SMARTER. BRIGHTER. FASTER.

Everything is changing: our world, automobiles and human mobility. To build an automobile that’s right for the 21st century, you need new materials. Our innovations give designers new opportunities.

FUTURE MOBILITY

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nummer 3 — the three-wheeled automobile that Bertha Benz drove 106 kilometers from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 1888 — was mostly made of wood.

Throughout the 130 years since that historic trip, automakers have used many different types of material in an effort to optimize their vehicles — for example, steel, aluminum, plastics, and even textiles. A modern automobile consists of thousands of parts made of very diverse materials. However, one thing hasn’t changed: A vehicle is only as good as the materials it’s made of.    

New energy sources. New intelligence. New materials.

In the years ahead, automobiles will undergo unprecedented development — a technological leap that will make the difference between a Ford Model T (1908) and a Tesla Roadster (2008) seem like nothing. New energy sources. New lifestyles. New intelligence. The smart cars of the 21st century will have lower carbon dioxide emissions and will be able to meet the diverse mobility requirements of various users. In the ideal case, they will navigate on their own while simultaneously providing drivers and passengers with all the information they need to enjoy the trip from A to B. The various materials and technologies that will be needed to enable all of this are now being developed in countless labs around the world. One of these labs is in Darmstadt.

CURIOSITY

When an industry develops at an extremely fast pace, it becomes difficult to distinguish between yesterday and the Stone Age.

Aurelie Ludemann, Project Manager for R&D OLED Chemistry, has been working on OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) since 2001, and she sometimes can’t believe just how far research has progressed since then. ”Back then, OLEDs often had a service life of only a few hours,” Ludemann recalls. ”We knew that there would be OLED televisions someday, but we were still incredibly distant from that point.”

An OLED is basically a material sandwich, also known as a stack. There are several conductive layers between the anode and the cathode, as well as at least one light-emitting layer made of molecules containing carbon. Ludemann, 43, is originally from Le Mans and began working at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in 2006. She heads a team whose job is to optimize the emitting layer of OLEDs. The key desired qualities are efficiency, service life, and current.

I often spend months developing a new molecule with my team, and we’re always very anxious to see the first test results.

aurelie ludemann

Project manager for R&D OLED Chemistry

Aurelie Ludemann is a project manager for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s R&D OLED Chemistry working to design the cars of the future. Aurelie Ludemann is a project manager for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s R&D OLED Chemistry working to design the cars of the future.

Aurelie Ludemann is a project manager for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s R&D OLED Chemistry working to design the cars of the future.

Training:

Studied chemistry at the universities of Le Mans, Nantes, and Tours (France)

This scientific achievement impressed me: 

How Darwin developed the theory of evolution without knowing about genetics.

What my car unfortunately can’t do (yet): 

Drive without fuel

The future will be… 

demanding    

For me it’s important to see the final product. I don’t just want to work in a lab; I want to change the world. That’s what drives me.

aurelie ludemann

Project manager for R&D OLED Chemistry

INTUITION

”Licht aus/Lights off” is written on a small white sign that somebody has stuck to the door leading to the realm of Joachim Kaiser. After all, just because you’re working on the lights of the future doesn’t mean you should waste energy and lighting materials today. 

Kaiser’s team at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s Global OLED Application Lab develops and optimizes OLED material systems for the world of tomorrow. The number of people on this team has tripled in the past few years. The systems they develop are designed for smartphone displays and TV screens for windows that simultaneously serve as display screens, and for futuristic lighting installations that are much too sophisticated to be called ”lamps.” More specifically, this includes vehicle lights that enable completely new designs. 

Joachim Kaiser is Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s global head of OLED Application and works to optimize windows, screens, displays and vehicle lights. Joachim Kaiser is Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s global head of OLED Application and works to optimize windows, screens, displays and vehicle lights.

Joachim Kaiser is Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s global head of OLED Application and works to optimize windows, screens, displays and vehicle lights.

Training:

Doctorate in physics

This scientific achievement impressed me:

The systematic development of quantum physics. Although it is initially unlike anything we encounter in daily life, it plays a crucial role in many cutting-edge technologies.

I want to solve this mystery next:

How I should rearrange my living room so that I can sensibly integrate a 55-inch OLED TV. Unfortunately, such televisions don’t exist in smaller sizes.

What my car unfortunately can’t do (yet):

Prevent me from getting annoyed when I’m stuck in a traffic jam.

OLEDs give us a new degree of freedom in designing lighting and screens. A car dashboard may soon look like a spaceship control panel.

joachim kaiser

Global Head, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s OLED Application

A state-of-the-art project

In 2014 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and its customers began to jointly develop materials for the first OLED taillights, which will soon be used by BMW and Audi. For Kaiser, this was initially a project like any other. ”We get the desired performance targets and specifications and we try to meet them,” he explains. His lab has state-of-the-art machines that manufacture OLED stacks. ”We treat our customers as equals, because we can’t supply them with perfect materials unless we understand their plans for the stacks,” says Kaiser.

