The exit from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy is one of the greatest challenges in human history. In order to provide safe, affordable and clean energy, science and industry need to work together.
New energy materials
at HZB take on this challenge: We develop new materials that are able to
convert or store energy or that enable efficient switching processes for
information technologies. We call them energy materials.
Examples are new solar cells, but also systems that function like an artificial leaf generating hydrogen with the help of sunlight.
Thin-film systems are especially promising.
They are produced by consecutively applying several thin layers of different materials onto a substrate. This method of stacking allows different material properties to be combined and new, very efficient materials are created.
The right recipe
It is like cooking: a hamburger consists of different
(more or less) thin layers.
By changing only one ingredient – if you use mustard instead of ketchup, for example – the entire burger tastes different.
More energy in tandem
At HZB, one of our many projects is the research on
tandem solar cells made of silicon and
Each layer uses a different „colour“ from the solar spectrum. Consequently, together, these tandem cells capture a lot more sunlight and are thus considerably more efficient than pure silicon solar cells.
But producing these extremely thin layers is
difficult. Even during the early stages of material synthesis a lot can go wrong.
As these thin-films consist of only a few atomic layers, they can show completely different properties from a whole crystal. This happens, because these extremely thin layers are practically nothing but surface. And surfaces often show effects with undesirable consequences, for example electrical losses.
The right tools
The aim of the scientists and
engineers at HZB is to understand those positive and negative
effects in complex thin-film systems on an atomic level.
Our synchrotron light source BESSY II provides exactly the right tool kit. It produces a special X-ray light with wavelengths perfectly suited for studying thin-films.
In addition, scientists have unique opportunities to analyse new materials in their earliest production stage at state-of-the-art central laboratories, our CoreLabs.
One-stop shop Synthesis and analytics, theory and production
kitchen to top-flight microscopes – all
our research infrastructure serves one purpose: to
develop new materials and components and to optimize them systematically
every step of the way.
This unique systematic approach distinguishes the HZB.
AnalyticsSUSAN SCHORRStructure and dynamics of energy materials
„There is not the one universal method that leads to success – this applies especially to materials science. The good thing here at HZB is that we combine a number of analytic processes and thus get so much more information out of each and every single material sample.“
Synthesis and analyticsKLAUS LIPSEnergy Materials In Situ Laboratory (EMIL)
„The synthesis of thin-film systems is a very delicate affair. Even the smallest change in material structure often has major functional consequences. So, we need to examine the synthesis process continuously and if possible immediately – ideally while the layers are still growing. And that is exactly what we can do in our energy research laboratory EMIL. At EMIL, synthesis and analytics intertwine – a unique process worldwide, and it can be found here.“
SimulationGAURI MANGALGIRIStructure and dynamics of energy materials
now, only a small amount of sunlight is converted into
electricity in a solar cell.
A better regulation of light incidence can optimize the process. In my simulations
I’m testing a lot of metal oxide nano structures,
in order to determine optimal geometry. Only the best structures from
the simulations will ever
make it to the lab. This speeds
up my research a lot."
SimulationJOACHIM DZUBIELLASoft matter and functional materials
"I’m a theorist and what I
like best is working out answers to burning questions for
my colleagues in experimental
research. With the help of mathematical models we often succeed in bringing
hidden correlations to light. We also manage to show which parameters are crucial for
defining characteristics of new material systems.“
Upscaling/PrototypesRUTGER SCHLATMANNCompetence Centre for Photovoltaics Berlin (PVcomB)
Competence Centre for
Photovoltaics houses its
own production line for silicon heterojunction cells and
chalcopyrite modules. The industry welcomes us with open arms.
Because, what’s the use of all the great new developments if they only perform well within the laboratory, but not on an industrial scale. At PVcomB we can test this together.“
SynthesisROEL VAN DE KROLSolar Fuels Institute
„Since sunlight is not always available, we want to store its energy in the form of hydrogen. To achieve this, we need materials that are neither expensive nor scarce. Metal oxides fulfill these criteria and we’re working hard on increasing the efficiency of these material systems. Synthesis and analytics are linked closely at our institute."
Overview CoreLabs / Helmholtz Laboratory Platforms
CoreLab Energy Materials in-situ Laboratory (EMIL)
CoreLab Correlative Microscopy and Spectroskopy (CCMS)
Hybrid Silicon Perovskite Research, Integration & Novel Technologies (HySPRINT)
Competence Centre Thin-Film- and Nanotechnology for Photovoltaics Berlin (PVcomB)
CoreLab Quantum Materials
Energy Research at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin