Issue 47, February 2014
bulletInnovation: Algae-powered Bio Intelligent Quotient House
bulletResearching Alternative Energy Solutions: Interview with Prof. Dr. Ferdi Schüth
bullet"Flying Labs" for Climate Research
bulletSOLARBRUSH: Robotic Cleaning System for Increased Energy Efficiency
bulletSUSMILK: Revolutionizing the Dairy Industry

Global energy demand is expected to rise dramatically as the world's population grows, economies flourish, and standards of living increase, enabling greater access to modern energy. By 2040, consumption is projected to increase by more than 56 percent worldwide, with the industrial sector accounting for over half of this energy usage, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Although more than 1.3 billion people globally still lack access to electricity, this number is predicted to change, especially in countries with emerging economies, such as India and China. Demand in China alone is expected to increase by 75 percent by 2035. 


The environmental ramifications of this evolving energy picture are significant. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase 46 percent to 45 billion metric tons by 2040, according to the EIA's International Energy Outlook 2013. Unless leading nations make concerted efforts to curb their growing carbon footprints, global warming forecasts will continue to remain ominous. 


Germany has long been a recognized leader in environmental protection and clean energy initiatives. The country currently receives almost a quarter of its energy from renewables. By 2025, it plans to have increased this number to 45 percent. While Germany currently imports 70 percent of its energy, its national energy policy, the Energiewende, strives to reduce this import dependence as a means of heightening power security. The policy, a mix of market-based instruments and regulation, was designed to tackle climate change, diminish and eliminate the risk of nuclear power, and stimulate technology innovation in the green economy. 


Leveraging the economic and environmental potential of a diverse renewable energy portfolio is part of Germany's national innovation strategy. The government recently established its "National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030," for example, to expedite a structural shift from a petroleum-based to a sustainable bio-based economy. The country's bioeconomy sector aims to capitalize on the versatility of biomass, which can provide heat, electricity, and motor fuel. As a result, biomass is expected to compose nearly two-thirds of Germany's renewable energy consumption by 2020. 



article2Innovation: Algae-powered Bio Intelligent Quotient House 
The BIQ House in Hamburg, Germany, is the first building in the world with a dynamic, algae-based, bio-reactive façade. With 200 square meters of integrated photo-bioreactors (PBRs), this passive-energy house generates high-value biomass and solar thermal heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the innovative façade system also integrates additional functionalities, such as adaptive shading and noise reduction. In total, 129 SolarLeaf bioreactors have been installed on the southwest and southeast sides of the apartment complex, which debuted last year at the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg. As a whole, the façade will significantly reduce CO2 emissions from the building.

The microalgae used in the façade are cultivated in vertical glass louvres. These flat glass panels are filled with water containing nutrients, which convert daylight and CO2 to algal biomass through photosynthesis. This closed-loop system takes advantage of the simple, unicellular structure of microalgae, which are much more efficient in the conversion of light to biomass than higher-level plants. Alga can grow roughly ten times faster than larger plants because each algal cell is capable of photosynthesis. It is this bio-chemical process which creates the building's shimmering lime green exterior.

By monitoring the technical performance as well as how people perceive and interact with the façade, the project partners hope to apply the multifunctional building design towards zero-energy and zero-carbon buildings of the future.

The BIQ House is the result of three years of research and development by various international design and engineering firms, with funding from the German government's "ZukunftBau" research initiative. The building was recently a prize winner in the 2013/14 Land of Ideas - "Ausgezeichnete Orte" competition.  


Image: © Colt International, Arup, SSC




Prof. Dr. Ferdi Schüth, Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim an der Ruhr, is a highly esteemed German chemist. He has served as Vice President of the German Research Foundation since 2007 and is also a recipient of the organization's Leibniz Prize, Germany's most prestigious science award. 

In his interview with GCRI, Prof. Dr. Schüth describes his research on hydrogen storage materials and catalysts for alternative fuels as well as the general sentiment of the German public with respect to the "Energiewende" debate. He also discusses his predictions about changes in Germany's energy infrastructure over the next decade. To read the full interview, click here.


Prof. Dr. Schüth studied Chemistry and Law at the University of Münster, where he received his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1988. He was a Postdoc at the University of Minneapolis in the Chemical Engineering Department in 1988/89 and completed his Habilitation in Inorganic Chemistry from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in 1995. From 1995 to 1998, he served as Full Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Since 1998, he has been Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, and since 1999, also Honorary Professor at the Ruhr University Bochum.

His most recent awards include the 2013 Chemical Engineering Medal from the ETH Zürich, the 2012 Wilhelm Klemm Prize from the German Chemical Society, and the 2010 Werner Heisenberg Medal from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

On March 31, Prof. Dr. Schüth will speak at the GCRI about Germany's energy transition. 


