Prof. Dr.-Ing. Karl Schulte

In Memory of Professor Karl Schulte

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Professor Dr Karl Schulte passed away on 12 March 2023. Schulte was head of the Institute for Polymers and Composites from 1992 to 2013. His main areas of work in his until beyond retirement were in the field of degradation of fibre composites, the development and investigation of nanocomposites and the synthesis of carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Schulte was considered one of the pioneers in the field of nanocomposites: One of his greatest achievements, together with Professor Adelung's group at Kiel University, was the discovery of what was at times the "lightest material" and “most black” in the world - aerographite. A material made of porous three-dimensionally cross-linked carbon tubes, which consists of 99.99 percent air and yet, in addition to good electrical conductivity, has excellent stability under compressive and tensile stress. Schulte continued to supervise projects at TU Hamburg, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the EU, and also acted as a consultant and reviewer for various institutes and scientific research institutions as well as national and international research funding bodies. In addition, he supervised a number of research projects and doctoral students, especially in the field of synthesis of graphitic nanostructures and polymer nanocomposites.

Born in 1946 in Hemer, Märkischer Kreis, the Westphalian first finished secondary school in Iserlohn, completed an apprenticeship as a high-voltage electrician at Hoesch AG, in Hohenlimburg-Schwerte, did his military service, and graduated from Westfalen-Kolleg in 1970. In the 1970/71 winter semester, Schulte began his studies in mechanical engineering with a focus on materials science at the Ruhr University in Bochum. His diploma thesis in 1975 already pointed the way for his scientific career with the topic: "Investigations into the long-term embrittlement of cast steel OS X5 CrNi13 4". In 1975, he worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Materials Research at the German Aerospace Research Institute (DLR) in Cologne-Porz. There he was also head of the working group Characterisation and Properties of Composite Materials. In May 1979 Karl Schulte was awarded a doctorate in engineering from the Ruhr University in Bochum. The topic of the dissertation: "Sequence influences on the fatigue crack propagation of high-strength aluminium alloys. His supervisor was Prof. Dr. rer.nat. Gerd Lütjering. In the 1980s Schulte was already intensively involved in international collaborations, including research stays at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and at the State University in Blacksburg, VA, USA, with Prof. Reifsnider. Schulte distinguished himself with work in the field of fatigue behaviour and failure mechanisms of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP). He was considered an early expert on polymer matrix composites, carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) with continuous fibres, short fibres or fabrics. He also conducted research on aramid fibre-reinforced plastics, hybrid materials and matrix materials: various thermoplastics and duromers as well as liquid crystalline polymers. He also specialised in testing methods: mechanical tests static and dynamic, at high and low temperatures, fracture mechanics, fatigue strength, worked with light and electron microscopy, was also a developer of non-destructive testing methods, ultrasonic testing, X-ray transmission, temperature measurement, electrical resistance measurement DSC, etc.

The work was carried out under criteria that have already opened up completely new avenues for the development of new materials: correlation of microstructure and mechanical properties, fatigue strength and operational stability, damage development and propagation on fibre composites, development of life prediction concepts, fretting fatigue on CFRP, interface problems (fibre-matrix adhesion), "smartstructures" - the development of intelligent composites equipped with sensors.

Schulte also proved his ability as a networking excellent scientist in the exchange of scientific expertise. He maintained many collaborations with renowned national and international universities and research institutions, such as the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, the University of Kaiserslautern, the University of Duisburg, the Technical University of Chemnitz, and constantly expanded his international contacts throughout Europe and overseas, for example with the Université Bordeaux (F), the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (B), Cambridge University (GB), Delft University of Technology (B), University of Surrey (GB), University of Sheffield (GB), Riso National Laboratories (DK), Hebrew University Jerusalem (IL), Weizmann Institute, Rehovot (IL), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI) (USA), University of Delaware (USA), Kyoto University (JP), Tokyo University (JP) or Xi'an Jiaotong University (CN).


Research work also took place in cooperation with large industrial companies or was funded by them on a pro rata basis: Airbus Hamburg, BASF, Ludwigshafen, DSM, Heerlen (NL), Hüls AG, Marl, ICI, Middlesborough (GB), MBB, Munich, VAW, Bonn, Volkswagen, Wolfsburg, Aluminium Ranshofen (A), Ube Industry (J), Aerospatiale (F) are notable examples of these successful collaborations.

From 2000 to 2005 Schulte was coordinator of the network "Carbon Manotubes for Future Industrial Composites", and since 2005 he has been a member of the DFG.


Research Training Group 1006 "Art and Technology". In addition to his research activities at the TU Hamburg from 1992, Schulte also took on teaching responsibilities. He was Dean of Mechanical Engineering in 1996-1998, during which time he was actively involved in the development of successful and attractive International Master's programmes at TU Hamburg, also in cooperation with European partners.

Cooperation with other universities was also characterised by the supervision of numerous student research projects, diploma, bachelor's and master's theses as well as dissertations.

Numerous awards Honorary memberships are an expression of Professor Karl Schulte's brilliant research activities: He received the Composite Materials Medal in Gold from the German Society for Materials Science (DGM) as early as 1984, was Distinguished Reseacher of the DLR in 1988.

He was a member of numerous scientific societies, including the German Society for Materials Science (DGM), Scientific Working Group of University Professors of Plastics Engineering (WAK), the Working Group for Composites, Polymer Materials and Metal Matrix Composites, was a member of the European Association for Composite Materials (EACM) as well as a member of the Standing Committee, as the German representative of the European Materials Research Society (E-MRS), was appointed an honorary member of the European Society for Composite Materials (ESCM) in the 2000s and was appointed a World Fellow of the International Committee on Composite Materials (ICCM) in 2013.

Last but not least, he was a member of the editorial board of journals:


 - Composite Science and Technology (editor in chief)

 - Journal of Thermoplastic Composite Materials;

 - Multidiscipline Modelling in Materials and Structures;

- Materials Science Research International (MSRI);

- Advanced Composites Bulletin.


Schulte also held numerous patents and utility models. He was one of the most internationally renowned and successful professors at TU Hamburg, with more than 22,000 citations from 330 quality-assured publications and an h-index of 69 (scopus).

On the occasion of the award of the "Medal of Excellence in Composite Materials" by the University of Delaware, USA, Professor Karl Schulte aptly characterised himself: This award was a great compliment for his life's work and showed that his "scientific commitment always addressed current scientific problems and that this was recognised by the international scientific community".

The TU Hamburg mourns with his wife, children and grandchildren. With his work, Professor Karl Schulte contributed immensely to the reputation of TU Hamburg both nationally and internationally. The TU Hamburg owes Professor Schulte a great debt of gratitude and will always honour his memory.

The urn burial will take place on 13 April 2023, 12.00 p.m., in the urn forest Buchholz (forest cemetery).

Link to the mourning website