Project »eHarsh« – Sensor systems for extremely harsh environments

The aim of the »eHarsh« lighthouse project is to develop a technology platform that will allow the development and construction of sensor systems for use in extremely harsh environments. Research within the project comprises the following topics:

  • robust sensors, e.g. pressure and temperature sensors as well as integrated circuits and system components for use up to 300°C or 500°C, respectively
  • 3D integration and hermetically sealed encapsulations at the system level in the form of system scaled packages, allowing simultaneous media access to the sensors
  • extended reliability analyses and models: analytics and test methods – alone or in combination − for various loads, and an understanding of material behavior with regard to defect risks and degradation mechanisms

The technologies will be developed and evaluated based on demonstrators from the areas of engine / turbine monitoring and geothermal energy.


Sensors are the foundation for the comprehensive, intelligent control of industrial value-added chains. In many everyday items like smartphones, for example, highly integrated sensor systems have become state of the art. In the industrial environment, this is not at all the case: Until now, the use of sensor systems has often proved impossible, since the extreme environment of industrial processes, characterized by high operating temperatures, mechanical loads, vibrations, or a humid or chemically aggressive milieu, does not permit reliable operation of sensitive electronic components.

Yet there is an enormous demand for sensor systems to monitor and control plants and processes precisely, especially in high-tech industries such as aerospace, power generation, industrial automation, automotive or environmental measurement technology. Highly efficient, integrated sensor systems suitable for the industrial environment provide the only way to achieve the goals of digital production in terms of Industry 4.0, such as the individualization of products or real-time control of production processes.

Main research area at Fraunhofer IPM

  • Thermal-electrical impedance spectroscopy for media analysis: For the classification of contacted media, subdivided according to conductivity and capacity (thermal and electrical). Media can be the surrounding fluid or the wall of the well, or for example sensitive layers with additional information such as the type of mineralization or hydrocarbon concentration.
  • Harsh Environment (HE) Lab: For the characterization of the sensor system, Fraunhofer IPM is setting up a »Harsh-Environment (HE) Lab« in which we can simulate the conditions in geothermal boreholes.

Project finance

The project »eHarsh« is being funded within the initiative »Lighthouse Projects – Reducing Time to Market« by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS (Project coordination)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM

Project duration

June 2017 until December 2020