Fraunhofer IKTS works on cost-effective, decentralized energy storage devices by working with both lithium-ion batteries and their production engineering, as well as batteries that use ceramic sodium solid-state ionic conductors. Metal-air batteries and super capacitors represent other focal points. Zeolites, phase change materials and salt storage components are offered for thermal storage. Development issues encompass complete value-added chains for energy storage devices and their production, from the laboratory scale to full-scale industrial production.
Power generation using SOFC and MCFC fuel cell systems is in the first phase of market introduction. Current development is concentrated on further reducing production costs, extending fuel cell lifetime, easy-to-use fuels and systems integration. With decades of solid experience, Fraunhofer IKTS is a leading international contact for all of these concerns. The institute‘s capabilities span the entire value-added chain: from detailed knowledge of materials and processes to engineering of core and process components as well as system design to prototyping, test operation and validation. IKTS systems cover a broad spectrum of capacities, from portable devices in the 50 W range to stationary systems on a MW scale. A wide diversity of fuels are used, such as biogas, LPG and hydrogen.
Steam electrolysis and CO2 on a commercial scale is a key technology that makes it possible to use surplus power. For example, it can be converted into storable forms of energy – such as hydrogen for feeding into gas networks, or for reconversion. Alternatively, it can be realized as higher performance power sources by converting it with CO2 through synthesis gas. Fraunhofer IKTS‘s fuel cell stacks are superbly suited for electrolysis operation. In the development of cells, interconnectors and joining technologies, the experiences originating from commercial SOFC technology facilitate swift design and material iterations, as well as large modules.
The efficiency of solar cells is largely determined by the electrical conductivity of metallic collector electrodes. In this area, Fraunhofer IKTS develops pastes and inks for existing and new cell designs. Highly efficient thick-film and direct-writing processes enable an affordable metallization of the cells. In the area of solar thermal energy, Fraunhofer IKTS is working on receiver materials and high-temperature materials for heat exchangers and heat accumulators. The integration of thermal energy storage devices makes it possible to deliver energy precisely as needed.
In order to enhance the environmental friendliness, cycle stability and efficiency of hot gas turbines, and to reduce emissions, higher process temperatures are necessary, as well as materials with high thermal shock resistance. This makes monolithic ceramics and ceramic matrix composites (CMC) an interesting alternative to metallic materials. In addition, Fraunhofer IKTS is engaged with the environmental barrier coatings based on oxide and non-oxide ceramic systems. Additional efforts are focused on high-temperature components, such as heating elements, burners, and heat exchangers, for example.
To supply energy to decentralized microsystems – such as sensors or medical and consumer devices – environmental energy in the form of waste heat and motion can be used. Based on its decades of experience with ceramic active materials (thermoelectric materials and piezoceramics), Fraunhofer IKTS realizes so-called energy harvesters, including thermoelectric generators and piezogenerators, for example.
Fraunhofer IKTS delivers a rich diversity of process engineering solutions for bioenergy technologies – such as disintegration, mixing, and agitation processes – in order to facilitate the use of lignocellulose substrates, along with other materials. The treatment of biogas is optimized by using adsorptive and membrane processes for methane enrichment, gas drying, nutrient recycling and process water treatment. One focus lies on the enhanced flexibility of biogas systems used for providing power precisely as it is needed. In addition, the manufacturing process for bioethanol is improved using membranes in the production process – such as for saccharification, dehydration and substrate processing. New kinds of organophilic pervaporation membranes as well as ultrafiltration membranes aid in designing the production processes to be efficient.
In the immediate future and over the medium term, chemical fuels will retain their significance for mobility because of their high energy density. Fraunhofer IKTS is working on technologies and reactor designs so that it can synthesize liquid energy sources derived from alternative raw materials, H2, CO2 and surplus energy. Among its scientific work, it combines water-selective membranes with catalysts inside the membrane reactor or membrane contactor. The staff additionally studies catalyst systems and process engineering designs and systems for the production of fuels and valuable materials, using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis as a primary tool.
In deep geothermics systems, extreme conditions – such as intense pressures, high temperatures and excessive saline content – frequently trigger corrosion and encrustation, compromising the feasibility and operational safety of these systems. Thanks to its decades of experience with encrustation phenomena, and its superior analytic facilities, Fraunhofer IKTS focuses on corrosion-resistant components and systems, as well as process configuration. Using experimental findings and corrosion test results, IKTS is capable of providing real-time monitoring on-site. In conjunction with membrane electrolysis processes, this leads to a reduction of toxic substances, which means that system downtime can be considerably lowered while optimizing processes in the areas of fracking and deep geothermics.