Which forms of energy will we be using in the future? We are all asking ourselves this question, and many scientists and researchers are looking for the answer. In recognition of the central importance of this question for our common future, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - BMBF) has designated 2010 as the year of 'The Future of Energy'. The Year was officially inaugurated on 26 January 2010 in Berlin. Scientists at the German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have been doing interdisciplinary research in the area of energy for over 30 years. Here, DLR provides insight into its research areas in the context of the Year of Energy.
The aim of the Year of Energy is to highlight the subject of energy and bring it to the general public, especially children and young people. The BMBF is convinced that research into innovative solutions for our energy needs plays a central role in the 'Future of Energy'. However, practical solutions can be developed only by the collaboration of many scientists working together. DLR intends to demonstrate its many energy research projects to interested persons and to inform the public about the future of energy.
Solar tower power station in Almería, Spain
Dealing with Energy
Each week through 2010, science journalist Jan Oliver Löfken will answer a question on energy on the Energy Blog of the DLR website. He is looking forward to receiving many questions from our readers (just email them to him).
DLR will be participate in the 'Wissenschaftssommer' summer science programme from 5 to 11 July 2010 in Magdeburg with its DLR_School_Lab. Students will have the chance to run fascinating energy-related experiments under the supervision of experts. In addition, the 'MS-Wissenschaft' travelling exhibit will sail on Germany's waterways from May 2010 onwards, docking in many cities. The barge will carry a of a solar-tower power station. Visitors will have the chance to see how sunlight is captured, its energy turned into electrical power, and eventually delivered to the national grid.
DLR researchers will participate in 'The Future of Energy' online research programme. Schools will have the chance to arrange for the experts to visit their schools and give presentations.
Interdisciplinary solutions are the key
Safer and more climate-friendly energy supply is a key issue for the present as well as the future. The BMBF believes that energy research plays a central role in the search for future-proof solutions and that genuinely practical solutions will be the outcome of interdisciplinary projects. DLR's aviation, space flight, energy and traffic researchers are able to profit from each other's work, making their own projects more efficient and effective.
The researchers are investigating many such solutions in interdisciplinary projects. For example, they have developed the first aircraft in the world that can take off using a fuel cell as its power source. They are working on improving existing power plants by optimising combustion and are researching innovative, more efficient solutions. Along with industrial partners, the researchers are developing new energy storage solutions so that the electricity generated by solar power stations can be made available when required, and not only when the Sun shines. DLR researchers are world experts in testing solar power station mirrors and have demonstrated via large-scale international projects that renewable energy can ensure our future power supply, if we approach it correctly.