The interdisciplinary energy research in Clausthal is done in the Research Centre for Energy Storage Technologies (EST). Clausthal EST was established in October 2005 under its former name “Energy Research Centre of the Clausthal University of Technology (EFZ)“ with the aim of bundling and strategically coordinating energy research competences of the Clausthal University of Technology in the areas of natural and engineering sciences, as well as legal and economic sciences in particularly important areas of application-oriented basic research.
The centre is to fulfil the important function of bridging the gap between research and practice. Such bundling of competences allows new and highly complex problems from the energy sector that require third-party funding to be resolved. These could not be adequately dealt with by individual, specific-discipline institutions or temporary research associations. Such close interlocking of research activities allows the establishment of technological knowledge to be strengthened and the associated young scientists to be supported. In addition, relevant energy-political, energy-legal and energy-economic expertise is continuously further developed.
The biggest challenge of future electrical energy systems is the fluctuating feed-in of regenerative energy from the resources of sun and wind and the associated guarantee of continuous availability and a sufficiently stable network. Research and further development of energy conversion and energy storage technologies on the various time scales from milliseconds to weeks, months and years hence become increasingly important to maintain current supply security. Besides technological advances, fundamental innovations in particular from the research on new materials as well as tailor-made material functionalisations are expected. Exactly these competences are available at the Clausthal University of Technology. In future they are to be drawn on in a focussed manner with the associated core institutes at the Energy Storage Technologies Research Centre (EST) in Goslar so that scientific problems in the three newly established research clusters of energy conversion and storage, material functionalisation and system integration can be resolved. In a first step, this will be done by way of two overriding guiding themes.
The first guiding theme is concerned with the investigation of fundamental processes of methanation, that is, the conversion of hydrogen to methane with the help of CO2. One methodological approach is the bacterial underground methanation in porous storage media that will be imitated by way of innovative microfluidic systems and that will be systematically examined with modelling as well as with experiments. The catalytic methanation in tube reactors is the second methodological approach. Here, in particular innovative processes for manufacturing tailor-made, reactive surfaces with the use of ultrashort pulse lasers are to be used for the first time and are to be systematically investigated with regard to possible efficiency increases.
In the second guiding theme battery storage and systems are examined with regard to their system and security-technical requirements for the short-term stabilisation of future energy grids with particular focus on the use of so-called “Second-Life Batteries“ after first use in electromobility. The development of suitable test procedures to predict battery ageing, to establish the life expectancy as well as possible certification procedures are in the foreground of the planned research work. The results of this work will provide the physical-technological basis for the development of a process chain to establish a “Second Life Battery Lab Factory“ in the environment of the battery and sensory testing centre on the Energy Campus of the University of Technology in Goslar. This shall be accompanied by the incorporation of legal and economic problems.
Together with the Fraunhofer HHI that is associated with the University of Technology of Clausthal and the scientific competences of the core institutes involved it is expected that a visible distinguishing feature in basic research as well as in the transfer to business will be established in focussing on the two above guiding themes. Furthermore, this new thematic direction of the EST complements the research focus areas of the EFZN which will guarantee future intensive cooperation with researchers from the member universities involved. This will in turn further strengthen and expand the national and international visibility of energy research in Lower Saxony.