April 22, 2016

DLR at the Hannover Trade Fair: Intelligent wind turbines, efficient energy storage and 40 years of energy research

Using their knowledge and expertise in the field of aviation, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have developed innovative ideas for wind turbine rotors. During the Hannover Trade Fair, which will take place from 25 to 29 April 2016, they will demonstrate how their intelligent rotor blades adapt to wind loads. DLR is also focusing on energy storage – an important and key component of any energy system – which is increasingly making use of renewable energy sources. DLR researchers are developing storage solutions for industrial use. These solutions could enable large amounts of energy to be stored in the form of heat. These new thermal energy storage systems will be presented at the Trade Fair. In addition, DLR is celebrating its 40th anniversary of energy research and is taking a look back at its successes and achievements in this field.

DLR will be presenting its energy research findings at the Hannover Trade Fair 2016 in Hall 27, Stand 31 as well as from a joint stand with Hydrogen Fuel Cells, also located in Hall 27. According to Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, "a secure, affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply is one of the most important global challenges facing humankind. At the Hannover Trade Fair, DLR is showcasing its involvement in the fields of energy storage, wind energy and energy systems – which is not only ground-breaking but also contributes innovatively to international projects."

More electricity with intelligent rotor blades

Uneven wind distribution between the top and bottom of the turbines causes rotor blades to be exposed to highly unstable wind loads. As a result, high levels of pressure are placed on the rotor blades, subjecting them to great stress. For this reason, DLR is researching rotor blades that are able to adapt their geometry to local wind effects. This could, for example, possibly be achieved by using adjustable flaps, which would allow the trailing edge of a rotor blade to be altered. At the Trade Fair, DLR wind energy researchers will be demonstrating what these and other innovations would look like for wind turbines. In addition, DLR will also be presenting EWITAC, commercial software that can optimise the overall wind turbine system. The programme comprises research conducted in all areas of study – from rotor blade aerodynamics to power electronics for energy storage – enabling an overall simulation of wind turbines.

FRP repair patches for high-tech plastics

Fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) is increasingly being used within the aerospace industry due to its lightweight, yet durable properties. The use of FRP has led to the introduction of new structures in the construction of vehicles and wind turbines. In order to make FRP structures more competitive and economically appealing, DLR researchers from the Institute of Structures and Design have developed a new kind of repair concept – it is flexible, efficient, produced with suitable materials and prolongs the lifespan of such structures. The repair box on display at the DLR stand contains all the necessary systems, and demonstrations will show how the box can be used.

Energy – store it, take it, use it

Power plants and many other industrial processes work with high temperatures. A vast amount of heat from these high temperatures can be stored in molten salt. At the TESIS test facilities, DLR is researching storage technology that could lower the cost of investment but increase efficiency and reliability. Using a three-dimensional model of the test facility, energy experts from the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics will describe the steps taken to develop liquid salt thermal energy storage – from the early stages of its development up to its pre-commercial implementation. Additionally, heat can be stored in a pocket heater on a much lower scale. From a scientific point of view, these small, salt-filled pads are latent heat storage units that can be recharged and made directly on the stand. The pocket heaters store thermal energy imperceptibly – in a latent manner – and can be charged and discharged.

AMIRIS: How do stakeholders in the energy market behave?

Decisions made in the energy sector and in energy policy have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. Energy system analysts at the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics have therefore developed the AMIRIS simulation model to support stakeholders in this sector as well as policy makers – for example, local authorities and wind power plant constructors – in the decision making process. AMIRIS analyses the effect of various mechanisms of the energy industry during the integration of renewable energies at a stakeholder and system level. These analyses help to effectively formulate frameworks and funding systems for the energy sector.

Electrically-powered flight and new developments in batteries and fuel cells

In addition to its main stand, at the Hannover Trade Fair, DLR is also presenting its work on the joint stand for hydrogen, fuel cells and batteries (Hall 27, Stands C66 and E66). There, the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics is presenting a model of Hy4, the world's first four-seater passenger aircraft to be powered solely by a fuel cell and battery system. The primary power source is a low-temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. This converts oxygen in the air and hydrogen from the fuel tank into electrical energy. The 5.4 by 1.8 metre model shows how the electric propulsion system is integrated into the aircraft.

Also at the stand, researchers will present new developments in metal-supported solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). These new cells can easily be combined into a cell stack, which reduces manufacturing costs. In addition, a new cell architecture makes use of a porous metallic substrate, electrocatalytic active oxide materials and thin film electrolytes for improved cell performance. To demonstrate the importance of safety aspects in the design of low-temperature fuel cell stacks, the researchers are showcasing a cell stack that has exploded. A slide show reveals how overloads can be avoided and explains research methods and materials for future batteries

40 years of DLR energy research

The term 'renewable energy' did not exist 40 years ago; the more popular terms were 'non-nuclear and non-fossil energy'. It was only following the oil crisis in 1973 that the German Federal Government established the 'Energy research' framework programme in 1974. Two years later, 'energetics' became a fixed research field for the DFVLR, the predecessor of DLR. In 1978, researchers from DLR introduced a car that was powered by liquid hydrogen – the first of its kind in Europe. In the same year, the first wind turbine prototype was built in the Swabian Alps. Since then, DLR has been conducting research into solar energy, fuel cells, environmentally friendly gas turbines, energy storage, wind turbines and more. Above all, the studies in systems analysis provided key contributions to the future of energy policy in Germany as well as to the rise of important energy discussions across the globe. In 2016, DLR is celebrating its 40th anniversary of energy research and will be taking a look back at its successful and eventful years in this field.

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Dorothee Bürkle

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Media Relations, Energy and Transport Research

Bernhard Milow

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Energy Programme Directorate

Tilmann Tack

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Technology Marketing
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