Ecology and microbiology

Interactions between building materials and the environment in focus#

Developed and animate environments influence each other in different ways: For example, substances from building materials can leach into the soil and groundwater when rainwater runs off buildings. If temperatures and humidity conditions are suitable, particles settling on surfaces may become a food source for organisms colonizing the exterior of building components. This so-called growth often leads to an unsightly appearance.

The employees in the working area “Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology” study these interactions. On the one hand, their aim is to find solutions to make building materials durable and sustainable to meet requirements. On the other hand, they conduct research on the impact of materials and their constituents on the environment.

In order to further develop them, the biological and chemical properties of building products and materials first need to be better understood. By combining field tests with standardized laboratory procedures, our experts make sure that materials not only withstand laboratory conditions but are also robust enough to cope with normal use. To tackle these tasks, we have a trace analysis laboratory at our disposal, as well as molecular-biological technologies for genetic analysis and an extensive database for identifying and classifying organisms on components.

Resistance to growth and sustainability

Many materials used in our built-up environment affect the surrounding organisms and vice versa. We try to understand these interactions in order to develop materials that are not only resistant to specific influences but also affect the animate environment as little as possible.

Environmental impact of materials

Many building materials and other products release substances into the environment. Their effect on the surrounding ecosystem is not known. We help manufacturers to develop durable and environmentally-friendly products.

Greening buildings (urban surfaces)

Greening buildings is a trend that goes hand in hand with progressive urbanization. The supposed advantages, such as water retention during extreme rainfall or an aid to lessen the urban heat island effect, have not yet been precisely investigated. Our experts are working on quantifying these.

Mold test facility

Under controlled boundary conditions in the form of so-called isopleths, we use our mold test facility to investigate the general tendency of materials or building products to support growth. Depending on the set-up used, materials can be exposed to twelve different climates simultaneously.

Ecophysiology of component-relevant microorganisms

Our research work at Fraunhofer IBP also includes the ecophysiological characterization and analysis of microorganisms relevant to building components. The more precisely the ecophysiological properties of a harmful organism are known, the more specifically countermeasures can be developed.

Biogas plant

Our laboratory-scale biogas plant forms the basis for research work on fermentation processes, including monitoring and control. Sampling points enable gas samples to be taken to assess the quality of the biogas and any undesirable constituents.