In ZSW’s internal organisational structure, the focus is placed on the two business divisions "Photovoltaics" or "Electrochemical Energy Technologies" and "Energy Policy and Energy Carriers". The head of each division is a member of the board. These business divisions are organised into ten departments.
In the course of day-to-day research, projects and tasks are nevertheless also worked on across departments so that we can provide our customers with greater thematic diversity and optimal synergy effects. For example, the consultation and testing services relating to photovoltaic storage systems are jointly provided by the two departments "Photovoltaics: Modules Systems Applications (MSA)" and "Accumulators (ECA)".
The administrative departments encompassing administration, public relations, finance, controlling, HR and organisation are consolidated in the central "Finance, HR and Legal" department under the direction of the Executive Chairman.
The successful implementation of the energy transition while meeting the climate protection goals set for 2020 remains the central theme of German energy policy. New tools for market and system integration of renewable energy sources as well as a suitable electricity market design are aspects of the ongoing discussion. The topic of energy efficiency in the building sector is becoming increasingly important, while the transport sector has been largely ignored so far. In light of the Paris Climate Agreement, efforts in all areas must be redoubled for Germany to justify its asserted international pioneering role with a successful energy transition and to reap both economic and social benefits.
The interdisciplinary Systems Analysis department provides expert advice to the government on all topics outlined and actively contributes to the progress of the energy system transition in Germany.
In addition to numerous activities in the area of monitoring – from the expansion of renewable energies within the framework of AGEE-Stat to support for Prof. Dr. Frithjof Staiß as a member of the Expert Commission for “Energy of the Future” monitoring – the evaluation, development and implementation of support instruments is a core competency of the department, as well as accompanying the further development of the German Renewable Energy Act towards a tender model. On a regional level, the department also actively supports the implementation of the energy transition in the area of energy efficiency with its competition Leitstern Energieeffizienz (Guiding Star Energy Efficiency).
Various models and analysis tools are used to examine issues concerning the integration of renewable energy and new technologies. The P2IONEER computer model enables energy-independent cities and regions with a defined proportion of renewable energies of up to 100% to be modelled, simulated and in particular optimised in terms of electricity generation costs. Sophisticated forecasting systems for wind and photovoltaic power feed-in complete our competency profile.
“The energy transition depends on comprehensive transformative knowledge due to its complexity. Systems analysis is of great importance for its success because it offers just that and the corresponding stimulus.”
The use of thin-film technologies offers considerable potential for reducing costs in the manufacture of photovoltaic solar modules. Copper, indium, gallium and selenium-based CIGS technology has proved to be particularly suitable for industrial production. The MAT research department at ZSW runs a laboratory pilot line to produce and further develop the functionalities of CIGS modules on glass in sizes of up to 30 x 30 cm² as well as on flexible substrates over widths of up to 30 cm and any length with the roll-to-roll method.
In contrast to typical laboratory operations, in-line processes that closely mirror industrial processes are largely used to produce the CIGS modules in ZSW’s technical lab. Both novel and improved processes are currently being developed for CIGS on glass substrates for transfer to the industrial sector, especially as part of the CISHiTec project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The use of flexible substrate materials such as polymers or metal foils for roll-to-roll coating is being developed in a second technical lab. New thin-film material systems such as perovskites, which offer the potential to use cost-effective printing technologies, are also being further developed in a dedicated laboratory. ZSW is also investigating further future improvements through constructing multijunction cells, for example by combining perovskites and CIGS.
The MAT team’s long-standing experience in developing and characterising CIGS solar modules is also being leveraged for industrial services. In response to customer orders, we provide various material analysis services (such as high-resolution scanning electron microscopy and x-ray fluorescence analysis) or optical and electrical characterisation of cells and modules.
“Through our continuous improvement of CIGS photovoltaics – with higher yields, faster production processes and new materials for the next generation – we are making our contribution to the energy transition.”
The two main topics of the research department and its clients are concerned with the quality and stability of photovoltaic (PV) modules as well as the efficient utilisation of solar power in the energy system. Based on 30 years of testing experience with PV modules made of crystalline silicon (c-Si) and thin-film materials, investigations into the energy yield and long-term stability of PV modules and systems are conducted in the Solab module test laboratory. In order to characterise the module stability, results from accelerated ageing tests in the laboratory are correlated with the high-resolution determination of degradation effects under actual operating conditions at ZSW’s Widderstall outdoor testing facility. Other research topics and offered services include special investigations into potential-induced power degradation (PID) and the stability of backsheet foils for solar modules as well as advising on systems for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
Besides controlling the quality of PV modules and analysing the impact of interference factors (climate, mechanical loads, soiling and electrical voltage), our consultancy expertise also includes inspections of large-scale PV installations and PV production facilities on behalf of financing banks, project developers and operators (“due diligence”).
