Fraunhofer Institutes

Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB

The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, Germany, develops and optimizes processes and products for the business areas of medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, the environment and energy. Under direction of Professor Dr. Thomas Hirth, the Fraunhofer IGB is engaged in a broad spectrum of R&D in the fields of Interfacial Engineering and Materials Science, Molecular Biotechnology, Physical Process Technology, Environmental Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering as well as Cell and Tissue Engineering. More than 250 staff members from 19 nations work at the Fraunhofer IGB with an annual research budget of about €16 million (2009).

Goals and tasks

Our abiding goal is the direct translation of research results into sustainable cost-effective and profitable processes and products. Our strengths are to offer complete solutions from laboratory to pilot plant scale. Close and successful collaboration with the Institute for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Stuttgart, the participation in outstanding national and international research networks and an excellent infrastructure with accredited laboratories ensure scientifically founded and technologically qualified results.

At the Fraunhofer IGB, more than 300 experts in important fields such as chemistry, physics, biology and engineering work effectively together. Customers benefit from the synergies and multidisciplinary potential of the various disciplines at our institute, thus enabling novel approaches e.g. in tissue engineering, nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, membrane processes and wastewater treatment.

In addition to contract R&D, we offer analytical and testing services of reliable and constant quality fulfilling international standards. Furthermore, Fraunhofer IGB was granted manufacturing authorizations for cell therapy products for autologous cartilage and stem cell transplants and offers manufacturing capacity in compliance with GMP guidelines. The determination of biological parameters using cell-based assays is performed according to GLP.

Partnerships in Brazil

In the framework of Germany´s international climate initiative Fraunhofer IGB is executing the project “Energy Recovery from Sludge Gases at a Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant in Americana, SP, Brazil“ (09_I_029_BRA) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The purpose of the project is to capture the sludge gases from Carioba sewage treatment plant in Americana, upgrade them to natural-gas quality and make them available to the public vehicle fleet as biofuel (biomethane) by means of a compressor and filling station.

In the project „Adapted planning for a sustainable and innovative water management in semi-decentralized systems“ funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Fraunhofer IGB utilizes Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for the improvement of planning processes in water management. One model site is the municipality of Saltinho, Sao Paulo. Project partner in Brazil is UNIMEP FEAU, Santa Barbara d’Oeste.

In partnership with the Methodist University of Piracicaba (UNIMEP), the municipality of Piracicaba and its Water and Wastewater Treatment Department (SEMAE), the municipality of Americana and its Water and Wastewater Treatment Department (DAE Americana), Fraunhofer IGB carried out the collaborative project “Decentralized Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment combined with recovery of nutrients and energy under consideration of hygienic aspects for the Piracicaba river basin”. The goal of this project was to demonstrate how a sustainable water resources management system can be executed through decentralized water and wastewater treatment, considering the existing techniques and introducing solutions to new problems through novel technologies, while respecting local needs and conditions, management infrastructure and available techniques as well as ecological, sociological and economical local demands. This was achieved using the knowledge generated through the partner institutions and through the research developed by Fraunhofer IGB.

Results of this project collaboration were the formation of the group H2O and its accreditation by the national council for scientific and technologic development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico CNPq), the organization of several seminars (Seminar for Alternatives in the Water and Wastewater Treatment Sector – 5 editions; International Symposium on Biotechnology – 2 editions), and exchange of post-graduate and joint support of students and doctoral candidates. Other H2O Group ( activities were the development of field and laboratory research, meetings, scientific publications and evaluation and optimization of some Wastewater treatment plants in the Piracicaba region. There was also registered a growing interest on the part of Brazilian companies in co-operations, particularly in the fields of energy, the environment and chemistry.

Fraunhofer IGB will also be expanding its contacts in Brazil to molecular biotechnology. After the First Biotechnology Seminar in Piracicaba in October, IGB responded somewhat later to an invitation to the Brazil-German Technology Meetings in Porto Alegre. The main topic of the IGB presentation, Life Sciences, was of considerable interest to representatives of centers of innovation from eleven federal states.

Competences / Departments / R&D

Interfacial Engineering and Materials Science

  • Surface analysis and characterization
  • Specific modification of surfaces with plasma technology and supramolecular chemistry
  • Ultra-thin layers with specific properties
  • Molecularly defined and smart surfaces
  • Molecular imprinting, biomimetic and biofunctional surfaces
  • Nanobiotechnology, nanoparticles, NANOCYTES®
  • Characterization and processing of carbon nanotubes
  • Membranes for downstream processing
  • Inorganic membranes and membrane modules for gas separation and energy production
  • Membrane characterization

Molecular Biotechnology

  • Functional genomics and proteomics
  • Array technologies: DNA and protein microarrays
  • Infectious diseases research
  • Drug screening and cell-based assays (GLP) for diagnosis of pyrogens and microorganisms
  • Therapeutic proteins: development, protein expression, fermentation, downstream processing
  • Screening Center: metagenomics, enzyme screening, enzyme optimization
  • Screening and strain development for industrial biotechnology
  • Chemical, physico-chemical, biochemical and biomolecular analytics (accredited)

Physical Process Technology

  • Mechanical and thermal processes for industrial recycling processes
  • Raw- and processed water treatment
  • Storage and management of heat
  • Processing of materials in electromagnetic fields

Environmental Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering

  • Material and energy recovery from organic raw-, residual- and waste materials: anaerobic digestion, generation of biogas, reprocessing of inorganic value substances (N, P)
  • Sustainable water and wastewater management: decentralized urban water management
  • DEUS 21, sustainable wastewater purification, elimination of micro-pollutants
  • Optimization of sewage plants by systemic analysis and specific design
  • Aquatic renewables: algae biomass production in novel photobioreactor as feedstock for high-value products and energy
  • Process development, fermentation, scale-up, and downstream processing for industrial biotechnology
  • Biofuels (bioethanol, biobutanol, biodiesel)
  • Interfacial biology: biofilms, evaluation of microbial contaminations
  • Environmental protection technologies and management

Cell and Tissue Engineering

  • 3D human skin test systems with organoid properties for in vitro testing of medical, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and chemical substances – also as an alternative to animal testing
  • REACH: evaluation and testing of chemicals
  • Testing of biocompatibility and toxicity of medicinal products according to DIN ISO 10993-5
  • 3D vascularized test systems “BioVaSc“ for accelerated drug development, e.g. liver and trachea
  • Cell sorting, FACS analyses, micro-dissection
  • Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine: Autologous transplants, carrier structures and bio-matrices, adult stem cells, cell therapy
  • GMP-compliant manufacturing of tissue engineering products


Decentralized Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment combined with recovery of nutrients and energy under consideration of hygienic aspects for the Piracicaba river basin”

Adapted planning for a sustainable and innovative water management in semi-decentralized systems

Energy Recovery from Sludge Gases at a Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant