Advances in plastics technology exert an influence on all sectors of industry, frequently setting chains of innovation in motion and initiating significant optimization processes. The plastics industry in North Rhine Westphalia is unique within Europe to the extent that it encompasses the entire value chain. The spectrum includes small and medium-sized plastics processors, plastics machinery manufacturers, service providers, as well as major international plastics producers. The plastics industry depends heavily on scientific research and hence reaps outstanding benefits in NRW – as evidenced in the presence of 70 universities and colleges, renowned research institutes and in-company research departments.
In North Rhine-Westphalia science and industry have developed ground-breaking technologies in the area of energy efficiency and the conservation of natural resources. For example, Covestro Deutschland and its partners are investigating ways of converting waste carbon dioxide into high-quality plastics. In so doing, this harmful greenhouse gas can replace petroleum and provide a valuable resource for sustainable growth. Other projects center on the optimization of plastic materials. The DWI Institute for Interactive Materials Research at RWTH Aachen University has transferred the special frictional properties of lizard skin to plastic surfaces. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) have likewise taken nature as their model and developed self-repairing polymers based on rubber trees.
Region Cologne/Bonn region
Long drawn-out, energy-sapping rehabilitation is usually the norm after an operation or serious illness. Complete recovery is often uncertain, especially where there is neurological damage or impairment of the musculoskeletal system. A new kind of robot suit made from innovative materials by Bayer MaterialScience can be of help in such cases. The HAL® exoskeleton serves as a successful therapy aid. The concept comes from the Japanese researcher, Yoshiyuki Sankai. His company, Cyberdyne, also manufactures the artificial limbs. The special polycarbonate used here for the casing is supplied by specialists in chemistry at Leverkusen. The HAL® (Hybrid Assistive Limb) is strapped to the arms and legs of the rehab patients. Once the wearer thinks of, say, walking or climbing steps, a computer translates nerve signals into supportive limb movements. The robot suit is already in use at over 100 rehabilitation centres in Japan and has likewise been put into service in Germany since 2012. In future, the exoskeleton could well be used also for civil protection at disaster sites.
Mobile World Congress, Barcelona
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