Photovoltaic systems make a significant contribution to sustainable power generation. The appropriate combination with electrical storage systems and the coupling of the power, mobility and heat sectors all increase the local use of solar power, relieve the distribution networks and contribute to decentralised balancing of generation and consumption. The analysis of the corresponding potentials as well as the development of algorithms for the optimised operation of generators, storage systems and loads, including suitable charging management for electromobility, are therefore further topics addressed by the research department. The scientists advise on the development and testing of corresponding algorithms and devices.
“Tapping the sun, photovoltaics delivers electricity worldwide into grids and as a local source. We ensure the reliability of the solar modules and the efficient integration of solar energy into customer networks."
The guiding theme of the department of Renewable Fuels and Processes is the production of renewable fuels and motor fuels.
Our main focus points are:
The REG research department develops and tests new technologies for the production of syngas, hydrogen and substitute natural gas (SNG) in a technical scale of several hundred kW. In addition to electrolysis, fuel reforming and the production of syngas using biomass and electricity, our activities are focused on gas cleaning and conditioning, and fuel synthesis. The objective in the area of electrolysis is cost reduction for the entire hydrogen generation system through modularisation of system components and further development of the electrolysis unit. The gas processing objectives are to produce a suitable gas for fuel cells, a fuel gas for electricity generation, a conditioned syngas for fuel
production and a substitute natural gas to be distributed via the natural gas grid.
Two Power-to-Gas (P2G®) plants at ZSW have already been built in the power classes of 25 kWel and 250 kWel. ZSW were involved in basic engineering, commissioning and plant monitoring for another plant with 6,000 kWel.
REG focuses on Power-to-Gas (P2G®), Biomass-to-fuel, electrolysis and reformation/gas conditioning.
“The energy transition will not succeed
without renewable eFuels.”
The ECG department is researching electrodes in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), electrolysers and electrochemical high-power storage devices with aqueous electrolytes. The aims are to increase power density and service life, as well as to reduce costs. In order to increase power density and reduce the precious metal requirement of PEMFC, the department optimises both the composition and microstructure of the catalyst layers. Its expertise includes microstructural analyses and analyses of the polymer distribution in the electrodes of the membrane electrode array (MEAs).
Experiments are being carried out with various types of nanostructured nickel materials for alkaline water electrolysis, for high-power storage systems with aqueous-alkaline electrolytes and for the production of bifunctional oxygen electrodes. High activities and cycle stabilities have already been demonstrated. Of particular importance is the development of a manganese oxide high-power electrode with a strong cycle stability in very alkaline electrolytes.
The team has many years of experience and the necessary infrastructure to take new technological approaches and quickly verify and demonstrate them in the laboratory. Due to the close cooperation with other ZSW departments, extensive experimental investigations on model electrodes and model cells using modelling and simulation techniques as well as tests in largeformat cells and stacks can be carried out efficiently.
Overview of our topics:
„Catalysts, electrodes and cells are key components for the improvement of fuel cells and other electrochemical power sources. The concentration on aqueous electrolytes allows high conductivity and maximum safety.“
The research department is specialised in the development of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) technology with the focus on the construction, characterisation and simulation of fuel cells stacks and components and the construction of prototypes, as well as the development of production and test technologies. The power output ranges from a few watts up to 100 kWel. Fuel cells can be optimised in terms of their performance, service life, efficiency and compactness. Among other things, this includes investigating and forecasting ageing processes and failure analyses. We also focus on developing manual and automated manufacturing technology and characterising PEMFC components, cells and stacks, including fuel cells suitable for vehicles.
Modelling and simulating processes in fuel cells enables us to rapidly optimise component structures and operating conditions. This also includes the development and establishment of completely new approaches using advanced simulation software that is verified by using conclusive hardware and experiments under realistic conditions. For example, the water management within the gas diffusion electrodes (GDL) and gas distribution structures is validated using μ-CT scanning. Using this system, GDL structures, including their water content, can also be investigated in a compressed state. In addition, neutron and synchrotron radiography and tomography techniques developed with the Helmholtz Centre Berlin (HZB) are available for visualising components, cells and stacks, whereby the temporal and spatial resolutions of these are among the best in the world.
Overview of our topics:
„Our work focuses on optimising fuel cells with all their components in terms of design, manufacturing, output, and service life.“
For 20 years, the ECS research department has been operating a test centre with meanwhile 25 fully automated test benches from 0.1 to 160 kW for professional 24/7 operation characterisation of fuel cell stacks, systems and system components. Comprehensive analysis and complex methods for failure analysis are available for evaluating the performance behaviour and ageing processes of fuel cell stacks.
