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Climate change mitigation demands a rapid large-scale decarbonization of our energy system, necessitating a drastic expansion of renewable energy, and the development of alternative, sustainably produced chemical energy carriers.

Chemical energy carriers are essential for long-term energy storage, a key enabler for the transformation of the mobility and industrial sectors. The success of the energy transition in Germany and Europe hinges on the ability to store and import substantial amounts of the required total energy, as synthetic chemical energy carriers, which is integrated into a European hydrogen market.

The main objective is the development of new types of catalysts to ensure efficient conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy. However, three core challenges have to be tackled to achieve CO2-neutral energy systems  that are based on renewable electricity as a primary energy source on a global scale:

  • Sustainable hydrogen production
  • Long-distance transport and storage of hydrogen using synthetic energy carriers
  • Energy-efficient conversions into synthetic fuels and basic chemicals

To meet these challenges innovative chemical conversion processes based on new tailor-made (chemical, electrical and photo) catalysts have to developed and rolled out on an industrial scale. Each catalyst must contain a combination of multifunctional materials that are manufactured in a controlled process.

Multidisciplinary research in physics, chemistry, materials science, electrical engineering and data science will be essential for the successful design and manufacturing of new catalysts

The sustainable conversion of chemical to electrical energy and vice versa as a closed carbon cycle in a CO2-neutral energy system.

Combining the competencies of Max-Planck und Helmholtz in CatLab

The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) combines its expertise in the synthesis and characterization of thin layers with the expertise in catalysis of the Max-Planck society. In this unique combination, the HZB, the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion and the Fritz-Haber-Institute in Berlin started the long-term project CatLab.

With CatLab, the participating partners at the Adlershof site strive to shape the catalysis research field at the international forefront, by developing targeted novel energy-relevant catalysts. At the same time, disruptive concepts and technologies are scaled up for industrial application in collaboration with industrial companies.

The proximity to the synchrotron source BESSY II and the laboratories with their manifold analysis and characterization options creates unique synergies. In addition, by integrating large companies and multinationals in this joint endeavor  CatLab not only addresses the entire innovation chain right from the start of the project, but generates added value for Berlin and Germany in general.

Sub-projects and contributions from the partners

Contributions of the partners

The ecosystem of CatLab

CatLab strengthens the collaboration between the world's leading catalyst groups from the Max Planck Society, the UniSysCat Cluster of Excellence, industry and the Helmholtz Association's energy research program. The chemical industry has shown great interest in CatLab right from the start. A project associated with CatLab between an internationally renowned company and the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin was started in June 2020.


A new innovative office space and laboratories in a dedicated building   connect seamlessly with our Innovation Center and  Data Science platform.

Aerial photograph: The new office and laboratory building (blue area)  - enlarged view

The new office and laboratory building (blue area) is to be built in the immediate vicinity of BESSY II and other laboratories. ©HZB/Foto: D. Laubner