Research

The universities of UA Ruhr offer a broad variety of cutting-edge research that transcends disciplinary borders and achieves international recognition. The collegial nature within and between disciplines and institutions is one of the true hallmarks of the Ruhr Area. Students, scientists, and scholars who come to the UA Ruhr universities become part of a down-to-earth and close-knit network of research institutes and companies whose impact stretches far beyond the Ruhr Area.

Research at UA Ruhr is developing at a rapid pace. By bundling the complementary strengths of our partner universities, we successfully open up innovative research fields. With joined forces, we thus form critical masses in terms of personnel and infrastructure that are indispensable for handling large research topics.

Outstanding examples of that standard-setting collaboration include the Flagship Programs “Materials Chain” and “Ruhr Explores Solvation” (RESOLV), set up in 2015, where numerous researchers from the UA Ruhr universities work hand in hand, often in cooperation with other third-party and international partners. The research cluster RESOLV is financed by the DFG Excellence Initiative.

Moreover, 100 additional joint research institutions and projects have been established spanning all disciplines, from American studies to cell biology.

One of our strengths is nurturing young talent. Young researchers are promoted through various interdisciplinary programs, including individual coaching, as well as in numerous Graduate Schools. The Mercator Research Center Ruhr supports this unique cooperation by providing 46 million € for collaborative research endeavours.

A key tool for fostering the collaboration between the universities are the UA Ruhr professorships, funded by MERCUR with up to one million euros. The professorships help define a competitive UA Ruhr profile and have so far been awarded to Prof. Havenith-Newen to facilitate the continuous expansion of the UA Ruhr Flagship Program RESOLV, and to Prof. Rahmann in order to pool competencies at the UA Ruhr Center for Computational Biology. A third professorship in the Flagship Program Materials Chain has been awarded to Prof. Wiederkehr.

A crucial source of ideas and inspiration is the UA Ruhr Research Council, whose eminent members have dedicated themselves to identifying new Flagship Programs and research fields in which the UA Ruhr has attained or will attain a leading position in the national and international marketplace.

The University Alliance Ruhr’s Flagship Program Materials Chain bundles and strengthens the research activities in the field of materials science at the three universities of Dortmund, Bochum and Duisburg/Essen. The goal of the collaboration is to reach a complete and concise description of the whole materials chain – from atoms to finished technical components and vice versa.

The expertise in this field at the three universities is internationally well-recognized and combines activities of more than 200 research groups. The “Materials Chain” covers all stages of modern materials sciences from designing, manufacturing and refining of materials to their characterization, and fashioning within production processes. Consequently, the “Materials Chain” is systematically applicable to various areas.

About the Flagship Program Materials Chain

The introduction of innovative materials is a substantial part of the Ruhr Area’s history. Highly innovative products from the Ruhr Area, like seamless railway tires, stainless steels or carbides, functioned as growth engines for all of Germany. The success story of automobile manufacturing in Germany, which continues to this day, can ultimately be traced back to the developments of the material- and metalworking industry and hence to the Ruhr Area. The traditional focus on materials is still shaping the Ruhr Area’s academic landscape today, as the three UA Ruhr universities maintain research facilities with a material-scientific setting of priorities that enjoys worldwide recognition. Within this environment, a multitude of scientists significantly strengthens this field of research with their achievements.

At the TU Dortmund, numerous institutes and chairs, mainly affiliated with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, are concerned with the processing and coating of materials. Within long-term project-collaborations like the (TR-)SFBs, the scientists address matters like the structures of lightweight constructions, the engineering of surfaces and the development of resource-efficient products in their studies. The gained insights are reported back to the material developers to achieve a specific optimization of the demand profile.

The Ruhr-Universität Bochum has condensed its material-scientific activities within the interdisciplinary Materials Research Department, where scientists from nearly all faculties with an engineering or natural-science orientation collaborate. This faculty-spanning department is complemented by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Advanced Material Simulation (ICAMS), where scale-bridging simulations are conducted, and by the research building ZGH (Zentrum für grenzflächendominierte Höchstleistungswerkstoffe, Center for Interface-Dominated High Performance Materials), that will go into operation with unique equipment in 2018.

The outstanding research activities in materials sciences at the Universität Duisburg/-Essen focus on the production, functionalization, characterization and integration of nanoparticle materials. The interdisciplinary research in this area is coordinated by the Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen (CENIDE), where a unique infrastructure, including, for example, the DFG equipment site Interdisciplinary Center for Analytics on the Nanoscale (ICAN), enables researchers to examine effects on the smallest dimensional scales. These research activities are spatially and functionally integrated into the recently established research facility NETZ (NanoEnergieTechnikZentrum). The area of materials simulation is complemented by the Center for Computational Sciences and Simulations (CCSS).

In addition to this, all “Materials Chain” sites host numerous projects like SFBs, international graduate schools and other major projects that are already partially aligned across locations.

More information about the Flagship Program Materials Chain:

The mission of the cluster and Flagship Program is to develop Solvation Science as a new interdisciplinary field to understand the influence of solvation on reactions, on the function of biomolecules, and on processes at liquid/solid interfaces. Started in 2012, RESOLV is now the leading research institution in Solvation Science on a national level and one of the top players worldwide.

Financed by the DFG Excellence Initiative, the research cluster and UA Ruhr Flagship Program RESOLV (Ruhr Explores Solvation) brings together international and regional partners to continuously enhance its research capacities and cement its position among leading research institutions worldwide.

You will find an apt description of RESOLV in the video clip of renowned science journalist and former editor of the journal Nature: Philip Ball about Solvation Science and Ruhr Explores Solvation.