Image: © MPI für Kohlenforschung 




Source: Annette Stettien, Forschungszentrum Jülich


Emissions from energy production, industry, transportation, agriculture, and biogas combustion pollute the air and contaminate the atmosphere. To predict the impact of human activity on the climate as accurately as possible and to refine existing climate models, researchers at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research at Forschungszentrum Jülich are carrying out observations and measurements at various altitude ranges of the atmosphere. They are using different flight platforms with specially developed, highly sensitive instruments for measuring gaseous, liquid, and solid components of the air.

One of these "flying labs" is a Zeppelin NT, which has unique flight characteristics: it can float slowly, hover in the air, ascend and descend vertically, and fly for up to 24 hours. These features make it possible to study the very reactive chemical elements of the lower troposphere. In May 2012, as part of the E.U. project PEGASOS, the Zeppelin NT embarked on its biggest multinational scientific mission thus far.

The long-distance German research aircraft HALO, on the other hand, collects data from the lower stratosphere and upper troposphere. High-altitude aircraft such as the Geophysica as well as special balloons, conversely, are used in the upper stratosphere to explore the ozone layer. The Geophysica is currently the only aircraft in Europe capable of carrying instruments to an altitude range of 15 to 20 kilometers. The researchers intend to gain further insight into the climate system by also obtaining data during scheduled international flights. In cooperation with various commercial airlines, passenger aircraft have been equipped with sensors for long-term atmospheric monitoring in the tropopause as part of the In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System (IAGOS) project.  


Image: © Felix Kästle/Forschungszentrum Jülich 



SOLARBRUSH produces light-weight, wireless robots that clean solar panels in arid regions, such as deserts. In high-temperature and high-voltage environments, conventional methods of manual solar panel cleaning are both costly and dangerous. With regular maintenance, however, solar panel efficiency can increase by up to 35 percent.


This cost-effective device allows for frequent cleaning, which prevents the surface buildup of sand, dirt, and dust, and also conserves precious water in the process. The robot is designed to complete the challenging task of climbing up to a 35-degree angle on titled solar panels. In addition, the robot lowers general maintenance costs and accelerates the financial break-even point for solar power plants. It also enables cleaning at night and during off-peak hours, leading to additional savings.

In today's global race to create and maintain new energy systems, this German startup is well-positioned to capitalize on the increasing market demand for sustainable electricity. The majority of photovoltaic energy comes from sunny, often sandy regions located around the equator. SOLARBRUSH is harnessing its potential to capture this relatively untapped niche energy market, which geographically is often located in developing countries with bourgeoning economies. The startup is currently gathering testimonials from pilot customers in Chile's Atacama Desert.


SOLARBRUSH has received international recognition, including the "Germany - Land of Ideas" "Selected Landmark" Award, and was a winner in the "hardware" category at the recent hy! Berlin startup competition.

For further information, please contact Ridha Azaiz or click here


Source & Image: © SOLARBRUSH


article6SUSMILK: Revolutionizing the Dairy Industry

On its way from the cow to the carton, milk undergoes a variety of heating and cooling processes, expending a significant amount of water and energy during this journey. SUSMILK, a recent E.U.-funded "green dairy" initiative, focuses on redesigning the milk industry for a more sustainable production process. This joint research initiative offers great potential to transform the European milk industry, which accounts for approximately 13 % of total European food and drink production.


The overall "green dairy" concept is being developed based on systems at five dairies in Germany, Spain, and Serbia, ranging in size from family-owned dairies to industrial plants. According to project manager Dr. Christoph Glasner, many different possibilities exist for optimizing dairy infrastructures, including on-site, solar-thermal energy utilization. "We use solar energy in high-temperature solar panels for steam generation, which we pair with biomass boilers," Glasner said. "We also use the waste heat from the dairy production for cooling." 


Fraunhofer UMSICHT, which is in charge of the project, is specializing in the energy-efficient manufacturing of milk concentrate with a subsequent drying process to obtain a dried and standardized concentrate. The results of this research have the potential to reduce transport energy and tank sizes at individual dairies. Dried milk concentrate is not only of interest to manufacturers of cheese, yoghurt, and baked goods, but also to some European regions, which face seasonal supply shortages. This concentrated milk would provide a storable product, consistent in quality and quantity, which would be available throughout the entire year.


Fraunhofer UMSICHT predicts that the universal implementation of the SUSMILK initiative would help the European dairy industry reduce energy expenditure by 50 percent and water consumption by 30 percent.


Source & Image: © Fraunhofer UMSICHT