A future energy economy can hardly be envisaged without the use of gaseous or liquid fuels. Fuels as chemical energy carriers are high in energy, easy to transport and store and offer reasonable conversion efficiencies. Today fossil fuels still dominate in power production, transportation and other technological fields – the main source of CO2 emissions caused by human activities. The fossil fuel consumption cannot be easily replaced by sustainable energy sources because renewable energy sources often are discontinuous like solar and wind energy. In addition, electrical energy cannot be easily stored in large quantities and high densities.
Fuels generated from renewable primary energy sources can be an alternative for technological applications based on combustion. In the future they can help to balance the fluctuations in the electric power production from these sources by easy storage and transport. Therefore, specifically designed fuels can be more frequently used for freight transport, aeroplanes and other applications where high energy densities are essential.
However, fuel production from renewable primary energy sources and their utilisation are currently a mostly unsolved challenge for a novel energy system. Many innovations will be necessary to bring about an efficient and economic solar fuel cycle.
Current research in the field of sustainable fuel production not only seeks to develop materials and technological components but is actively widening our fundamental understanding of the complex underlying physical and chemical processes used in these new technologies:
- The efficient production of H2 from discontinuously available primary energy carriers and the efficient conversion of CO2 with H2 to Methanol and related Hydrocarbons;
- The development of robust catalyst materials based on base metals for fuel cell applications;
- The development of efficient carbon capture processes to remove CO2 from exhaust gases;
- The development of adapted combustion and converter technologies for sustainable fuels.