Energy materials – a research priority with a future
Advanced solar cells, solar fuels, and thermoelectrical devices are only a few of the applications for the energy materials that the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) is researching now for the future. Energy materials are substances that convert energy (for example through solar cells and thermoelectrical devices), store it (such as in solar fuels), or enable energy to be used more efficiently (e.g. with advanced magnetic materials for information technology). These types of materials will be needed to meet the challenges of the energy transition.
The researchers at HZB are focussed primarily on thin-film materials. The scientists investigate physical phenomena that chiefly occur at the surfaces or boundary layers of materials and develop new classes of materials with new capabilities. At the same time, they are working on improving the synthesis of materials and developing prototypes that could be of vital interest for industrial applications.
State-of-the-art research infrastructure for all of this work is available at the HZB for use not just by HZB scientists, but by researchers from the world over.
Large-scale research facilities and infrastructure
The BESSY II photon source located at the Adlershof campus is especially well-suited for analysing thin-film materials. Its VUV to soft X-ray energy region offers ideal capabilities for research on energy materials. The planned upgrade of BESSY II into a storage ring offering selectable light-pulse combinations (BESSY-VSR) will provide HZB researchers as well as external users with new options of measurement in the time domain and a broader, more dynamic, and individualisedchoice of experimental parameters for their work. Several teams at the HZB work constantly on developing advanced instrumentation for BESSY II.
Moreover, the BER II research reactor for experiments with neutrons will remain available at the Wannsee campus to researchers from around the world until the end of 2019. Both BESSY II and BER II offer highly specialised sample environments that enable experiments to be conducted under extreme conditions (high pressures, high magnetic fields, and low temperatures). HZB User Services offers about 3000 national and international visiting researchers access to instruments that in some cases are unique.
Accelerator physics is also a strong area of research at the HZB. Undulators and cavity resonators are being developed for the storage ring, and large innovative designs like bERLinPro and BESSY-VSR have originated at the HZB. bERLinPro is a prototype linear accelerator design that will implement energy recovery; the project is already under construction at the Berlin Adlershof campus. BESSY-VSR is an upgrade to BESSY II that will increase the range of pulse lengths available from the storage ring. Researchers will then be able to select between standard-length light pulses or especially short ones for each experiment, depending on what they need at their station.
The HZB will be setting up a Helmholtz-wide infrastructure named HEMF for energy research at the Wannsee campus. All of the laboratories for energy materials research will be concentrated there, including the state-of-the-art ZEISS Lab@location electron microscopy lab infrastructure, excepting those that must be located close to BESSY II.
Collaborations and networking
With roughly 1,100 staff members, the HZB has collaborative relationships with over 400 German and international technical universities, research institutions, and companies. More than 100 doctoral students from technical universities in the region are conducting research at the HZB for their advanced degrees. The HZB has set up about ten Joint Labs with regional and international universities.