Funded by the Free State of Bavaria
SolTech is a 50 million euro interdisciplinary project initiated by the Free State of Bavaria to explore innovative concepts for converting solar energy into electricity and non-fossil fuels. Research by chemists and physicists at five different Bavarian Universities will be funded.
The Free State of Bavaria has dedicated funds from the supplementary budget of 2011 to support research and development of innovative concepts for converting solar energy into electricity and non-fossil fuels. The Bavarian parliament has initially approved six million euros for this purpose. The plan is to establish a major five-year joint research project with a total volume of approximately 50 million euros. The supplementary funds constitute a fundamental contribution to the renewable energy revolution in Bavaria. They will be invested in a joint project between the Universities of Bayreuth, Erlangen-Nuremberg and Wurzburg, and the Technical and Ludwig Maximilian Universities in Munich.
Humanity will exhaust the Earth’s supply of petroleum, natural gas and other fossil fuels in the foreseeable future. Non-fossil energy sources, such as sunlight, cannot yet replace current fossil and nuclear fuels, so that a major effort is needed to secure the energy supply of the future. This is the task to be undertaken by chemists and physicists of five Bavarian universities joined together in the state funded new research network “Solar Technologies Go Hybrid”.
The Solar technologies go Hybrid Research Network will concentrate on two areas; firstly, photovoltaics (i.e. the conversion of solar energy into electric current) and secondly techniques with which solar energy can be stored as chemical energy. An example of this is splitting water into oxygen and energy-rich hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly process based on the example of plant photosynthesis.
Students benefit from the new network
New emphasis will be placed on teaching these topics are planned at the five participating universities, so that the students will also benefit from the new network. Only a modern and qualified education can ensure that the young academics indispensable for a successful energy revolution will be available in future.
Network of key labs at recognized centers
Each of the five universities has set up a well-equipped laboratory, the so-called key labs, integrated into existing internationally recognized research centers. The new laboratories will complement each other with their individual research foci and will form a close-knit network. This network is intended to leverage the initial investment by initiating further innovative top-level research projects within the network of participating locations.
In the North of Bavaria, research is focused on organic materials: Bayreuth will concentrate on polymers, while in Wurzburg small molecules that combine into larger functional units form the center of attention. In Erlangen, researchers investigate nanotubes and other materials consisting of carbon. Finally, the two Munich Universities conduct research on inorganic materials and hybrid organic-inorganic nanosystems.
Funds for the expansion of infrastructure
A major part of the money will first be used to expend the existing infrastructure. All participating locations receive funds for equipment to study innovative materials and energy conversion. Approximately half of the funding will used for to construct new buildings in Munich and Wurzburg.
Key Lab FAU (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nuernberg): carbon-rich hybrids
The Erlangen Key Lab “Kohlenstoffreiche Hybride” (carbon-rich hybrids) at the FAU will combine the cutting-edge fundamental research on photoactive materials of the Interdisciplinary Center for Molecular Materials (ICMM) and the Cluster of Excellence Engineering of Advanced Materials (EAM). Prof. Dirk M. Guldi, Chair for Physical Chemistry I, and Prof. Tim Clark, Computer-Chemie-Centrum (CCC), who are both EAM members, have been appointed Key Lab Coordinators.
The focus of the Key Lab’s research will be the design of panchromatic absorbers und light-harvesting complexes, the optimization of electron transfer processes and the development of molecular photocatalysts and dye-sensitized photocathodes.