Nanochemistry for new energy systems

Research initiative seeks solutions for a sustainable energy supply

Nanostructured carbons on activated carbon © Fritz Haber Institute
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Five Max Planck Institutes want to develop new mobile energy storage systems and more effective methods of energy generation in a joint research network "Nanochemical concepts of a sustainable energy supply (ENERCHEM)". The initiative addresses global energy supply problems in the 21st century and is expected to develop, among other things, novel highly porous carbon for gas storage, carbon nanofoams for insulation, and efficient solar cells based on organic materials.

The world's energy consumption is currently almost 90 percent based on fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas. Three-quarters of the total energy produced is consumed by only one quarter of the world's population - the industrialized nations. If one were to transfer the immense energy demand of the "western world" to the entire earth, it would soon collapse, its fossil resources would soon be exhausted. The energy policy of our age is therefore not only a question of technology, but because of its global responsibility and growing dependence on imports it is also a question of foreign and development policy. A simple update of current technology is no longer up to date and no longer practicable for a future-oriented energy supply. With the founding of the research initiative "Nanochemical concepts of a sustainable energy supply - ENERCHEM", the scientific basis for new mobile energy storage and more effective methods of energy generation should be developed.

ENERCHEM's planned projects include the generation of novel highly porous carbon for gas storage, the production of carbon nanofoams for insulation, and the development of organic solar cells. They could contribute to new energy cycles that are smart and efficient. This work makes use of already established and successful research work of the involved Max Planck institutes.

Above all, ENERCHEM differs from other nanotechnology research centers in that it focuses on innovative solutions to a clearly defined, socially relevant goal and integrates the study of nanoscopic materials as an instrument in this process. In addition to pure research or direct application-oriented research, a third approach is taken, focusing on basic research that is directly shaped by societal needs. Currently, important solutions for energy systems are not really independent, but developed mainly adapted to technologies and markets. As a rule, they are therefore subject to the influence of individual groups. This structurally determined need for medium-term, economically independent research should now be remedied by the project network of various Max Planck Institutes.

At its heart is the development of new concepts for sustainable and efficient energy systems using a whole range of key technologies - from generating and transforming to saving and storing energy. ENERCHEM generates knowledge networks at the highest level and checks the research results for their system compatibility. The knowledge and techniques and equipment available in the various research areas and institutes complement each other, guided by the realization that something new is emerging not just in the individual research areas but also in between. display

The joint project of the Max Planck Institutes for Colloids and Interfaces (Potsdam), Solid State Research (Stuttgart), Polymer Research (Mainz), Coal Research (M lheim) and Fritz-Haber Institut (Berlin) is led by Prof. Markus Antonietti, Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, and begins on November 17, 2004 with a colloquium in Munich.

(MPG, 16.11.2004 - NPO)