unizeit Schriftzug

A high frequency career

Particulate matter is currently still being measured in a surprisingly cumbersome way. However, the “aerosense” project, which came about in the laboratories at Kiel University and is based on innovative radar technology, adopts a different approach. Thanks to funding provided by the EXIST Transfer of Research programme, those involved in the aerosense project have had their sights set on establishing a company since September.

Four men on a square
© Gerrit Jochim

Leve Freiwald (from left), Robin Sielken, Alexander Teplyuk and Phillip Durdaut plan on revolutionising the measurement of particulate matter using radar technology.

Electrical engineer Dr Alexander Teplyuk completed his PhD back in 2012 with a thesis on measuring microparticulates on the basis of radar technology, demonstrating that this process also works in practice. Some three years later, Alwin Reinhardt took up the principle in his PhD thesis, also under the Chair of Professor Michael Höft, and developed a process that operates at higher frequencies. One day, Reinhardt then got chatting with Leve Freiwald, who also came from Itzehoe and in his own words always found this topic “particularly exciting”. He therefore decided to come on board, helping create the circuit design for the measuring instrument which Reinhardt was tweaking within the scope of his Bachelor’s thesis in Engineering.

When the novel process then also won the 2018 Schleswig-Holstein Ideas Competition for Universities and Research Institutes, things really started to take off. By this time, the two early career researchers were no longer thinking just of setting up their own company, but were already well on their way to actually doing it. Professor Nils Pohl from the RUB in Bochum, an institution already very well established in the field of high frequency radar measurement technology, then also joined as a cooperation partner. The specialist in integrated systems supported the Kiel-based scientists in developing a modular unit that can be used as a stationary system, yet also as a mobile unit for measuring particulate matter. This is how Alwin Reinhardt describes the system: “In principle, you can aim our device at a cloud of smoke and get answers to the following questions: How high is the particle concentration? How large are the particles? How fast are the particles moving? All of this happens in real time, wirelessly and, thanks to very high performance rechargeable battery technology, autonomously for up to a year.”

Professor Höft, himself a high frequency specialist, showed support for the project from the outset, while ever more encouragement also came from the customer side. However, only when the future founders heard about the EXIST Transfer of Research programme did the project finally hit the home stretch. They had been working on their concept and their funding request for months, during which time they experienced a huge amount of stress and, according to Leve Freiwald, also a great deal of support from Kiel University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship (ZfE). So how did it all pan out? They were awarded €500,000 for personnel costs and a further €250,000 for material expenses within one and half years. Leve Freiwald, Alexander Teplyuk, Phillip Durdaut and Robin Sielken are all on board at aerosense, which is set to become a German limited company (GmbH) within one and half years. Their key objective? To become successful and pay back the trust of their sponsors with a unique product that is in demand.

Author: Martin Geist