About the Flagship Program RESOLV

Most chemical reactions, crucial industrial processes and almost all biological processes take place in the liquid phase. A profound understanding of solvation is going to effect a radical change in numerous key technologies, those including green chemistry and electrochemistry. It is essential for optimizing industrial processes, reducing environmental stress, improving energy efficiencies, understanding biological processes and preventing corrosion.

At present, time-consuming series of experiments are necessary in order to identify the right solvent for a process. Solvation Science aims at developing a standardized model capable of predicting solvation processes.

More than 50 scientific working groups – approx. 200 members in total – have bundled their strengths in the RESOLV Cluster of Excellence and in the UA Ruhr Flagship Program, for the purpose of developing a bottom-up understanding of solvation. Spread across seven institutions in Metropolis Ruhr, they expand the borders of science.

In 2015, the sister organization CALSOLV (California Explores Solvation) was set up at the University of California, Berkeley. Teams on both sides of the Atlantic have been collaborating closely ever since. More than 80 PhD students have joined the integrated  RESOLV Graduate School Solvation Science (GSS) . They work in international teams and spend three months as visiting researchers at one of 20 international partner institutions affiliated with RESOLV International Faculty. In the TranSOLV project, research results are actively converted into industrial applications.

The research strategy of RESOLV departs from the traditional, empiric and macroscopically describing approach. RESOLV is developing a standardized universal and comprehensive bottom-up framework. The aim is to develop predictive Solvation Science, based on a molecular understanding of the processes. To this end, the molecules of the solvent in solvation processes are not regarded as passive observers of a reaction, but as functional components and active or reactive species.

RESOLV tackles scientific challenges by combining cutting-edge experimental, spectroscopic and synthetic technologies with the latest in computer simulation. A profound understanding of solvent phenomena on a molecular level will have a bearing on numerous applications, those including corrosion prevention in steel, development of biosensors, preparing the biomass in raw materials for chemical processes, the development of microcapsules for controlled release of active ingredients in drugs, cleaning processes for liquids, high-tech batteries, and green asymmetric organocatalysis.

RESOLV is part of a tightly-knit network in Metropolis Ruhr: three Max Planck Institutes, i.e. Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, Max Planck Institute for Iron Research and Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Fraunhofer Institut UMSICHT, as well as three UA Ruhr universities constitute this Flagship Program. More than 200 scientists work hand in hand in RESOLV. They discuss the results of their research at regular intervals at conferences and in numerous publications.

All partners of the Flagship Program operate state-of-the-art facilities, equipped with the latest in experiment and simulation technology. RESOLV attracts leading scientists from all four corners of the globe. The initiative continuously furthers and expands its research endeavors. Spring 2016 saw the inauguration of the new research building ZEMOS (Centre for Molecular Spectroscopy and Simulation of Solvent-directed Processes).

More information about the Flagship Program RESOLV

With more than 5 million people inhabiting a high-density urban environment, the Ruhr region is one of Europe’s largest agglomerations, on par with Île-de-France, Greater London, Moscow and Istanbul. Ruhr Area has a polycentric structure, boasting a number of centers that network and collaborate with each other, as well as being competitors. Moreover, Ruhr Area is a model case for the transformation of an industrial region into a service and knowledge-based metropolitan hub. In the field of transformative metropolitan research, Ruhr Area thus constitutes an ideal real laboratory for analyzing and shaping structural changes, from the scaled-down versions of individual quarters to the entire region.


In this dynamic and heterogeneous high-density urban environment, academics at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), TU Dortmund University and University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) have been conducting dedicated research into metropolitan living for many years. All three universities possess disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise, leveraging it strategically thanks to their complementary resources and synergy potentials. The UA Ruhr competence field “Metropolitan Research” marks the establishment of an internationally visible center for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary metropolitan research that bundles the complementary competencies of the three universities across all discourse communities and takes advantage of the strengths of the region by networking with third-party research organizations and industrial partners.
The "Metromap" provides an overview of the seven interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary areas of research consolidated in the competence field “Metropolitan Research” at UA Ruhr and illustrates the points where they intersect.


More information about the Commpetence Field "Metropolitan Research":

Financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Collaborative Research Centres (SFB) and Transregios (TR) enhance UA Ruhr’s capacity to develop and share research expertise that shapes the world.

Under the umbrella of our Collaborative Research Centres, scientists conduct cutting-edge research across the spectrum of sciences, generating sustainable results that will continue to benefit society in the long term.

Transregios are Collaborative Research Centres with branches in several locations. In order to receive financial backing, they must pass a strict selection process.

The objective pursued by the Mercator Research Center Ruhr is to strengthen the Ruhr Area’s position as an important economic and industrial hub in a sustainable manner by promoting strategic collaboration among all UA Ruhr universities. Researchers from UA Ruhr universities have the option to submit applications for five types of grant funding via their respective Rectorates: project funding, structural development grant, individual grants, start-up funding and strategic fund. The Center was set up by the Mercator Foundation in collaboration with UA Ruhr in March 2010.

With its programs, MERCUR supports the networking strategies of researchers, institutes and faculties across all three universities, mainly in research, but also in academia. The programs thus reflect MERCUR’s conviction that, by bundling its strengths, the research region Ruhr will gain clout in the national and international marketplace which competes for the best ideas and minds.

Additional information about MERCUR:

Research Council

Staffed by senior academics, the joint UA Ruhr Research Council provides an ongoing stream of creative ideas and recommendations to strengthen the research endeavors in the Ruhr Area. The Council is the powerhouse that drives the continuous expansion of UA Ruhr by analyzing the existing and initiating potential research cooperations. Building and enhancing joint Flagship Programs is at the heart of its agenda, as they have propelled UA Ruhr to the top in national and international research and will continue to cement its leading position in the years to come. The Research Council is composed of 15 renowned scientists, including the three Vice Rectors Research as ex-officio members.