Traffic laws require vehicle taillights to emit a very intense red light. ”It took us a while to find the right combination,” says Kaiser, who tests as many as 150 different stacks per week with his team. Cars are a unique environment for high-tech applications, because of all the acceleration and speed involved, not to mention all kinds of weather conditions. As Kaiser points out, ”It’s one thing to ensure that something will work in the living room, but how is it going to work at subzero temperatures?”    

The various materials can be combined in an infinite number of ways. To keep improving, you need experience and your intuition too.

joachim kaiser

Global Head, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s OLED Application

Waiting for the breakthrough

A material seldom changes the world — or if it does, it doesn’t do so immediately. The Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius described the element silicon for the first time in 1824, more than a century before the first semiconductors were developed. Aluminum was also discovered in the 1820s, but it wasn’t until a century later that it enabled a breakthrough in aircraft construction. The first OLEDs were developed in the late 1980s at Cambridge University, and this was followed by many years of basic research.

But since 2012 the revenue generated at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany with OLEDs has increased by 500 percent. ”Innovation,” says Kaiser, ”requires more than just a discovery; you also have to put it to work in a way that creates value.” In addition, it’s not enough if the performance values of a material are theoretically solid; you also have to find the ideal combination of functional materials and connect the individual components perfectly. In this respect, an OLED stack is no different from an automobile.    

LONG LIVE THE FUTURE

Carsten Fritzsch, 33, works in a two-story flat-roofed building on the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany campus — and, in effect, in the space industry.

Fritzsch, an electrical engineer, is part of a team that develops materials for an innovative satellite antenna (smart antenna) that uses liquid crystals.

”It isn’t easy to enable mobile objects such as cars and ships to receive satellite signals,” says Fritzsch. ”Up till now, you needed an antenna that follows the satellite with the help of electric motors.” By contrast, in the smart antenna a thin functional layer of liquid crystals ensures that the antenna’s beam can be electronically pointed in various directions without requiring the device to be mechanically moved. Appropriate software ensures that the antenna does not lose contact with the satellite. Moreover, the antenna is flat enough to be integrated into a car roof. This is a very practical idea.     

Carsten Fritzsch is an electrical engineer, who is part of a team that develops materials for an innovative satellite antenna (smart antenna) that uses liquid crystals. Carsten Fritzsch is an electrical engineer, who is part of a team that develops materials for an innovative satellite antenna (smart antenna) that uses liquid crystals.

Carsten Fritzsch is an electrical engineer, who is part of a team that develops materials for an innovative satellite antenna (smart antenna) that uses liquid crystals.

Training:

Electrical engineering and information technology

This scientific achievement impressed me:

Early discoveries in astrophysics

I want to solve this mystery next:

What is the fair price for a real estate property?

The future will be… 

always different than we’ve planned    

When you’re driving through the countryside, you realize how much our routine tasks depend on uninterrupted data transmission.

carsten fritzsch

Research Scientist and Electrical Engineer, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Innovation out of collaboration

Fritzsch earned his doctorate at Darmstadt Technical University and has been working for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany since 2014. This university, which is located only three kilometers from the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany campus, has performed fundamental research in the area of adjustable high-frequency components, and it cooperates closely with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany ”Although it wasn’t initially clear that this technology would form the basis for a product, this kind of collaboration offers many advantages,” says Fritzsch. ”The more diverse partners are involved in a project, the better.”

The autonomously driving car will achieve a breakthrough in the near future. The prototypes from Tesla, Mercedes, and Google have already clocked up millions of kilometers in test drives. The performance of this technology depends not only on the driving skills of the computer chauffeur but also on a stable communications link. (As a result, the passengers can use the saved time to watch videos or participate in Skype conferences). The smart antenna ”would eliminate dead zones,” says Fritzsch. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is cooperating closely with the US startup Kymeta which is planning to launch its first product in 2017. Together with Toyota, Kymeta has already designed a concept car that is equipped with a Kymeta satellite antenna. But that’s not all… 

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, cooperates with the US startup Kymeta: the smart antennae will ensure good satellite reception, no matter where and how one is traveling. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, cooperates with the US startup Kymeta: the smart antennae will ensure good satellite reception, no matter where and how one is traveling.

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany cooperates with the US startup Kymeta: the smart antennae will ensure good satellite reception, no matter where and how one is traveling.

Right now, there’s a new space race where small startups and our technology are playing their part. It’s a very exciting field of work.

carsten fritzsch

Research Scientist and Electrical Engineer, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

What Drives Us

Curiosity, space travel, a perfect TV image: In these videos, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany scientists explain what thrills them about their work — and what they think mobility will be like in the future.

NEW MATERIALS GET CREATIVE PROCESS ROLLING

Lutz Fügener, Professor of Transportation Design at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, explains why there has never been a better time to design cars than the 21st century. 

Lutz Fügener is a Professor of Transportation Design at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences. Lutz Fügener is a Professor of Transportation Design at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences.

Lutz Fügener is a Professor of Transportation Design at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences.

