Energy Supply, Conversion and Storage

The focal topic Energy Supply, Conversion and Storage addresses research questions concerning the provision of renewable energy and, if not directly usable, its storage in a suitable form until use.
CIGS solar cell with record efficiency of 20.8%, using a flexible polymer substrate. Image: Empa

In view of the ongoing electrification of buildings and mobility as well as the reduction of electricity production in nuclear power plants, the domestic renewable electricity generation must be greatly expanded. Given its potential and acceptance, photovoltaics clearly play a key role in these efforts. Our research focuses on thin-film solar cells with higher efficiency (e.g. in tandem-cells) as well as lower production costs through new materials and production technologies.
(Left) Atomic structure of mixed-anion closoborate electrolyte Na 4B 12H 12B 10H 10 providing high ionic conductivity and high thermal and electrochemical stability. (Right) Schematics and corresponding scanning electron microscopy cross section of an all-solid-state battery with closoborate electrolyte.

In terms of energy storage, Empa focuses on three technologies:

  • Batteries: In this area, Empa develops alternative battery concepts such as solid-state batteries, batteries with aqueous electrolyte systems, as well as sodium, magnesium and aluminum-based batteries. Furthermore, Empa tests the reliability of battery modules, conducts life cycle analyses and researches concepts for the recycling of batteries. 
  • Seasonal heat storage, e.g. by means of geothermal probes or thermochemical heat storage.
  • Synthetic energy carriers to replace fossil fuels. This allows renewable energy to be stored and transported in the short, medium and long term.

In the research and development of these technologies, Empa can draw on its strong expertise in analytical techniques to study the processes taking place during chemical reactions, the structure and composition of gases, liquids and solids, and the nature of interfaces and surfaces.

Dr. Björn Niesen
Managing Director Research Focus Area Energy

Phone: +41 58 765 4262

Involved labs