Hanover Fair: TU Ilmenau presents important technological innovations

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Der autonome Einkaufs- und Lieferroboter der TU Ilmenau ,,Whizzy’
Der autonome Einkaufs- und Lieferroboter der TU Ilmenau ,,Whizzy’
At this year’s Hannover Messe, the Technische Universität Ilmenau is presenting an innovative technology for autonomous vehicles that assesses the intentions of pedestrians at the side of the road online so that the vehicle reacts immediately and correctly in the event of danger. Another invention that will be presented at the industrial trade fair is "Whizzy", an autonomous transport rover that makes it possible to deliver goods in real time. And another process from TU Ilmenau, which will be presented to the public, is used to produce drinking water using solar energy. The Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair for industry, takes place from April 22 to 26. TU Ilmenau will be exhibiting daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Hall 2 at the joint stand C16 "Research for the Future" of the Thuringian universities.

The TU Ilmenau’s presentation at the Hannover Messe will focus on autonomous movement in urban areas. A research team from the Department of Process Optimization led by Professor Pu Li has developed a technology based on artificial intelligence that enables a driverless vehicle to determine the intention of a pedestrian within milliseconds and thus adapt its driving style accordingly. A camera uses artificial neural networks to analyze the facial expression of the person at the side of the road and calculates the probability that they will enter the road and then react accordingly, for example by braking to let them pass.

"While comparable systems analyze the movement of pedestrians, our system focuses on their facial expressions," explains Qais Yousef, who developed the new method together with Prof. Li: "The advantage over previous technologies is that our system assesses the intentions of pedestrians based on their facial expressions even before they move. This unconscious communication between drivers and pedestrians enables optimal driving behavior of the vehicle in real time and thus avoids accidents." The new process can be used not only in automotive engineering, but also in shipbuilding and the aerospace industry, among others.

Another development of the Process Optimization department that will be on show at the Hannover Messe is the E ing and delivery robot "Whizzy", an autonomous transport rover that makes it possible to deliver goods in real time. Against the backdrop of booming online retail, Whizzy can strengthen the competitiveness of the retail trade, particularly in smaller towns and rural regions, as a fast and inexpensive alternative. The autonomous transport rover, which operates on the basis of the latest 5G technologies, has state-of-the-art driving functions and technologies for localization, control and regulation. The prototype’s technology can be transferred to many other areas of everyday life, such as autonomous vehicles on public roads or assistance robots in the care sector.

Another invention from TU Ilmenau, which will be presented at Hannover Messe 2024, makes it possible to produce drinking water using solar energy. The so-called plasmonic sponge converts low-grade liquids such as polluted water, brackish water or even salty seawater into high-quality drinking water. The sponge consists of a porous three-dimensional structure that has been modified by scientists at the Department of Materials in Electrical Engineering led by Prof. Peter Schaaf by attaching metallic nanoparticles to the outer and inner surfaces so that it can absorb a large amount of water. This makes the sponge the heart of highly efficient solar/heat converters that convert the energy of sunlight into heat, which is then used to vaporize the water. The purity of the wastewater achieved through evaporation and recondensation is well above the WHO standard, i.e. the international standard for ensuring safe drinking water. Such high-tech solar/heat converters and processes for solar water evaporation are urgently needed due to the global shortage of drinking water.