and to encourage new collaborations among the members of the Materials Chain network.

Functional and Structural Characterization

The development of advanced characterization techniques across all relevant length scales is essential for present day materials research. The range of applied methods follows the materials chain from synthesis to production; from chemical and physical characterization methods on the atomic level over spectroscopy and microscopy in different resolution to engineering methods like the mechanical testing of products. The hub Functional and Structural Characterization is dedicated to the advancement and application of these techniques. It considers specific approaches required for different classes of materials and closely interacts with and complements the hub Modelling and Simulations.

Currently more than 60 Materials Chain scientists contribute to the hub with their expertise. The Interdisciplinary Center for Analytics on the Nanoscale (ICAN), the Dortmund electron accelerator facility (DELTA) and the Zentrum für ElektronenMikroskopie und Materialforschung (ZEMM) are important building blocks of the materials characterization research performed within this hub.

See also for this hub: Members

Modelling and Simulation

Modelling and Simulation has become a vital part of materials research due to the advances made recently in computing technology. Computer simulations help with the analysis and interpretation of experimental data and can even substitute the latter where no experiments are available. However, the prediction of material’s properties and the “in silico” design of materials requires a careful scaling with experiments. Therefore, the development and application of scale-bridging simulation techniques demands the close collaboration of experts from multiple areas.

Thus, the Materials Chain’s hub Modelling and Simulation brings together more than 70 scientists from different fields of research ranging from physics to civil engineering, from electronic structure theory to the simulation of full production processes. Interdisciplinary research centers like the Center for Computational Sciences and Simulation (CCSS) or the Interdisciplinary Centre for Advanced Materials Simulation (ICAMS) serve as the backbone of this hub.

See also for this hub: Members

Processing and Synthesis

Materials synthesis and processing techniques within the Materials Chain span length scales, from the nanometer for novel functional materials to meters for smart or adaptive structures.

In the field of nanostructured materials, Materials Chain researchers have a unique expertise in gas- and liquid-phase synthesis of functional nanomaterials, from fundamental experiments and process simulation up to the kg/h production scale.

Targeted synthesis beyond powders is a core topic for making functional materials suitable for applications such as catalysis, (photo)electrochemical water splitting, electrochemical energy storage, photovoltaics and light emitters as well as magnetic and electronic devices. This involves the build-up of highly-defined layered structures, mesoporous and nanoparticle-decorated materials through modular multi-stage processes as well as wet-phase processing of particles in organic matrices for microscopic structuring, stable coating, and electrical contacting. Establishing defined layered structures on complex surface topology (core-shell particles, embedded particles, particle-decorated structures, layered 3D-framework structures) is the key for applications that require functional interfaces to be exposed to a certain environment, e.g., in electrocatalysis and battery materials.

Advanced ingot or powder metallurgy processing routes provide access to kg-scale amounts of alloys with specific compositions and microstructures, a prerequisite for a breakthrough in the field of shape-memory alloys and metallic high-performance materials. Controlling the materials structure during processing, metal shaping, and operation (i.e. functional fatigue) is core and closely linked to the hubs Functional and Structural Characterization and Modelling and Simulation within the Materials Chain.

In this context, UDE’s NanoEnergyTechnologyCenter (NETZ) serves as a platform for materials synthesis and processing, and its state-of-the-art facilities allow for the coupling of particle synthesis with colloid and polymer chemistry, coating, sintering, and laser processing in a single production chain, and for the investigation of scaling-up. RUB’s Center for Interface-Dominated High-Performance Materials (ZGH) aims to develop new metallic, semiconducting, and dielectric materials through a comprehensive understanding and design of interfaces. ZGH also exploits new combinations of structural and functional properties.

The Materials Chain also makes significant contributions in the fields of manufacturing research. Flexible manufacturing of lightweight components has been a core topic for years leading to several industrial transfer projects. New manufacturing technologies in the field of metal forming have been invented and developed. The concept of product-property prediction and control in the forming of components has been introduced into the international scientific community by Materials Chain scientists. The latest research activities aim at paradigm changes in component design and metal forming processes considering a multi-scale view of damage evolution. TU Dortmund’s Research Center for Industrial Metal Processing (ReCIMP) is fully financed by industry, and since 2013 has served for transferring fundamental research into industrial applications and for identifying and investigating unresolved physical phenomena that are hampering technological developments.

See also for this hub: Members

Production Engineering

Advances in the field of production engineering enable the cost-efficient manufacturing of increasingly complex parts and geometries with novel functional or even tailor-made properties. For this purpose, the formation of the corresponding microstructures, interfaces and surfaces has to be suitably controlled or optimized during the manufacturing process. This sophisticated approach requires a comprehensive knowledge of the manufacturing process across all length scales, all process steps involved, and the complex interplay of all influencing and disturbing factors during production. For this reason, a close collaboration of basic research and process engineering is indispensable in order to continuously improve established manufacturing processes and to foster the development of novel technologies.

At present researchers from all three universities are involved in the Materials Chain’s hub Production Engineering, contributing to a wide range of disciplines such as forming, joining, machining and coating. In all these fields, a superior focus is placed on a sensitive control of all relevant production parameters and the employment of simulation methods to optimize the micro- or nanostructure, to adjust chemical compositions and to improve the surface finish. Thus, the hub Production Engineering is closely interlinked with the hub Modelling and Simulation and also associated with the hub Functional and Structural Characterization. Within the hub Production Engineering, all members combine their different competencies in order to achieve the overall goal: the manufacturing of innovative components with novel structural and functional properties.

See also for this hub: Members

Key research topics

To sound the bell for a paradigm shift from a phenomenological to a science-based impetus to manufacturing of functional components, our research activities focus on the tailoring of materials and the development of new processes to support component manufacturing.

Thus, key research topics addressed by Materials Chain researchers are:

  • adaptive and smart materials
  • energy conversion and storage
  • interface-dominated materials
  • materials for communication technologies and IT, quantum computing
  • high-performance materials for harsh environments

Our research in keywords

The interactive map of keywords below visualizes Materials Chain’s top research topics. This map presents the top keywords associated with the published output of our dense collaborative research activities during the last 10 years.

Discover more topics by zooming in and out, by selecting a colored dot, or by moving the map around. Click here to refresh.