Research for the Energy Transition

The Bavarian state government is to fund four projects conducted by FAU researchers

With the 2012 supplementary budget, the Free State of Bavaria is supporting numerous research projects on energy transition. Researchers from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) are involved in four of these projects: at the Nuremberg Campus of Technology, the Bavarian Hydrogen Center, the E|Home-Center and the “Solar Technologies Go Hybrid“ Research Network. All together, the four research projects are to receive almost €17 million in additional funding from the supplementary budget for the year 2012. This will be paid to the FAU and its cooperation partners.

Nuremberg Campus of Technology (NCT)
The Nuremberg Campus of Technology (NCT) is a cooperation platform between Friedrich-Alexander-Universität and Georg-Simon-Ohm-Hochschule Nürnberg (OHM). Its goal is to combine and expand the FAU’s and OHM’s skills in research and teaching. By doing so, it is hoped that this will strengthen the European metropolitan region of Nuremberg and its status as a centre of technology. Sharing between the institutions is also set to rise, for example by implementing joint teaching modules and using joint infrastructures, such as laboratories. Furthermore, both institutions aim to make the switch for outstanding students from OHM to the university easier and to support cooperative doctorates.

The NCT’s research focuses on the topic “Engineering for Smart Cities” which, in the light of increasing urbanisation across the globe, is becoming increasingly important. The NCT is oriented towards the technological challenges and opportunities facing cities in the future. For example, the transition to a new energy system, the increased need for sustainability and the new security threats.

In total, the state government has earmarked around €19 million for the project which is initially intended to last five years. First of all, amongst other things, this funding will be used to found a new chair at the FAU and appoint a new professor at the OHM. The Nuremberg Campus of Technology is to receive more than €5 million from the 2012 supplementary budget.

Bavarian Hydrogen Center
The Bavarian Hydrogen Center is also to receive funding. It is a cooperation project between the FAU and the Technische Universität München, the Universität Bayreuth and the Hochschule Amberg. The research project’s academics are searching for possibilities to generate and use hydrogen from exclusively renewable sources. Moreover, the researchers want to drive forward the systematic development of chemical energy storage with hydrogen, known as hydrogen LOHC technology. The hydrogen released at the location where energy is required can then be transformed into electricity through fuel cells, combustion machines or turbines.

Hydrogen is one of the most sustainable energy sources and could play an essential role in energy transition as renewable energies, such as solar and wind power, can only be generated intermittently due to changing weather conditions. Furthermore, the amount of energy produced can vary depending on location. For example, winds are generally stronger on the coast than inland, which means coastal locations produce more wind power. This is why technology is required that allows this excess energy to be economically and efficiently stored and transported from one location to another. In this case, using hydrogen would be the answer. Hydrogen, however, has very low density and is extremely volatile and therefore is not suitable as an energy source.

This is where the hydrogen LOHC technology comes into play. It was developed by Prof. Dr. Wofgang Arlt, chair for Thermal Process Engineering at FAU, and Prof. Dr. Peter Wasserscheid, chair for Chemical Reactions Technology at FAU and is to be expanded within the framework of the Bavarian Hydrogen Center. This scientific process makes it possible to store hydrogen using the hydrocarbon compound carbazole. This substance is similar in consistency to diesel fuel and reaches about 30 per cent of the heat value of fuel oil. Moreover, just like fuel oil, it can be pumped and stored or transported over large distances using tanker trucks. Furthermore, carbazole is not explosive as the hydrogen cannot escape from the compound on its own.

In total, the Bavarian Hydrogen Center has received around €15 million in funding. Of this sum, €3 million comes from the 2012 Bavarian supplementary budget.

The E|Home-Center is a Friedrich-Alexander-Universität research project, lead by Prof. Dr. Jörg Franke’s chair for Production Automation and Production Systematics and also involves professors from the OHM Hochschule. Its goal is to develop solutions for resource-efficient and intelligent living. To this end, the participating research scientists are relying on combining electrical devices with computer technologies and on decentralised energy generation.

Private households currently consume around one quarter of all energy in Germany. There is a great deal of potential for savings here, e.g. through improved building insulation and energy-saving household appliances. At the same time, there are already technologies, such as solar power systems and mini wind turbines that enable energy to be generated on a decentralized basis. The researchers’ aim is to combine these technologies so that, in the future, households can generate all of the energy they use. All of this technology will be controlled automatically by a central computer system in the household.

The research project is also concentrating on private households’ water consumption. By using new processes in the treatment of water that has already been used, water consumption can be drastically reduced.

Certain aspects of so-called “smart green homes” are also being researched outside Bavaria. However, within the framework of the E|Home-Center, all of the essential technologies are being researched in an integrated and holistic manner for the first time. The situation in Bavaria is particularly favourable because numerous companies from the region hold world market leading positions in the development of these technologies. In 2012 the E|Home-Center is to receive €2.5 million in funding from supplementary budget. In total, the project will receive funding over a period of four years.

Solar Technologies Go Hybrid
In the research network entitled “solar technologies go hybrid”, research scientists from the universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Bayreuth and Würzburg and both Munich universities, are focusing on photovoltaic technology and the transformation of solar energy into electricity. Furthermore, they aim to drive forward technologies that enable the power of the sun to be bound into chemical energy. An example of this is the splitting of water into oxygen and the energy-rich fuel hydrogen – which is environmentally sound like plant photosynthesis.

As part of this project, the five universities have set up well equipped laboratories, known as Key Labs. The FAU Key Lab “carbon rich hybrids” will bring together highly topical and basic research on photo and light active materials from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Molecular Materials (ICMM) and the Engineering of Advanced Materials Cluster of Excellence (EAM). It is being coordinated by Prof. Dr. Dirk M. Guldi, chair for Physical Chemistry 1, and Dr. Timothy Clark, from the Computer Chemical Centre. The core focus of the Erlangen Key Lab’s research is on the concept of panchromatic absorption and light-harvesting complexes, as well as the optimisation of electron transfer processes and the development of molecular photo catalysts and pigment sensitised photo cathodes. The “solar technologies go hybrid” project is to receive around €6 million from the supplementary budget.

Further information for the media:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Franke
Tel.: 09131/85-27569

Bavarian Hydrogen Center:
Prof. Dr. Eberhard Schlücker
Tel.: 09131/85-29450

Nuremberg Campus of Technology
Pressestelle der FAU
Tel.: 09131/85-70214

Solar Technologies / Key Lab
Prof. Dr. Dirk M. Guldi
Tel.: 09131/85-27341

uni | media service | research No. 14/2012 on 16.4.2012

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