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Major drivers for the transformation of the energy sector include the necessity to protect the climate and the environment and to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel reserves. This transformation aims to shift our energy supply to sustainable energy sources as soon as possible – abandoning nuclear power almost immediately but without compromising on reliability and affordability. This can only be achieved with a flexible mix of energy sources and efficient technology for energy conversion, storage, and distribution that takes into account the short-term, medium-term, and long-term availability of the different energy sources. The core competence of Jülich energy research is expertise in materials for technologies of the future.

For example, in the Jülich labs of the Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK), novel protective layers are developed for high-load components in power plant engineering, as well as membranes, alternative storage components, fuel cells, silicon-based thin-film materials for photovoltaics, and high-temperature resistant tungsten coatings for fusion power plants.

Jülich scientists and engineers are developing innovative process technology that can also be applied to novel materials. Current examples include powder materials for the storage of hydrogen, high-performance ceramic structural materials and shape memory alloys based on nickel and titanium. Work on these topics also opens up practical areas of application beyond energy research. For example, the development of a porous titanium material with special properties that makes the it excellent for applications in the health sector was a by-product of fuel cell research. It is now used in spinal implants.

The aim of activities at Forschungszentrum Jülich is to make existing energy conversion processes more efficient, flexible, and thus climate-smart, and to develop new technologies in the area of renewables – an important contribution to the success of the transformation of the energy sector that Germany will see in the coming years.

Jülich energy research combines the expertise in materials it has cultivated for decades with highly qualified component fabrication, systems technology, and systems analysis. This integrated approach is a hallmark of Forschungszentrum Jülich, which prides itself on its highly interdisciplinary research.