Many employees at the Technology Center for Energy (TZE) had never heard of Ruhstorf prior to joining the center. Considering it’s a small village of around 7,000 residents, that’s perhaps not surprising. However, Ruhstorf is an important location for industry given that it hosts major companies such as Hatz, Rolls Royce and Siemens. Due to its close proximity to both Austria and the Czech Republic, it is also a site of international cooperation and exchange.
Most researchers at TZE join the center as a result of their research at Landshut University of Applied Sciences, as was also the case for Dr. Christina Schubert. Schubert joined the center in 2017 with the goal of completing a PhD. In her dissertation, she explored possibilities for the ideal integration of battery storage units in low voltage grids, while simultaneously managing international projects. "My involvement in these projects helped me gain important skills in project and financial management, additional to my scientific qualifications," Schubert says. Due to cooperation with industry partners, she has also established a professional network that will help her further develop her career.
Maximilian Mock joined TZE after completing his master’s thesis in collaboration with a local company. Mock researches green gases produced from waste resources, such as renewable hydrogen and biomethane. When Mock started working at TZE, he didn’t have a lab. His job was to build it. "I had a lot of freedom and the opportunity to realize my own thoughts and ideas," Mock says. The expansion of the lab and experiments in the field of optimizing biological processes eventually led him to a new topic for his PhD, which he recently started.
Almost all of the around 25 researchers at TZE are contracted on a 3–5 year project basis, depending on the duration of the project. For PhD candidates like Mock, this is enough time establish their research focus and make plans for future research projects. Schubert and Mock agree that TZE is a great place to work. "For young professionals who have just graduated from university, the salary is comparatively high and the network of companies and institutes associated with the center provides great opportunities for further career development," Mock says. "The experience of applying for third-party funding can also be rewarding and help to kick-start one’s academic career," Schubert adds.
The center also offers a friendly and welcoming work environment for researchers. "We are all very close, eat lunch together, and sometimes even spend our free time together," Schubert says. "This informal exchange between different working groups and projects is very beneficial," she adds.
Research at TZE focuses on three topics: Lithium-ion batteries, redox-flow batteries as short-term storage technologies and green gases for long-term energy storage. Several cross-cutting issues such as intelligent energy management, energy system simulation and electric mobility enrich the research portfolio. "It’s always a surprise what you can learn from other people who work in the same field, but on completely different topics," says Schubert. The goal of supporting the transition to a green, carbon-neutral, and circular energy system unites researchers at TZE and their partners.
And on an international level? Compared to other institutes, TZE is rather small. Still, it is very well connected to other international institutes, companies and public and private organizations. Currently, TZE leads two major European projects, is part of a research network spanning from Canada to China and is constantly expanding its international network around the world. "The energy transition is a global issue. We want to be part of it," says Mock.
TZE is a welcoming place for international researchers and students. One of them is Mohadese Khansari. During her bachelor’s degree in chemical and process engineering at the University of Technology – Tehran Polytechnic in Iran, Khansari learnt German. "Germany is very advanced when it comes to clean and climate-friendly technologies, so I researched German universities," she says.
Khansari found the newly introduced research master’s program "Applied Research in Engineering Sciences" at the Landshut University of Applied Sciences. Each semester, she gets 12 out of 30 credit points for practical work she completes at TZE two days a week. "My topic is lithium-ion battery production, where I focus on the usage of eco-friendly materials such as water-based solvents," she explains. Not only does she love spending time in the laboratory. "The work environment is so great here. Everyone supports each other, everything is a team effort and due to the great variety of fields, there is always someone who knows what you want to know," she says. Khansari therefore wants to stay at TZE after finishing her master’s degree and has plans to continue her research in the field of battery production through a PhD.
Khansari is not the only international researcher at TZE, with researchers from China and Colombia also working at the center. Project partners from all over Europe are always happy to meet in Ruhstorf—a small town with the potential to make a big contribution to the transition to renewable energy systems.
The Technology Center for Energy is an external research institute of the Landshut University of Applied Sciences, headed by Professor Karl-Heinz Pettinger, an expert in electrochemical storage technologies with many years’ experience in both academia and industry.
The center focuses on energy storage technologies (batteries and green gases), as well as electric mobility, energy management and system simulation. One to three researchers work on one of the 10–15 Bavarian, German or European projects. TZE has 11 laboratories that house all the necessary equipment for cell manufacturing, cell testing and biological gas production. TZE also has its own electric car, which serves as a company car and as a vehicle for research purposes. Two major INTERREG projects in the past five years, "CompStor – Comptence Center for Energy Storage", and "FSTORE – Cross-border Platform for Research in Future Energy Storage Systems and their Integration" have led to major investment in the research facilities at TZE and have transformed it into a well-known partner among the international energy research and development community.