An Interview with Lutz Fügener:

Professor Fügener, the UK magazine ”The Economist” recently wrote that we are living in a golden age of discovery in the field of new materials. Is this also your view?

Yes, that is definitely the case. Tremendous progress has been made in fundamental research. Many people don’t realize how many different materials go into an automobile. There’s steel, of course, but also aluminum, glass, carbon fiber, plastics, and other high-tech materials. Drivers and passengers aren’t aware of the many innovations, which often remain hidden, and that’s why the general public doesn’t even realize that we’re in the midst of a revolution.

 

In your work as a designer, do innovations inspire your imagination?

It does sometimes happen that a new material suddenly makes it possible to solve a long-standing problem. In general, designers are paid to think up things that are surprising and unexpected. That’s not easy to do for something like cars, which have already been worked on by thousands of very intelligent people.

 

Where should a designer turn for inspiration?

The ideas of my students are often inspired by new materials that they’ve come across somewhere. One example of that is ”shape-memory materials,” which change their shape when they are exposed to energy. These kinds of things get the creative process rolling. For example, could such a material be used to replace suspension springs or to optimize chassis attributes? Could it enable us to change a car’s outward appearance completely? Could it implement an aerodynamic update when a car is out on the highway or transform a sports car into a family station wagon?

 

How do designers find out about innovations?

Unfortunately, there are no professional journals or media outlets that continually report on innovations — and if people don’t know what’s actually possible, a lot of ideas will go unnoticed and unused. That’s why many universities have now established departments that focus on materials. We also visit materials libraries with our students so that they can find out what kind of possibilities they can explore. And of course in our daily work we are dependent on our cooperation with engineers and technicians.    

Lutz Fügener on Future Materials

In this video, Professor Fügener explains which materials will become especially important in the future.

How do new materials influence your design process?

There’s a difference between various design processes. If I’m developing a series-production model, the choice of materials is largely determined by cost factors and production processes. But if you’re working in the area of advanced design, you might be designing a car that won’t be built for another 20 years. In this situation you have more freedom, and your first job is simply to decide exactly what you want to build. After that, the technicians have to find out whether there’s a technology that might be sufficiently advanced in 20 years to allow the production of such a vehicle. It makes sense to view technical evolution with a certain amount of optimism. After all, we’re always trying to make progress.

 

Which innovations do you find most exciting at the moment?

There are two things. First, I would like to see a material developed that could serve as both a construction material and a surface material. Carbon is already a first step in this direction, because people consider it aesthetically appealing. I’m also enthusiastic about all the innovations that improve the way information is provided in vehicles. Of course that includes better displays and flexible light sources that make for better interior illumination and thus can improve the driver’s orientation. Another good thing is a window that becomes opaque when voltage is applied to it. After you park the car, you press a switch, and after that no one will be able to see if there’s anything interesting inside. Such a feature has only been available in luxury models so far, but I think a lot of people would like to have it.

 

How is the development of autonomous vehicles influencing automotive design?

When the day comes that I no longer need to keep my eyes on the road, I will start to perceive the interior in an entirely different way. The occupant cell — that’s a strange word, isn’t it? — will become an architectural space along the lines of a hotel room or a train car. Vehicles will then become less predefined. Our expectations regarding functionality and material quality will increase. You’ll be able to design an interior like a room, and that will make things tough for us designers — but also amazingly exciting!

VIVA LA EVOLUTION

During the automobile’s more than 100-year history, new materials have repeatedly changed the form and function of this transportation system. An overview.

Wood was an important material used to construct coaches and the first cars; now wood-based systems are back in use. Wood was an important material used to construct coaches and the first cars; now wood-based systems are back in use.

1888

Back to the roots? Wood was an important material used to construct coaches and the first cars; now wood-based systems are back in use.

Black paint dried fastest so cars were very gloomy. Then GM developed Duco paint and color came to our streets. Black paint dried fastest so cars were very gloomy. Then GM developed Duco paint and color came to our streets.

1923

Paint it black! Black paint dried fastest so cars were very gloomy. Then GM developed Duco paint and color came to our streets.

BMW built over 1,500 of the little roadsters known as ‘Spatz’ (sparrow); its special feature was a plastic body. BMW built over 1,500 of the little roadsters known as ‘Spatz’ (sparrow); its special feature was a plastic body.

1956

It’s not a toy! BMW built over 1,500 of the little roadsters known as ‘Spatz’ (sparrow); its special feature was a plastic body.

Professor Fügener, the UK magazine ”The Economist” recently wrote that we are living in a golden age of discovery in the field of new materials. Is this also your view? Yes, that i Professor Fügener, the UK magazine ”The Economist” recently wrote that we are living in a golden age of discovery in the field of new materials. Is this also your view? Yes, that i

2003

Let there be light Hella presented the first LED headlight at the IAA; in 2015 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Osram developed the first OLED taillight.

Partner With Us

To foster innovation and to keep providing cutting-edge science and technology for our customers, we collaborate closely with partners all over the world. We’re always seeking new opportunities to incorporate external ideas into our development portfolio.

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