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Energy and Environment

The scientific objective of energy research is an energy system based on renewable energy which will help make the transformation of the German energy sector (“Energiewende”) a success as well as limiting climate change. The contributions to research and development made by the Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK) include energy conversion methods and energy storage technologies as well as the mechanisms of climate change.

Sample of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)Sample of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

Energy conversion and storage technologies

Scientists are exploring the mechanisms of photovoltaics and photocatalysis, developing and optimizing fuel cells and electrochemical storage systems such as batteries, and investigating further technologies by means of which power from renewables can be stored, for example in methane gas or chemical raw materials such as hydrogen (“power to X”). For as long as fossil fuels have to be used to generate power, the efficiency of gas and steam turbines must be increased. Here, Jülich scientists are contributing solutions from materials research. They also develop novel membrane structures and materials for the effective and energy-efficient separation of gases such as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the off-gases of power plants before they enter the atmosphere.

Materials research for the Energiewende

Materials research plays a central role in all areas of energy research. It is also Jülich’s speciality in the field of fusion research – which involves fusing light atomic nuclei in order to produce energy. Work here is focused on the ideal design of the inside of fusion reactors such as the large-scale projects ITER or Wendelstein 7-X.

Nuclear waste management research

Nuclear Waste Management at Forschungszentrum Jülich is concerned with how to dispose of nuclear waste produced by the nuclear technology which was used in the past to generate power.

Systems research

For a successful implementation of the Energiewende, it is necessary to view the broader context of various methods and approaches while considering and correlating their feasibility, combinability, economic viability, and – last but not least – social acceptance. This is why systems research and the modelling of energy systems is another important area of Jülich’s energy research.

Atmosphere and climate research

In the field of climate research, Jülich’s scientists investigate the physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere as well as their interactions in the entire climate system. One of the aims is to understand the impact of human influences – particularly those caused by the energy system – on air quality and the climate, both regionally and globally. With the aid of their experimental findings and computer simulations, Jülich researchers continue to develop existing climate models, act as experts, and draw up recommendations for action for policymakers.