Four new GFZ innovation projects selected

First MCGS installation in the Atacama Desert (Chile) (Photo: Carsten Falck).


GNSS sensor development and testing, an app for geothermal exploration and a groundwater monitoring tool receive funding from the GFZ Innovation Fund.

The Innovation Fund of the Helmholtz Centers is a funding program from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It provides additional budgets to the transfer offices at certain Helmholtz Centers for implementing their own innovation projects. Since 2016, the GFZ, too, has been able to use this fund to finance the measures "team bonuses", "industry grants" and "innovation projects". This year, four innovation projects will receive up to 20,000 euros in funding for 3.5 to 7 months as part of an innovation competition.

The projects in detail:

  • Advancement of minimum cost GNSS sensors (MCGS), Carsten Falck and others, Section 1.2
  • Operational validation of the GNSS hardware development tinyBlack (Validation tinyBlack), Benjamin Männel/Markus Ramatschi, Section 1.1
  • Software application for geothermal ground gas measurements in the field (fLUXtec app), Egbert Jolie/Anna Jentsch, Sections 3.1 and 4.8
  • Ground-Water Monitoring from Space (G-WaMoS), Elisa Fagiolini, Section 1.2

The aim of the MCGS project is to develop a particularly cost-effective and compact GNSS-based measurement system for geoscientific and engineering tasks. This is to be achieved by the use of low-cost and power-saving system components which, adapted to the respective measuring task, are operated in an optimal power-saving way. The power consumption of a MCGS station should be so low that, depending on the application, very small or - with a running time of one year - no solar modules at all are required for the power supply.

A complementary device development is the receiver tinyBlack, which also uses civil GNSS signals (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou). Test measurements confirmed accuracies in the 5 millimeter range. The tinyBlack can be used to determine positions and the water vapour content of the atmosphere with high accuracy and therefore allows a wide range of applications, such as observations of geodynamic, tectonic and atmospheric processes, soil moisture determination or use as a reference station, for example for MCGS stations. The project Validation tinyBlack aims to increase the maturity of the technology and automate the evaluation processes.

In areas with geothermal resources, gas emissions at the earth's surface serve as "fingerprints" of deep-seated hydrothermal systems. These provide reliable information to reduce the high exploration risk in deep geothermal energy and to optimally plan costly production wells. The concepts developed for analysing the gases on a reservoir scale require not only geological knowledge but also comprehensive expertise in geostatistical methods and geoinformation systems, which results in complex and time-consuming work steps. For this reason, collected data cannot be processed, visualised and analysed immediately after measurement. With the fLUXtec app an innovative software application is to be developed to enable first analyses already in the field.

G-WaMoS provides worldwide quantitative, complete and independent groundwater information based on data from satellite gravity missions (GRACE and GRACE-FO) and additional on-site measurements and models. The innovation project will develop a software tool to enable better and earlier decisions on water availability and hydrological risks. It will also allow more accurate predictions for agriculture and hydropower generation.

The GFZ Innovation Fund was evaluated by the Helmholtz Association in April 2020. Due to the successful development of the last years, the institutional financing is now permanently available to GFZ. Jörn Krupa, Head of Technology Transfer at GFZ: "I am pleased that we will be able to carry out innovation projects for the internal validation of ideas from GFZ research in the coming years. In addition, we can finance personnel in innovation management and continue to provide incentives to strengthen transfer activities, i.e. continue the team bonus as GFZ Innovation Award and the promotion of industrial scholarships". (ph)

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