The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and its research institutes are affiliated to the Helmholtz Association. The activities of the Institute of Solar Research form part of its “Renewable Energies” programme.
18 research centres working in science/technology and medicine/life-sciences have joined together in the Helmholtz Association. With its headcount of 36,000 people and an annual budget of about 3.8 billion euros, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific research organisation. The mission of the Helmholtz Association is to pursue long-term research objectives of national and societal relevance, and to foster and improve human living conditions. It identifies and addresses big, urgent issues as they evolve in society, science and industry by promoting top-flight strategic and programmatic research in six areas:
- Earth and Environment
- Key Technologies
- The Structure of Matter, and
- Aviation, Space and Transport
Programme-oriented research funding
To qualify for funding under the "Renewable Energies Programme" the Institute of Solar Research, like other research centres, submits its predominantly basic-research projects for evaluation by an international panel in a competitive procedure. Based on the evaluation outcome, the Helmholtz Association makes funding recommendations for a five-year period.
Solar Tower at the Plataforma Solar de Almería
Under the current call for proposals for the 2015-2019 period, the Institute and its partners have submitted several entries on cost reduction in solar thermal power plants and on the thermo-chemical generation of solar fuels, which will be reviewed in early 2014. The focus of these projects will be on the development of new heat transfer fluids for solar towers, which are resistant to high temperatures and at the same time offer good heat transfer and heat storage properties.
Molten salts and inert particles will be a key theme in these investigations. The solar fuels projects include the production of hydrogen or synthetic gas from water and CO2 as feedstock, using solar high-temperature technology. The research is intended to improve our understanding of the underlying reaction mechanisms, making it possible to design solar reactors that will store solar energy with a higher level of efficiency.