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Press release of 17 October 2018

Start made on construction of new metallurgy pilot plant at Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology

New laboratory building costing 10.2 million euros offers unparalleled scope for research into sustainable use and recycling of valuable resources

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In a symbolic ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday 17th October, the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF) marked the start of construction work on a new technical facility. The institute, which is part of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and works in close collaboration with the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, is thus further expanding its research into the sustainable extraction and recycling of strategic resources. The Free State of Saxony is funding the project with a grant of 10.2 million euros.

Metallurgie-Technikum: Erster Spatenstich am 17.10.2018 ©Copyright: HZDR/ Detlev Müller

The ground-breaking ceremony was carried out by (f.l.t.r.): TU Rector Professor Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht, HIF directors Dr Jens Gutzmer and Professor Markus Reuter, Saxony's State Minister for Higher Education, Research and the Arts Dr Eva-Maria Stange, Mayor of Freiberg Sven Krüger and the Scientific Director of HZDR Professor Roland Sauerbrey. Foto: HZDR/ Detlev Müller. Download

The new pilot plant will provide researchers with the space and equipment to combine different metallurgical processes in a variety of practical applications. Complex and digitally linked extraction and recovery processes will be analyzed down to the last detail, from the laboratory stage to industrial maturity. The event was attended by Saxony’s State Minister for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, Dr Eva-Maria Stange, the Rector of TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Professor Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht, and the Mayor of Freiberg, Sven Krüger. Together with the Scientific Director of the HZDR, Professor Roland Sauerbrey, and the two directors of the HIF, Professor Markus Reuter and Dr Jens Gutzmer (PhD ZA), the guests unveiled a construction site sign about the project. They then took turns wielding the ceremonial spade.

“Together with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf as the parent institution and the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, the HIF is playing a major role in the implementation of Saxony’s raw materials strategy and has more than fulfilled the expectations of the federal government and the Free State of Saxony since its foundation year of 2011,” said Minister of State Stange. “Thanks to the excellent connections that the HIF has within the resources sector, including industry, universities and research institutes in the world’s most important mining regions, the outstanding reputation of research in Saxony is reaching an even wider international audience.” The Minister handed over a symbolic letter to the HIF directors confirming the award of the grant for the new pilot plant. This amounts to around 10 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

“Researchers at our Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology are making a significant contribution to the development of innovative technologies for a more sustainable, recycling-based use of raw materials,” said HZDR Scientific Director Professor Sauerbrey. “Thanks to the new pilot plant with its broad spectrum of metallurgical processes which can be researched and tested under realistic conditions here in the future, the institute will be able to consolidate and expand its reputation as a leading center for raw materials in the circular economy, both nationally and internationally.”

To what extent can a circular economy be realized?

Metallurgie-Technikum: Erster Spatenstich am 17.10.2018 ©Copyright: HZDR/ Detlev Müller

Research Minister Dr Stange handed over a symbolic grant letter to the HIF directors Dr Gutzmer (left) und Professor Reuter (right). Foto: HZDR/ Detlev Müller. Download

Institute Director Markus Reuter pointed out that advanced technologies such as mobile communication, e-mobility and the use of renewable energies lead to an increased consumption of raw materials that require large amounts of energy and material input for their extraction: “The circular economy is the most promising approach of all for making optimum use of available resources and energy. We aim to comprehensively explore the associated challenges and limitations in our new pilot plant.” The efficiency of metallurgical processes is just as much part of this as ensuring that product design accounts for aspects of recycling right from the start. “An important consideration here is the maximum achievable recovery rate for each individual material,” adds Reuter. “With digital linking of the metallurgical steps and detailed modelling of the processes, modern approaches and methods developed in our field of research can be implemented in the new pilot plant. They will allow us to quantify the material and energy consumption rates of new technologies and products, which is important in actually assessing their sustainability.”

Rector Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht spoke about the synergies that the new laboratory facility will create in Freiberg: “The scientific community in Freiberg is working together closely in coordinating the equipment of the pilot plant. As a result, the existing and new research infrastructures will perfectly complement each other. This will enhance the already excellent level of cooperation between the scientific institutions in our city and consolidate the leading status in geoscience research that Freiberg enjoys in Germany.”

Freiberg’s Mayor Sven Krüger pointed out the importance of the new building at the Helmholtz Institute in boosting the city’s academic standing: “I am proud that an important contribution is being made to the implementation of the national raw materials strategy here in Freiberg. The local council, business and science have always worked hand in hand. I welcome the fact that this partnership is being expanded further.” The pilot plant is another milestone in the successful development of the HIF since it was founded by the HZDR and the TU Bergakademie Freiberg in 2011. Not least because it creates the conditions for a multitude and variety of joint projects with other scientific institutions, with small and medium-sized enterprises, and with large-scale industry at the regional, national and international level.

Information about the construction project:

The new ‘Technikum’ consists of a 12-meter-tall technology hall and a 15-meter-tall building with various function rooms. The laboratory space has a total floor area of 950 square meters. Equipment covering the entire spectrum of metallurgical research will be installed here, ranging from pyrometallurgy (processes involving heat) to hydrometallurgy (processes involving the use of water). A further 110 square meters will be available as storage space. The research staff will be able to experiment with material flows of between one and 500 kilograms; this corresponds approximately to the gap between the laboratory and industrial scale.

For more information:
Dr. Jens Gutzmer | Director | Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology at HZDR
Tel. +49 351 260-4400 | E-Mail: