IHK Award 2021 for graduate of the TU Ilmenau

For his master's thesis on the topic of "Design of a machine concept for introducing sodium filaments into engine pistons", M.Sc. Robert Wegner, a graduate of the master's program  Mechanical Engineering at the Technische Universität Ilmenau, was awarded this year's IHK award by the Southern Thuringia Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK).

According to the jury, the 30-year-old's work "provided an important building block for sustainable and energy-efficient solutions in the automotive industry, especially for commercial vehicles in long-haul transport, in order to achieve the EU target of a 30 percent CO2 reduction by 2030." The IHK award, which is endowed with 2,500 euros, is awarded annually to honor the scientific achievements of young academics and to promote cooperation between industry and science. In this way, students are given the opportunity to gain practical experience in companies at an early stage and the transfer of the latest scientific findings to industry is promoted.

Robert Wegner's thesis, which was awarded a grade of 1.0, was written at the Product and Systems Engineering Group headed by Prof. Stephan Husung under the supervision of Dr.-Ing. Torsten Brix and in close cooperation with the company HELLER Maschinen & Technologie AG in Arnstadt, which specializes in innovative special machines, particularly for the automotive industry. The native Berliner had already worked here as a student trainee from 2016 to 2018, and after completing his bachelor's degree in 2018, started working as a product engineer in parallel to his master's degree program. The award was presented to Robert Wegner at the graduation ceremony of the Department of Mechanical Engineering on November 13, 2021 by Olaf Mollenhauer, himself a graduate of the TU Ilmenau, Chairman of the Ilm District Regional Committee of the South Thuringia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and an experienced entrepreneur and managing director of Kompass GmbH, who paid him the highest respect for his achievement.

Utilizing the "shaker effect" with sodium as a coolant

One of the key factors in the development of sustainable and energy-efficient solutions in the automotive industry is higher combustion temperatures in engines with compression ignition, which requires new solutions for heat dissipation, including from the thermally highly stressed piston crown, to ensure operational reliability. For this purpose, the use of the so-called shaker effect with sodium as coolant is suitable, which has proven itself in hollow stem valves. For this purpose, the engine pistons require several specially arranged cavities which are filled with sodium. Already at a temperature of approx. 100°C a shaking movement of the liquefied sodium occurs, which allows a much more efficient heat dissipation.

Design of a complete machine concept

In his master's thesis, Robert Wegner succeeded in developing a complete machine concept that enables automatic filling of bores made in motor pistons with sodium. The focus was on the safe handling of the hazardous substance sodium, the reproducible generation of sodium filaments under tight tolerance specifications, the handling of the motor pistons in the machining process with tight cycle time specifications and the safe sealing of the filled bores by means of a welding process.

According to the jury statement, Robert Wegner's work is characterized by an interplay of scientific methods of systematic product development and numerous practical tests for the analysis of the necessary process steps and parameters. The high level of technological maturity ofthe solution found, which also included cycle time analyses, considerations of process reliability and the expected manufacturing costs, allowed the machine concept to be implemented in a practical system that has since been delivered and is already in use at the customer.


Prof. Stephan Husung
Head of Product and Systems Engineering

+49 3677 69-2472