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News Highlights

Fraunhofer IISB builds long-term energy storage with hydrogen technology

A world-wide unique system for the compact storage of large quantities of energy is set up at Fraunhofer IISB in Erlangen and integrated into a modern DC power grid. As part of the center of excellence for electronic systems LZE, research is being conducted on how such an energy storage unit can contribute to the safe and clean energy supply of industrial plants and larger building complexes

Things get a bit tight when you enter the white steel container at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB in Erlangen. The interior is packed with technology that enables the storage and withdrawal of electrical energy based on a liquid hydrogen carrier. 


"The aim was to accommodate all system components in a 20-foot container," says IISB scientist Johannes Geiling, who is responsible for the process engineering structure of the research facility for converting and storing electrical energy. The new system, built as part of the Elektroniksysteme LZE performance center, is intended to set standards for the long-term storage of large amounts of energy - all in extremely small space.

The storage system will be built as part of the LZE pilot project "DC Backbone with Electricity-Gas Coupling". According to the principle of the performance center, the "container full of energy" is being built in close cooperation between the Fraunhofer Institutes IISB and IIS with the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and regional industrial


partners. The basic concept is to generate hydrogen from excess electrical energy, for example from a local photovoltaic system, and store it in an organic carrier safely and compactly - even over longer periods of time. For later use, the hydrogen can be released from the carrier and converted into electrical energy with a fuel cell. The fuel cell was already put into operation in April as the first main component of the energy storage system. With the built-in components can be stored 25 kilowatts of electrical power. 


The fuel cell system used is based on the so-called low-temperature PEM technology (PEM: Proton Exchange Membrane). The PEM design basically allows the fuel cell to be switched from the switched-off state to the operating state within a few minutes. Fast operational readiness is important, for example, for the subsequent coverage of load peaks in industrial plants. Proton exchange membrane). 


The PEM design basically allows the fuel cell to be switched from the switched-off state to the operating state within a few minutes. Fast operational readiness is important, for example, for the subsequent coverage of load peaks in industrial plants. Proton exchange membrane). The PEM design basically allows the fuel cell to be switched from the switched-off state to the operating state within a few minutes. Fast operational readiness is important, for example, for the subsequent coverage of load peaks in industrial plants.

The liquid carrier used for hydrogen storage is known in the trade as LOHC (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier) .The Erlangen researchers see great potential in the LOHC technology used, a specialty of the Chair of Chemical Reaction Technology (CRT) at the FAU. 


The liquid carrier absorbs large amounts of electrolytically generated hydrogen via a chemical reaction and can then be safely stored under normal ambient conditions for pressure and temperature. Only under very specific conditions within a chemical reactor, the hydrogen can be released again from the carrier. 


As far as storage and transportation requirements are concerned, the carrier can be compared with conventional diesel - a major advantage over other hydrogen storage technologies, which usually require high pressures or very low temperatures. Incidentally, the carrier is already widely used in industry - there, however, as thermal oil for heating and cooling processes. 


When used as LOHC, however, it allows the repeated storage and release of energy in a closed cycle process. In contrast to fossil fuels, the LOHC is not consumed in the process, but can be repeatedly loaded and unloaded with hydrogen. The container in Erlangen can currently store about 300 liters of LOHC, which corresponds to an energy stored in hydrogen of almost 600 kilowatt hours. 


That's enough to cover the electricity needs of a smaller industrial operation over several hours. However, additional storage tanks can easily increase the stored amount of energy many times over.  

© Kurt Fuchs / Fraunhofer IISB

The interior of the new container enables efficient generation and production of hydrogen.

© Kurt Fuchs / Fraunhofer IISB

The container's electrical compartment houses highly efficient power electronics for connection to the institute's DC network.

With the new research facility, the scientists in Erlangen want to get to the bottom of various questions: How can an LOHC-based energy storage system be used to record fluctuating energy production processes, such as those that occur? B. occur in the locally installed photovoltaic systems?


 How can such systems be compactly integrated into a single container? And how can such a system be efficiently integrated into industrial energy networks? At Fraunhofer IISB, the system is connected to the local DC grid. The institute has many years of expertise in the field of DC technology. 


Local DC grids make it possible to avoid unnecessary conversion losses from direct current to alternating current in interaction with local producers.Due to the extreme compactness of the container system, a large number of tailor-made solutions was necessary, which the involved employees - engineers and technicians - occasionally pondered. 


"But so far we have accommodated everything", says the deputy project leader in the LZE pilot project "DC Backbone with Electricity-Gas Coupling", Michael Steinberger, with a grin. "And only through interdisciplinary cooperation can our research project be successful," continues Steinberger. The qualified electrical engineer has developed into a fuel cell specialist in recent years and is also responsible for control technology in the container. 


Steinberger was able to draw on the valuable support of communications experts at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS to design the control technology. However, in-depth knowledge of chemical processes is also necessary: ​​for example, the LOHC reactor is a development of the CRT, with which there is close cooperation in the framework of the Leistungszentren Elektroniksysteme.

The research on the world's unique energy storage device provides important insights into how storage systems based on liquid hydrogen carriers can be integrated into local energy systems. "With the commissioning of the fuel cell system, an important first step has been taken. Now we are looking forward to the next results,


"says project employee Johannes Geiling. "An important research focus will be to find the most suitable operating mode for the storage system," Geiling continued. Because with the right operating strategy, the LOHC system will make it possible to use renewable energies while ensuring security of supply even in industrial plants.

About the Leistungszentrum Elektroniksysteme (LZE)

The Leistungszentrum Elektroniksysteme is a joint initiative of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, its Institutes IIS and IISB and the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), together with other non-university research institutions and associated industrial partners. The center of excellence is based on the many years of intensive cooperation between the Fraunhofer Institutes and the FAU and the unique concentration of research and industry in the field of electronic systems at the Nuremberg-Erlangen-Fürth location.

Excellent research and joint planning create the basis for a comprehensive, long-term strategic partnership between Fraunhofer, FAU and industry. The pilot phase of the Leistungszentren Elektroniksysteme was launched in January 2015 and is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology.


Further information as well as the pilot projects of the LZE eV can be found at:


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