Many years of research have gone into developing fuel cell systems and system components for stationary systems, on-board and emergency power supplies or vehicle systems. The scope of services encompasses complete prototypes, including their control and hybridisation with batteries and DC/AC converters. In addition, safety assessments, packaging studies or product certification for industry partners are another major topic area.
A more recent focus of the work has been on hydrogen as a fuel. The research department, with its deep understanding of fuel cell technology and thus the utilisation of hydrogen, is involved in the development of the European hydrogen infrastructure through several projects. These involve verifying international refuelling standards for hydrogen refuelling stations (SAE J2601/ CEP) with regard to their acceptance pursuant to DIN ISO 19880 and ensuring compliance with the hydrogen quality required for fuel cell operation pursuant to ISO 14687-2.
Overview of our topics:
„In the long run, global climate goals will not be achievable without hydrogen technology. Now we have to learn how to integrate hydrogen into our daily life.”
The ECM research department’s work traditionally focuses on synthesising and characterising function materials for batteries and supercapacitors. The development of customised powders and pastes is a core competency. 30 years of materials research provides the basis for our comprehensive understanding of the interrelationship between structure and powder morphology on the one hand and the desired function and processing properties on the other. In addition to new cathode materials (such as high-voltage spinels, lithium transition metal phosphates and silicates) and anode materials (such as optimised carbon modifications, titanates and alloy anodes) for lithium-ion batteries, new electrolyte systems with special additives are being intensively researched. Our work also encompasses electrode materials for future systems such as lithium/sulphur and lithium/air.
ZSW is a partner institution of the virtual centre for future energy storage CELEST (Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage Ulm & Karlsruhe). CELEST was founded together with KIT and Ulm University. It is the German research and development platform for future energy storage, where the POLiS (Post Lithium Storage) has its origins. Research involves new storage systems with magnesium or sodium.
Further focus is placed on the development of battery cells in the 18650 and 21700 formats, and single-layer and stacked pouch cells. New manufacturing processes for more high-performance components for future lithium cell generations are a primary concern. Prototypes in the 18650 and 21700 formats with self-developed electrodes exhibit very high reproducibility and cycle stability. For analysing damaged cells and assessing new cells, the department is specialised in post-mortem analyses. These are essential for understanding ageing processes and potential safety risks and for optimising cell design.
Overview of our topics:
„E-mobility and renewable energies require new energy storage systems. We provide the complete value chain from the powder to the finished cell. In doing so, we are able to make an important contribution.“
The series production of large lithium-ion cells, such as those used in electrical vehicles or stationary storage systems, places particular demands on the stability and precision of processes. The higher their quality and reproducibility, the greater the reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness of the storage systems.
The research department’s work focuses on operating a pre-competition “Research platform for the industrial production of large lithium-ion cells,” which maps the near-production overall manufacturing process for hardcase cells (PHEV-1 cells, >25 Ah). The focus in this regard is on studies of the interaction of cell chemistry, cell design and manufacturing technology in terms of quality, reliability and manufacturing costs as well as issues around inline sensors, manufacturing tolerances and cost-efficient workflows. With new materials and components, the goal is to evaluate usability and quality at an industrial scale.
The main responsibility of the ECP team is to optimise industrial production processes as part of industrial orders and research projects, or verify advanced cell chemistry in sample series of standard cells. Research expertise covers all production-related aspects, from system development to improving individual steps, right up to quality assurance processes. Furthermore, the team has essential consultancy expertise around cell manufacturing and cost considerations through by now several years of experience in operating the pilot system.
Overview of our topics:
„With the research platform, we can now built a stable foundation for joint projects in production research that is available to our partners from industry and in academia.“
The research department investigates and develops electrochemical energy storage systems. To ensure that accumulators are safe and efficient even under the most extreme conditions, the department’s work focuses on characterising them under various operating conditions and investigating their behaviour with operating failures and in accident situations. The areas of application of the batteries include stationary energy storage systems and electrical grids, portable devices and electrified drive trains – whether for travel over land or water, or in the air.
The electric battery test serves to test the functionality of cells, modules and systems, measure their performance and determine their expected service life under defined loads and environmental conditions. Boundary loads or destructive tests are used to assess the reactions of and potential dangers posed by batteries in the event of extreme damage as well as their resistance to various abusive conditions and operating errors. One focus here is on suppressing the propagation of failures in the system and extinguishing or controlling fires.
The centrepiece of the battery system engineering comprises the thermal and electrical modelling and simulation of cells and battery systems, battery management and battery level identification. Research looks at model-based algorithms in order to determine the battery state (state of charge and ageing), predict the system performance, ensure optimal charge control – especially under fast-charging conditions, and improve energy management. Further research looks at the influence of external parameters such as ripple currents or mechanical compression forces on performance and service life.
Overview of our topics:
„In the eLaB, we research, test, and analyse batteries and systems in flexible, standards-compliant and innovative ways.“