Prof. Frank Balle in interview

TF uncovered - Part 2

In our series "Technische Fakultät Uncovered", we introduce a professor of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Freiburg every week. The professors provide exciting insights into their work as scientists and teachers and even reveal one or two secrets about themselves.

Dr. Frank Balle is professor at the Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering and leader of the Walter-und-Ingeborg-Herrmann-Chair for Power Ultrasonics and Engineering of Functional Materials (EFM).


  1. What do you associate with sustainable systems engineering?

Many systems today are still far from sustainable. Engineering systems are therefore one of the great challenges of our time and a key to mastering the challenges of sustainable resource management. Both in research and in education, I would like to contribute to bringing more sustainability into the products and systems of today and tomorrow. This includes questions on material innovations as a basis for sustainability in the field of energy transition, the corresponding resource scarcity or sovereignty as well as engineering solutions for re- and decarbonization.

We will only really succeed in achieving the mandatory energy transition if we also achieve a material transition, since the generation, conversion and storage of energy will only be possible with sustainable materials and their process technology.


  1. What is your main field of research and why is it so exciting for you?

In research, I deal with sustainable materials and their process technology in the sense of circular value creation due to the motivation mentioned above. In a circular economy resources should be kept in high-quality product stages or production processes for as long as possible in order to preserve their value and to save resources and time with economic advantages without having to forego progress.

More precisely, I am intensively engaged in research with the technology of power ultrasonics (my passion since nearly two decades), which in my opinion can contribute to more sustainability. At INATECH, we use power ultrasonics to combine very different, sometimes exotic materials, but we can also separate them on demand by ultrasonics. This excites me because I can work with a technology that is always capable of new pioneering applications. I can be the first to address these issues with my group and implement them with undergraduate and graduate students. Separation technologies are also a key to "circularity engineering" (, i.e. the development of circular and environmentally healthy products, components and materials - my new research focus at INATECH.


  1. What do the students learn from you and which aspects are particularly important to you?

The students learn fundamental knowledge in engineering sciences. At the same time, the focus is on materials science and engineering. The reference to real systems and application examples is very important to me.

Our students are the developers and decision-makers of the future and the driving force behind innovations and transformations. They should always be involved in new developments in the sense of sustainable development. Thus, we promote a circular way of thinking - a Circular Mindset - from the very beginning. It is in the hands of the current generation of students that products become more sustainable and circular in future.


  1. What advice would you give to students at the beginning of their studies?

Always ask yourself the question, "Do you have fun?" In my opinion, the question is always quite easy to answer with yes or no. Why this is the case is certainly more difficult to answer. It’s been my experience that things you like to do are done with enthusiasm and usually turn out very well in the end.

One specific piece of advice is: Enjoy attending the Sustainable Systems Engineering study seminar, a mandatory module for all our SSE Bachelor students. There, each participant can find out what he or she really enjoys professionally and exchange ideas about it with his or her peers for a semester.


  1. What are the career prospects for graduates?

Sustainable Systems Engineering is a broad course of study that offers many opportunities later on. Our graduates find excellent job prospects in a wide range of industries, from energy producers to NGOs to material manufacturers or in politics. Our "sustainability engineers" are desperately sought after in industry, because engineers with sustainability knowledge and thinking will belong in every technology-related company in the future.

I would also like to cordially invite all students to our Sustainability Talks. In this interdisciplinary series of lectures - always in the winter term - outstanding personalities from science and R&D give talks on the subject of sustainability. Students also have the opportunity to get to know exciting companies where they can make a contribution as a graduate.


  1. What is your motto for teaching and research?

I would speak less of a motto and more of our WHY that we have developed together at the chair: We create knowledge and pass it on so that we can advance people and technologies.

The most rewarding thing for me in my role as a university professor is to advance people and to see the contribution I have been able to make in the process, e.g. how students have developed from the start of their studies in the study seminar through to graduation and perhaps even outgrow themselves.


  1. What do you like best about the Faculty of Engineering?

I appreciate the diversity of all the professors at the faculty. We all have a unifying spirit with which we want to solve the challenges of our time in engineering science and work on innovations that contribute to this.

A special feature of the Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering compared to universities where I previously worked is the close and direct institutional cooperation with the five Fraunhofer Institutes here in Freiburg. This unique cooperation in Germany offers added value for application-oriented education and research. It is certainly one of the reasons why I joined the University of Freiburg and why I feel so comfortable here at INATECH.


  1. What you think students should know about you?

Contact with the students is very important to me and I welcome direct feedback. At one point or another, I have been perceived as strict, because I ask and demand for absolute silence and concentration in the lectures.

The reason is my wish that students make the best possible use of their time in their studies and become successful personalities. In my lectures, I want them to challenge me with questions - before I take questions later ;-)


Prof. Dr. Frank Balle
Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering
Walter-und-Ingeborg-Herrmann-Chair for Power Ultrasonics and Engineering of Functional Materials

Kerstin Steiger-Merx
Representative Marketing & PR
Faculty of Engineering
University of Freiburg
Tel.: 0761/203-8056