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.
These are the ten departments at ZSW:
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 the costs of photovoltaic modules. Boasting the greatest efficiency of all thin-film solar cells, the technology based on copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) has proved to be particularly suitable for industrial production.
The CIGS technical lab at ZSW includes all the machines and systems necessary for producing thin-film solar modules, from the preparation of glass substrates to the attachment of connection cables to the finished module. In contrast to typical laboratory operations, the systems are largely engineered for throughput processes and hence closely mirror industrial processes (FACIS working group). In the context of the BMWi-funded CISProTec project, both new and improved processes are currently being
developed for transfer to the industrial sector.
The use of flexible substrate materials, such as polymer and metal films, as opposed to the glass substrates predominantly used today is being developed in a second technical centre for roll-to-roll coating. The manufacture and optimisation of these flexible CIGS modules form the focus of the FLEXIS working group.
A dedicated laboratory is developing cost-effective print technologies for new organic and inorganic semiconductor systems, such as kesterite and perovskite (NEMA working group).
The MAT team’s long-standing experience in developing CIGS thin-film solar modules is also being leveraged for industrial services: in response to customer orders, we provide various analytical support services (e.g. high-resolution scanning electron microscopy and x-ray fluorescence analysis) and the deposition of electrical contact layers as well as electrical and optical characterisation of cells and modules.
“CGIS thin-film solar modules have the highest efficiency potential of all thin-film technologies.We develop improved processes for our partners that allow them to raise the cost-efficiency and competitiveness of their products. We are also conducting research into the next generation of highly efficient PV materials.”
The two main topics of the MSA research department and its clients consist of the quality and stability of photovoltaic (PV) modules and optimised utilisation of solar power in the energy system. Based on over 25 years of testing experience with PV modules made of crystalline silicon (c-Si) and thin-film materials, the Solab module test laboratory conducts energy yield and longterm stability tests. In order to characterise module stability, results from accelerated ageing tests in the laboratory are correlated with high-resolving degradation effects under outdoor operating conditions. Potential-induced degradation (PID) is investigated using accelerated ageing under high voltage conditions with illumination in a climate chamber and under outdoor conditions.
Aside from PV module quality control and impact analysis of interference factors (climate, mechanical loads, soiling, electrical voltage), our consultancy expertise includes (due diligence) inspections of large-scale PV installations and PV production facilities on behalf of financing banks, project developers and operators.
In order to increase the value of fluctuating renewable energy, the department deals with the smart control of loads and storage systems depending on predicted solar and wind power load and generation profiles. This results in increased cost-effectiveness of PV systems for both home-owners and commercial plant operators; at the same time, grid load is reduced and the profile of the residual energy that must be purchased from the utilities can be optimised from a cost perspective. The department advises on the development and testing of corresponding algorithms and devices.
“Home-owners, owners’ associations and entrepreneurs who install photovoltaic systems are investing in an emission-free energy future. We, in turn, ensure the stability of the modules and optimise systems and their operation in order to secure their cost-effective use."
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.”
New energy storage concepts with aqueous electrolytes
The efficient, safe and cost-effective storage of electrical energy is a future key challenge. The storage requirement can last for a few seconds, for example when recovering braking energy from machinery or vehicles, to several hours, for example for load shifting in electricity generation from solar or wind power. Then there is the seasonal storage of regenerative energy. Storage systems with aqueous electrolytes, such as metal-air, redox flow systems or high-performance storage systems with aqueous electrolytes allow for short-term storage. The efficient and cost-effective production of high purity hydrogen via water electrolysis is of increasing importance for seasonal energy storage and for fuel for transportation. The quality of hydrogen is critical for the lifetime and reliability of fuel cell systems. Therefore, our research focuses on new active materials, components and cell concepts for these issues.
Materials for the next generation of fuel cells
Alcohol-fueled polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell systems (PEMFC) are attractive in terms of fuel logistics and energy density. Our work focuses on investigating new function materials (membranes, electro catalysts, etc.), developing new concepts for electrodes, membrane-electrode assemblies, and so on, as well as determining the durability of seals and bipolar plates. In addition, improved operating strategies for alcohol fuel cells are being worked on, which will enable operation at higher temperatures and at approximately atmospheric cathode pressure. The team has 25 years of experience with electrochemical energy converters and is able to quickly verify new technological approaches in the laboratory and to demonstrate them.
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. Its core areas of expertise are the construction, characterisation and simulation of fuel cells and components as well as the construction of prototypes and the development of production and test technologies.
The power output range of our PEMFC component and stack developments starts at a few watts and extends up to 100 kWel. We optimise the output, service life, efficiency and compactness of fuel cells. This also involves researching and estimating ageing processes and error analyses. We also focus on developing manufacturing technology and characterising PEMFC components, cells and stacks and fuel cells suitable for vehicles. For example, gas diffusion layers (GDLs) can be analysed both in terms of their surface finish and structure.
