A combination of virtual reality and airflow simulation allows scientists to see and optimize material flows in a factory

The German government has extended by almost three years a research project that aims to improve security and reliability of technical equipment and processes. The project may help improve electric-vehicle battery technology.

The Ministry for Education and Research is backing the so-called ViERforES project with an additional 5.8 million euros and is extending its life until Sept. 30, 2013. The project originally ran from 2008 until the end of 2010.

ViERforES is the German abbreviation of "virtual and extended reality for the highest security and reliability in embedded systems."

The researchers are using virtual and extended-reality techniques to look specifically at embedded systems such as control software and the microprocessors that form the core of many of today's products.

The research is conducted by engineers from the Fraunhofer IFF Insitute and the Otto-von-Guericke University in the eastern German city of Magdeburg and by experts from the Fraunhofer IESE Institute in Kaiserlautern. Regional companies provide assistance by testing results in real situations.

"Virtual-reality technologies today are an indispensable part of the total lifecycle of technical products, machinery and plants," said Michael Schenk, who runs the Magdeburg Fraunhofer Institute. He added that the technology allows engineers to make improvements based on simulated reality and without having to wait for real-life developments.

In the automotive space, engineers are able for the first time to test batteries using digital engineering and simulations. They hope this will help make key improvements in the safety and reliability of electric vehicles.