Boost for renewable energy research
New combinations of materials as the basis of sustainable energy sources: The Bavarian research network Solar Technologies Go Hybrid (SolTech), which involves LMU and four other universities, receives funding for another 5 years.
Sustainable sources of emission-free energy such as sunlight and hydroelectricity cannot as yet fully replace the energy derived from nuclear power and the use of fossil fuels. Chemists and physicists based at five universities in Bavaria are therefore pooling their expertise in the SolTech research network, whose goal is to achieve significant advances in the efficient conversion of sunlight into electricity and chemical energy. The network was set up in 2012, and the State of Bavaria and its Ministry for Education and Science have now announced that they will provide a further 16.5 million euros in funding for the extension over the coming 5 years. SolTech coordinator is Professor Jochen Feldmann (Faculty of Physics, LMU). In addition, several other research groups at LMU, including that led by Professor Thomas Bein in the Faculty of Chemistry, are actively engaged in the project.
In order to make widespread use of renewable energy possible, it is crucial to develop efficient forms of storage for the solar energy. SolTech scientists are therefore exploring various ways of converting solar energy into chemical fuels by using it, either directly or in the form of electricity, to generate hydrogen from water or methane from carbon dioxide and water. Finding the optimal strategy for this purpose will not only require improvements in the latest generation of solar cells, but also requires further research on novel composite materials and a better understanding of the underlying photochemical and electrochemical processes. This is where the strengths of the network come into play: the Key Labs at the five universities involved are internationally renowned for their work on particular classes of materials: functional polymers (Bayreuth University), inorganic materials and nanosystems (LMU and the Technical University of Munich), supramolecular systems (Würzburg University) and carbon-based materials (Erlangen University).