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. The simulation results are verified using meaningful hardware and conducting experiments under realistic conditions. For example, the water management within the gas diffusion electrodes and gas distribution layers is validated using an μ-CT system. This system also enables GDL structures, including their water content, to be investigated under compression. In order to visualise components, cells and stacks, we also use processes involving neutron and synchrotron radiography and tomography that we have jointly developed and conducted together with the Helmholtz Centre Berlin (HZB). These technologies enable temporal and spatial resolutions that 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.“
Fuel cell tests
In order to characterise fuel cell stacks, systems and system components cost-efficiently in 24/7 operation, we run a test centre with 25 fully automated test benches with 0.1 to 120 kW. Different analysis systems permit detailed assessments of ageing processes and failure reports. Since the summer of 2012, fuel cells of up to 100 kWel were tested in accordance with DIN EN 62282-2. Our industry partners employ strictly confidential tests and leverage the long-standing know-how of our experts to better understand their products, develop them and demonstrate their safety. Valuable data and experience are gathered in publicly funded projects, which are also available to the public.
Fuel cell systems
Our many years of experience form the basis for the development of various systems, ranging from a few watts to 100 kW, and from stationary systems and on-board and emergency power supplies to automotive systems. Our scope of services comprises complete prototypes, including their control and hybridisation with batteries and DC/AC converters. We support industry partners by developing and testing system components, and carrying out safety assessments as well as packaging studies and product certification.
Reformer for liquid fuels
There is considerable interest in liquid fuels like methanol because of their high energy content and easy storage. We develop highly compact components for reforming these fuels and preparing the reactants and we also build complete reforming systems.
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.”
New active materials
Our work traditionally focuses on synthesising and characterising functional materials for batteries and supercapacitors with core expertise in development of custom powders. 25 years of material research provide the basis for our comprehensive understanding of the interaction between structure and powder morphology, on the one hand, and the desired functional and processing properties, on the other. In addition to new cathode materials (such as highvoltage 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 and electrode materials are being researched for future systems such as lithium/sulphur and lithium/air.
Cell production technologies
Prototypes can be researched on laboratory scale with cells in 18650 format and stacked pouch cells. The goal is to develop new and high-performing components for future cell generations that can be adapted to industry. Our cells consisting of in-house developped electrodes show very high reproducibility and cycling stability (>15,000 cycles). A current focus is the processing of highenergy electrodes with aqueous binder systems and the development of cells consisting of high-voltage spinel cathode materials.
We are specialised in the area of post-mortem analysis to understand failures in battery components and to evaluate new cells. The analytical results are essential for understanding ageing processes, potential safety risks, and to optimise 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.“
Near-series production of large lithium-ion cells, such as those used in electrical vehicles or stationary storage systems, makes particular demands on the reliability and precision of the processes. The higher their quality and reproducibility, the greater the reliability, durability and cost-effectiveness of the storage systems.
Our work focuses on operating a pre-competition “Research platform for industrial production of lithium-ion cells (FPL),” which maps the near-production overall manufacturing process for hard-case cells (PHEV 1-cell, >20 Ah). This focuses on studies of the interaction of cell chemistry, cell design and manufacturing technology in terms of quality, reliability and manufacturing costs as well as 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 all production steps, right up to quality assurance processes. In addition to this, the highly qualified and experienced team, consisting of a good mix of technicians, engineers and electrochemists, now has crucial consulting expertise on cell manufacturing and cost considerations, based on operation of the pilot plant.
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.“
We investigate and develop electrochemical energy storage systems. To ensure that accumulators are safe and efficient even under the most extreme conditions, our work focuses on characterising them under various operating conditions and investigating their behaviour with regard to operating failures and accident situations, as well as developing battery management methods. The batteries’ applications include stationary energy storage in electric grids and in portable devices, as well as in electrified drive trains for electromobility.
Battery test and safety test
The electric battery test serves to investigate the functionality of cells, modules and systems, measure their performance and determine their expected service life under defined loads and environmental conditions. With abuse tests, we can assess the reactions and potential risks of heavily damaged accumulators and their resistance to various abuse conditions and operating failures.
Battery system technology
The main focus of battery system technology is thermal and electrical modelling and the simulation of cells and battery systems. In addition to developing modules and battery management systems (BMS), we perform research activities on model‐based algorithms to determine the state of the battery (state of charge and ageing), predict system performance and ensure optimal charge control and energy management. The goal is a dynamic, reliable and efficient operation of the storage system in the applications mentioned.
Overview of our topics:
„In the eLaB, we research, test, and analyse batteries and systems in flexible, standards-compliant and innovative ways.“