Sourcing alternative energy

Great news for the science region Bremen – Oldenburg: Three research groups from Jacobs University, along with scientists from the University of Bremen and the University of Oldenburg will participate in the new Priority Program investigating light driven water splitting, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

June 29, 2012The DFG’s new Priority Program (SPP), entitled ‘Regeneratively produced fuels by light driven water splitting: Investigation of involved elementary processes and perspectives of technologic implementation’, will be funded over a period of six years.

Five research groups from the Northwestern region will work alongside scientists from across Germany under the coordination of TU Darmstadt. The aim of the cooperation between the institutions is to develop new materials that can make use of solar energy to produce hydrogen from water through a water-splitting reaction.

Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source has been investigated and promoted over the last few years not least by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. In cooperation with the industry the ministry plans to introduce 50 public filling stations supplying hydrogen to alternative fuel cars by 2015.

However, at present hydrogen is largely produced from natural gas and therefore not a sustainable fuel alternative. Hence new ways of hydrogen production are currently being examined, with water splitting through light being the most favorable option.

Jacobs research on hydrogen generation

At Jacobs researchers headed by Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Physics, work on photoelectrolysis cells that use a substantial portion of the solar spectrum to efficiently split water and produce hydrogen. This outcome is achieved by combining a modern production technique with combinatorial computational materials design.

Meanwhile, Ulrich Kortz, Professor of Chemistry, in cooperation with Nina Vankova, Junior group leader, both at Jacobs, and their research groups test efficient catalysts to further enhance the degree of efficiency of the water splitting reaction. Prof. Kortz proposes to use nanoscopic polyoxometalates (POMs), an emerging class of compounds which have great potential in this field. POMs are inexpensive, water-stable and environmentally benign.

The Jacobs research groups have recently met their counterparts from the University of Bremen and the University of Oldenburg for a kick-off meeting at Jacobs University to establish processes of exchanging and building on their respective research findings over the course of the next six years.

Pictured above are: Nina Vankova (Jacobs University), Ulrich Kortz (Jacobs University) Thorsten Klüner (University of Oldenburg), Thomas Heine (Jacobs University) and Lutz Mädler (University of Bremen).