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Large-Scale Research Center to Show Prospects for Lusatia

The technical universities in Chemnitz, Dresden, and Freiberg want to establish a large-scale federal research center in the energy region of Lusatia, thereby providing essential momentum for a future energy industry and sustainably shaping structural change in the region

Reaching climate targets and researching and developing sustainable technologies for future energy supply, storage, and use will be a global challenge in the coming years. At the same time, many regions that are still characterized by the mining of fossil fuels are in the midst of structural change – in Germany as in other places. Examples of this are the region of Lusatia in Saxony and the central German mining area, which have been designated energy model regions to drive sustainable energy research. An alliance of the three technical universities in Saxony – Chemnitz University of Technology, TU Dresden, and TU Bergakademie Freiberg - which is strong in research and transfer - wants to make a significant contribution to this. On April 30, 2021, the partners submitted their joint concept for the large-scale research center for future energies (GFZ ZE) in Lusatia as part of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Free State of Saxony’s "Knowledge Creates Prospects for the Region!" competition. This competition is aimed at outstanding scientists and will be used to determine the thematic focus and exact location of two new large-scale research centers in Lusatia in Saxony and in the central German mining region. Depending on the scientific success of these new facilities, annual institutional funding of up to 170 million euros each will be sought in the medium term as part of the "Structural Strengthening Act for Coal Regions."

Alliance of three Saxon technical universities

At GFZ ZE in Lusatia, the three Saxon technical universities intend to sustainably bundle their scientific excellence as well as energy technology experience and expertise in the fields of "energy provision," "energy transport/storage," and "energy application." The main pillars of the Alliance of Universities’ visionary mission are research quarters that manage the development and transfer of new energy technologies to industry, from interdisciplinary basic research to practical applications. In addition to renewable energy sources such as wind, water, and solar energy, hydrogen is also of strategic importance. Hydrogen serves both as a secondary chemical energy carrier and as a resource for the production of other industrial raw materials such as in the steel industry or in e-fuel generation. Consequently, the three universities agreed a few weeks ago on an even closer cooperation aimed at the synergetic further development of hydrogen technologies. "In the envisaged large-scale research center for future energies, the three technical universities in the Free State of Saxony will bundle their complementary competencies in order to address central future issues of the energy transition and energy supply in an interdisciplinary manner, taking into account various specialist areas. This makes them virtually predestined to contribute to the structural change in the energy region of Lusatia by bringing about the transformation from the classic coal energy region to the sustainable energy region of the future," says Prof. Dr. Gerd Strohmeier, President of Chemnitz University of Technology.

Broad interdisciplinary research approach and consolidated partnerships

The three technical universities particularly benefit from the already consolidated partnerships among themselves and with science, business, politics, and society.  At Chemnitz University of Technology, for example, intensive research into hydrogen fuel cell technology has already been going on for years in cooperation with companies such as Vitesco Technologies and non-university research institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU. In the case of the TU Dresden, the scientific excellence from the DRESDEN-concept research network is being incorporated, particularly on the topics of dynamics of complex grids, system-integrated energy storage systems, and thermal management. The TU Bergakademie Freiberg adds its expertise in the field of energy infrastructure and the industrial use of hydrogen. Furthermore, the partners want to efficiently use already existing synergies and structures from research, practice-oriented application and transfer for the further development of future energies from an interdisciplinary point of view. Prof. Dr. Thomas von Unwerth from the Institute of Automotive Research at Chemnitz University of Technology explains: "As many facets of new energy systems as possible should be illuminated at an early stage. By including legal, economic, humanities and social science, political, natural, and engineering science, as well as philosophical and mathematical aspects, we can arrive at completely new, more comprehensive research findings on sustainable energy systems."

Technology-open redesign of the energy industry and sustainable supply-secure energy infrastructure

"Today's and tomorrow's challenges of our time, such as climate protection, energy supply, and structural change, require a technology-open redesign of our energy industry with innovative solutions and systems," says Prof. Dr. Antonio Hurtado from the Institute of Power Engineering at TU Dresden. GFZ ZE is therefore dedicated to interdisciplinary and holistic research into sustainable, efficient and resource-saving energy technologies, he said. "The special feature is the combination of the energy tradition in Lusatia with current research topics that continuously adapt to ongoing developments in science, creating local perspectives and international trends," Hurtado said. Prof Dr. Hartmut Krause from the Institute of Thermal Engineering at TU Bergakademie Freiberg adds: "The consideration of a sustainable supply-secure energy infrastructure in the GFZ ZE’s research work is also reflected in the ambitious goal of focusing on integrated and value chain-oriented approaches in the research and transfer tasks. This also includes the contribution to the environmentally friendly and accepted integration of climate-neutral energy sources in the renaturation of Lusatia and similar regions." In addition, he said, the energy-using industry must not be forgotten in the research approach. "Nature and energy need a future - and the future needs excellent science: everything comes together in our large-scale research center for future energies," added the three responsible professors from the respective universities.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Thomas von Unwerth, Institute of Automotive Research at Chemnitz University of Technology, phone + 49 (0)371 531-38787, e-mail thomas-von-unwert@mb.tu-chemnitz.de; Prof. Dr. Antonio Hurtado, Institute of Power Engineering at the TU Dresden, phone +49 (0) 351 463-34472, e-mail antonio.hurtado@tu-dresden.de; Prof Dr. Hartmut Krause, Institute of Thermal Engineering at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, phone +49 (0) 3731 39-3941, e-mail Hartmut.Krause@iwtt.tu-freiberg.de

(Translation: Chelsea Burris)

Mario Steinebach
01.05.2021

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