Efficient energy conversion
In the field of efficient energy conversion, the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance is doing different progressive research: A key aspect in this context is polygeneration, which means the simultaneous conversion of energy into several sources of energy, for example the simultaneous generation of electricity and heat.
In order to recycle high calorific waste, experts at Fraunhofer develop decentralized small-scale combustion installations with integrated cogeneration systems (combined heat and power). In this field, the further development of plants for solar cooling at a small to medium scale will help to access new markets.
Another field of research are ORC power plants (Organic Rankine Cycle), which can be used to exploit the waste heat of biogas engines. For modern power plant technology, experts are developing high-temperature-resistant ceramic materials (“Ceramic Matrix Composites”) and lightweight structures. With the aid of these innovative materials, operating temperatures in combustion chambers or heat exchangers can be increased to improve efficiency.
Existing key technologies, for example bioenergy plants, photovoltaic plants and wind turbines, are continuously optimized with regard to efficiency, durability, use of resources and production costs. By using new materials, technology concepts and production technologies, renewable energy technologies can make power generation ever more efficient and cost-effective.
Efficient energy distribution
In order to use electrical energy efficiently, transmission losses must be reduced. Smart Grids regulate the grid infrastructure, so that the power from decentralized renewable energy sources will be generated, distributed, stored and used as efficiently as possible. This is done by comparing the short-term production forecasts with the temporal consumption profiles of the electricity consumers via data communication. In this way, peak loads in power supply will be reduced.
The Fraunhofer Energy Alliance supports customers in the development, construction and implementation of (industrial) Smart Grids, for example of DC grids. In order to reduce system costs and increase the efficiency when providing electrical energy, DC-based systems and grids will occupy an important place in the future.
Experts at Fraunhofer not only conduct research on power electronic systems like inverters and operations control systems for photovoltaic plants, but also on DC-to-DC converters for the combination of fuel cells with batteries, on charge controllers for monitoring batteries and on highly integrated voltage regulators for the power management in mobile terminal devices. Fast-rechargeable battery systems, which can be used for energy recovery, also offer great potential.
Efficient energy usage
In the field of optimization of energy systems, the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance offers exergy analyses for different energy systems, especially for buildings, production and traffic. In this context, the produced energy will be divided in usable energy (exergy) and inferior energy (anergy), which, due to the conversion into heat, cannot be used as initially planned.
Focus “Urban and regional energy efficiency”
In order to improve the energy efficiency in cities and regions, measures like building refurbishment, expansion of cogeneration units and integration of decentralized power generation from renewable energy sources have to be combined. Besides an intelligently linked infrastructure, the increase of energy efficiency in buildings is another focus. Innovative components, component development and plant engineering are the key issues in this field.
To reliably ensure the efficiency and supply security of connected systems, the deployment of energy storage systems is necessary. By linking the different fields and intelligently integrating storage solutions, electrical systems become more flexible and peak loads can be absorbed. Therefore, the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance develops innovative system concepts and operating strategies for energy systems with a high energy diversity.
Focus “Energy efficient production”
Research on energy efficient production also includes the challenges of energy flexibility. Flexibility is required when production processes and the fluctuating energy supply have to be aligned.
Systems which are being developed with regard to the trend industry 4.0 offer the necessary provision of data and thus the basis for superior energy management. The level of expertise in the field of energy efficient production includes analysis, optimization and control of the energy flows in production. Research on new technologies and organizational innovations for process improvement and efficiency enhancement is closely linked to this field.
Focus “Energy efficient transportation infrastructure and electromobility”
In order to make the transport sector energy efficient and environmentally friendly, innovative system concepts for tomorrow’s urban mobility are used. For example, experts at Fraunhofer investigate how to efficiently use electric vehicles as “intelligent loads” and mobile storages to make energy reliably useable even in case of fluctuating supply. The portfolio also includes future-proof vehicle-to-grid concepts as well as electronic instrumentation and software based control technology required for this system.