Research Center Climate Protecting Energy- and Environmental Engineering

What with algae as resource and energy suppliers, more efficient energy storage, multiple use of energy in urban areas, and power stations where the carbon dioxide is removed from flue gas, the Climate-Protecting Energy and Environmental Engineering research center is working on energy supply concepts that are especially easy on the climate and on resources and yet ensure safe operation.

How can energy supplies be easy on the environment and on resources and at the same time improve security of supply? This question will pose the overriding technical and societal policy challenge of the years ahead, and it is a challenge that the TUHH’s Climate-Protecting Energy and Environmental Engineering research center has already taken up actively.

Sadly, there are no simple solutions in this area because it is clear there will never be a totally climate- and environment-compatible power supply. Every energy supply chain from source to consumer will involve a certain amount of irreversible energy and materials conversion. Energy from biomass is desirable, but if its share were to increase strongly in future, problems such as soil depletion and primeval forest clearance would be a foregone conclusion. That is why the utilization of bioresources from solid waste and wastewater is of special importance. In the final analysis, every end product in the energy conversion chain has a lasting effect on the environment. In the best case we may, however, succeed in minimizing irreversible energy and materials conversion as far as possible.

Lack of knowledge about different energy and materials chains and links between them has repeatedly led to errors of judgment in the past, as for instance in the case of nuclear energy, where the final storage issue has yet to be resolved. That is why an overall view of energy and materials conversion processes of this kind is absolutely essential, and in view of the complexity of the subject and the many overlapping specialized aspects, this scientific overview can only be gained within the framework of an interdisciplinary research group.

The TUHH’s accumulated structures and extended strengths make it ideally suitable for the Climate-Protecting Energy and Environmental Engineering research center. Due to its proximity to shipbuilding and aeronautics technology, for example, the university has a traditional focus on research intocomplex systems. Hamburg’s competence as a capital city of transport logistics is a further advantage in developing energy-saving and environment-friendly transportation processes. As even with a local energy supply large-scale power stations cannot be dispensed with entirely, a further advantage is that the TUHH has nationally and internationally acknowledged institutes in this area that are strong in research. This sound knowledge infrastructure enables institutes participating in the research center to investigate the entire energy conversion chain from primary to final energy effectively for improvement potential.

In spite of their diversity, Climate-Protecting Energy and Environmental Engineering research center projects can be roughly divided into three subareas: efficient energy conversion and distribution, efficient utilization of biomass, and energy- and water-efficient settlement technology. Specific issues are, for example, a coal-fired power station with carbon dioxide separation, putting wastewater and solid waste to energy use in urban areas, energy-saving and heat recovery in water supplies, or assessing the consequences of climate change for agriculture in north Germany. Work is also under way on improving insulation of old buildings, on more efficiently cooled batteries and on better air conditioning systems. In collaboration with power utilities, consideration is also being given to how many small-scale gas-fired power stations can create a large virtual power station, how algae can be utilized as a source of biomass, and how water systems can be optimized.

Although each individual project in which the research center is involved aims to improve the entire energy conversion chain, attention is also paid to whether there may be alternative approaches and to the  repercussions that the different approaches may have on the climate or the environment. In addition, common basic methods are to be developed in the individual projects to evaluate energy paths, for instance,  or for numeric modeling of the different process chains. Public and internal workshops, seminars - especially postgraduate seminars - and above all joint projects provide the framework for this interdisciplinary work.

In its ambitious scientific projects the Climate-Protecting Energy and Environmental Engineering research  center thereby strengthens and utilizes the especially cross-research system approach at the TUHH, which requires an overall view of technical correlations from the outset.