Successful workshop "Energy and Innovation"

(Nanowerk News) The enormous changes with respect to how we handle and consume energy and the impact on the environment are of great concern not only to us as scientists, but also to all of us as responsible citizen. Therefore, the PhD students of the International Doctorate Program NanoBioTechnology had the wish to establish a discussion with experts from relevant fields to get a deep insight into the technical, economic and social preconditions necessary for the creation of a truly sustainable energy supply system.
Organized and moderated by the PhD students with the support of Prof. Rädler and the CeNS management, the workshop "Energy and Innovation" brought together four specialists from different fields and more than fifty junior researchers of CeNS for an evening of intense discussions.
The workshop started with stimulating ignition talks by the invited speakers on Between organisation and technology: Innovation in the energy system (Prof. Thomas Hamacher), Printed solar cells - Cutting costs through innovation (Prof. Christoph Brabec), Renewable Energies in Rural Distribution Systems (Dr. Rupert Schöttler), and on the Munich-base DESERTEC project Clean Power from Deserts (Tobias Grimm). In order to discuss about the specific topics in more detail, the participants then divided into four groups for an intense 30 min exchange with the respective speaker.
In the discussion group Desertec: Clean Power from the deserts the guest speaker, Tobias Grimm answered a number of both technological and financial questions from the members of the group. The main points addressed in the session were the long-term financial security of Desertec, the specifics of Desertec energy storage, the competitiveness of desert power against other sources of electricity, why broad support of the venture is expected in Europe, the upcoming hurdles that need to be overcome, and the possibility of other rival ventures selling desert power.
In the discussion group on Renewable Energies in Rural Distribution Systems, the participants discussed with Dr. Rupert Schöttler about the possible buffer technologies in the low voltage part of the power grids. Because of the back-feeding of energy by locally installed e.g. PV systems, the existing infrastructure suffers massive technical problems to maintain a stable voltage in the whole grid. As possible local storage devices, car-batteries were discussed as flexible intermediate storage (but too expensive yet) and gas compression (too big / too much investments). Further, the participants addressed the topic that the existing grid needs to evolve to a "smart grid" with better usage of peak energy by intelligent consumer control (intelligent switching of, e.g., refrigerators, washing machines, production cycles, etc.) and noted that unfortunately there is almost no incentive for these developments up to date.
In the discussion group on Between organisation and technology: Innovation in the energy system with Prof. Thomas Hamacher, the discourse began with a general acceptance from all sides with regard to the dire need for innovation as historically it has taken several decades for a new energy form to take over. A discussion followed whether there is a need for innovation in the field of power distribution systems and for efficiently incorporating "Smart Grids" or whether the existing system is good but that new solutions for the energy production need to be suitable for an incorporation into the existing grids such that they do not cause problems like back flow of current.
In the discussion group on Printed solar cells - Cutting costs through innovation, the participants discussed with Prof. Christoph Brabec about the basic principles of organic photovoltaics and which materials can be used to produce more efficient and cheaper solar cells. A lively exchange then followed on questions about current research activities and what are the hopes and concerns for the future evolution of this technique. The participants furthermore discussed about roll-to-roll processing, the issue of low efficiency and the needs for organic photovoltaic to survive in the market.
The final highlight of the evening was a panel discussion led by Prof. Joachim Rädler (Spokesman of the Doctorate Program) where interesting questions of the audience were debated such as whether more financial support is needed for the "energy revolution", why research in the field of energy storage is still neglected, whether one needs centralized solutions and/or local energy production and how the renewable energy sector changes the job market for young researchers. Those discussions then continued at a welcome reception lasting till late in the evening.
After the workshop, the participants as well as the invited speakers gave en enthusiastic feedback about this interactive and inspiring event. And also the initiator of the workshop, Prof. Rädler, was excited about the outcome of the discussions: "This workshop which brought together experts from industry and academia exceeded my hopes and expectations by far. The discussions made clear how diverse and complex the interdependencies in the field of energy production are. Furthermore, the discussion gave a clear signal to the young generation that the changes in the energy system call for innovation which offers research challenges and interesting job opportunities."
Source: Center for NanoScience (CeNS), LMU Munich
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