This year, scientist of all five keylabs of the SolTech consortium came together in Fürth to once more enjoy an industry visit, organized by young chemists for young chemists. SolTech is not only a merger of universities to strengthen their progress in novel solar-based technologies synergistically, but also an institution to focus on the connection between academia and economy. For this reason, we set forth to the Leonhard-Kurz-Stiftung on April 12, 2019. The Leonhard-Kurz-Stiftung, which has its origins in gold leaf fabrication, is the world leader in thin film technology. The company’s key working area is the development of decorative and/or functional coatings, which are utilized in nearly everybody’s daily life. Michael Dröcker, one of the personnel officers of the foundation, gave us a lot of insights into the different market fields, in which the Kurz company is active. We were also able to follow the history of Kurz, from the gold leaf production over first simple coating approaches to modern thin film technologies. Furthermore, an in-house chemist, who obtained his PhD degree at one of the key labs (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg), kindly answered all our questions and explained us the daily work as a chemist at the Kurz-foundation. Another interesting point, was the talk of members of the recruitment department, which focused on the themes of application and job offers at the company. The subsequent visit at the Kurz subsidiary company PolyIC, which is focused on the production of printed electronics for widespread use in our society (touch pads of washing machines, coffee machines, boilers, automotive interior,…), proved very informative as well.
This impressive visit however, did not mark the end of the day. Hence, we went to the Joint Institute of Advanced Materials and Processes (Zentralinstitut für neue Materialien und Prozesstechnik, ZMP) of the University Erlangen-Nuremberg. Here, Dr. Frank Hauke, one of the directors of the institute, received us and gave us a tour through their laboratories and “production” halls. ZMP fuses the knowledge and progress in chemistry (key word “new materials”) with novel processing technology. The detailed tour gave us insight into the broad research fields of the ZMP. We were able to see the giant scanning electron microscope, which offers enough space for a complete rocket engine stage of the Ariane-5 type (proven in the past!!!), as well as the production halls, in which diamond thin films can be grown on top of different metal-based substrates. My personal highlight was the research on 3D-print-like, laser-beam-based techniques, to create highly complex carriers for e.g. heterogeneous catalysis or other applications from titan, copper or nickel powder.
To round off the day and to cure our heavy legs, we met in the restaurant “Zum Stadtwappen”. Here, everyone was able to discuss the made experiences in leisurely atmosphere during a typical Franconian dinner, while enjoying the one or other beer.
We all are certainly looking forward to the next “SolTech Meets Economy” event.