Profiles in Marketing: The Fraunhofer Institute

The Fraunhofer Society is a network of research centers, mostly located in Germany, but with others in the US and Asia, focusing on applied industrial science and engineering. Among other things, they developed the MP3 audio compression format and currently hold the world’s record for the solar cell with the highest conversion efficiency.

Most of the institutes that comprise the Fraunhofer Society have names that directly state the purpose of their research: the institute for Medical Image Computing, the institute for Silicate Research, the institute for Laser Technology.

But one institute stands out in particular, to me. The Fraunhofer Institute for ‘Kurtzzeitdynamik. Officially translated as ‘The Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics’, the word ‘Kurtzzeit’ literally means ‘short-time’.

The main facility of the institute is located in the heart of Freiburg, Germany, a city of over 200,000 located in a wine-growing area in the Germany’s famous Black Forest at about the point where Germany, France and Switzerland meet. Care to wager a guess as to what they research at the good old Fraunhofer Institute for Short-Time/High-Speed Dynamics?

The land speed of the African cheetah? Formula 1 race car engines? The terminal velocity of Lindsay Lohan’s career prospects?

Nope. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Short-Time Dynamics they research explosions. Formulations of explosion-resistant concrete, the demand for which is growing rapidly worldwide. The intensely energetic impact of debris on spacecraft. Computer simulation of blast propagation and the deformation of solids.

Of course, it’s not as if the good people at the Fraunhofer Institute would load a car full of explosives in downtown Freiburg and blow it up, just to see what happens. Scientific investigations of explosions are, of course, done on a very small scale in laboratories (and in simulations) with all regards given to safety. Nevertheless, having the foresight to name this center the innocuous ‘Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics’ rather than ‘The Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Ballistics, Solid Deformation and the Intensely Energetic Propagation of Explosive Blasts’ in my opinion should win these people the Nobel Prize for Applied Marketing.

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