Warm welcome at Catlab Federal Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger!
From the left: Thomas Frederking (administrative Director HZB), Beatriz Roldán-Cuenya (Director FHI), Bernd Rech (scientific Director HZB), Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Jürgen Rabe (Director IRIS Adlershof).
Facility spokesperson Antje Vollmer (4th from left) gives the Minister an insight into the X-ray source BESSY II, an essential pillar of CatLab.
From left to right: Thomas Frederking (administrative Director HZB), Bernd Rech (scientific Director HZB; CatLab Project Manager), Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Antje Vollmer (Spokesperson BESSY II), Beatriz Roldán-Cuenya (Director FHI), Robert Schlögl (Director FHI; CatLab Project Manager)
The Federal Minister for Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, was in Berlin-Adlershof today to visit the Catalysis Laboratory (CatLab). CatLab is a research platform of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Max Planck Society, dedicated to catalysis research that will deliver important innovations for achieving a green hydrogen economy. Upon her visit to the CatLab, the minister gained an insight into the latest technological advancements on producing and characterising thin-film catalysts and special methods for operando analytics and digital catalysis.
“I want to make Germany a hydrogen republic. We are already a world leader when it comes to technologies for producing green hydrogen. Next, we need to accelerate the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy. The Federal Ministry of Research has been investing in the necessary research and development for many years now. CatLab is an excellent example of this,” emphasised Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger during her visit.
“To make our energy system carbon-neutral, it is vital to produce green hydrogen on an industrial scale and process it into basic chemicals and synthetic fuels. Novel catalysts and catalytic processes are the key to this,” said Prof. Dr. Bernd Rech, Scientific Director of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin. “In order to develop novel thin-film catalysts, we are pursuing a unique research approach in which we closely intertwine data science with material and technology development, and are cooperating with industry at an early stage of research and development,” explained Prof. Dr. Beatriz Roldán-Cuenya, Director of the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society. “The Energy Materials In-Situ Laboratory (EMIL) at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II is ideal for studying catalytic processes under real-time conditions. Another important focus is digital catalysis, which is employing AI methods to search for the most suitable catalyst materials. Industrial partners are also participating here in the development of novel reactors,” added Prof. Dr. Robert Schlögl, Director of the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society. The CatLab reactor and characterisation labs are located in the neighbouring Integrative Research Institute for the Sciences (IRIS Adlershof) of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Prof. Dr. Jürgen P. Rabe, Director of IRIS-Adlershof, emphasised the significant synergies that this creates. Within the framework of partnerships with Humboldt University in Adlershof, Technische Universität Berlin, and the UniSysCat cluster of excellence, CatLab is deeply embedded in the university research landscape of Berlin.
CatLab is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with more than 50 million euros. In total, the five-year development project will cost around 100 million euros. Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and two Max Planck institutes, the Fritz Haber Institute (FHI) and the Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (MPI CEC), are pooling their expertise and expanding the research platform together with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. A new office and laboratory building is being constructed for CatLab in the immediate vicinity of BESSY II light source.
Sunlight can be used to produce green hydrogen directly from water in photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells. So far, systems based on this "direct approach" have not been energetically competitive. However, the balance changes as soon as some of the hydrogen in such PEC cells is used in-situ for a catalytic hydrogenation reaction, resulting in the co-production of chemicals used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The energy payback time of photoelectrochemical "green" hydrogen production can be reduced dramatically, the study shows.
Solar cells made from metal halide perovskites achieve high efficiencies and their production from liquid inks requires only a small amount of energy. A team led by Prof. Dr. Eva Unger at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin is investigating the production process. At the X-ray source BESSY II, the group has analyzed the optimal composition of precursor inks for the production of high-quality FAPbI3 perovskite thin films by slot-die coating. The solar cells produced with these inks were tested under real life conditions in the field for a year and scaled up to mini-module size.
MXenes are able to store large amounts of electrical energy like batteries and to charge and discharge rather quickly like a supercapacitor. They combine both talents and thus are a very interesting class of materials for energy storage. The material is structured like a kind of puff pastry, with the MXene layers separated by thin water films. A team at HZB has now investigated how protons migrate in the water films confined between the layers of the material and enable charge transport. Their results have been published in the renowned journal Nature Communications and may accelerate the optimisation of these kinds of energy storage materials.