Fraunhofer and UBC partner on sustainable energy research

Fraunhofer and the University of British Columbia (UBC) have entered into a €4m (£3.3m) partnership to jointly develop technologies for sustainable energy production and supply.

On 21 December 2012 Fraunhofer and the university signed a framework agreement giving the green light for a collaboration spanning several years.

‘The co-operation with the UBC will support us in one of our key topics,’ said Prof Reimund Neugebauer, president of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. ‘Sources of energy in the 21st century will change, and this brings up many questions we have to solve. With the UBC we have found an excellent international partner for energy research.’

It has been demonstrated that using the surplus electricity from wind or solar power plants to generate hydrogen is a possible option for energy storage.

According to Fraunhofer, the partners will examine the development of innovative electrodes, as well as electrolysis cells for PEM electrolysers in recognition of hydrogen’s increasing importance as a universal and renewable energy source for the storage of electricity. An additional sub-project will investigate the recycling of the used hydrogen in the production of solar cells. 

In the field of fuel cell research, UBC and Fraunhofer ISE have already developed a method for spatially resolved characterisation of fuel cells. Processes in the cells can be monitored in detail, revealing the potential for optimisation. Building on this development the partners will continue their efforts to improve the efficiency and reliability of fuel cells.

The collaboration will also investigate the efficient conversion of various under-utilised biomass materials.

Research will concentrate on innovative cleaning methods to control and significantly reduce the tar content produced during gasification of wood and wood waste. The purified gas can then be supplied to combustion systems for a combined heat and energy generation.

Project leader Dr Christopher Hebling, head of the division Energy Technology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, said: ‘Just like Fraunhofer, UBC recognises the importance of environmental technologies for the future.

‘Not only do both partners undertake excellent research in this field, but they also stand out due to their common strategy for co-operation with the industry.

‘This alliance will strengthen and expand the leading position of the UBC and Fraunhofer in this market.’