Energy and Sustainability
Research on materials cycles therefore focuses on the retrieval of energy and secondary resources from waste (e.g., metals and inert construction materials), and on the upgrading of waste byproducts.
Use of solar energy has to address the facts that the locations (sun belt) and times (summer, daytime) of high solar irradiation are not coincident with the energy demand. Therefore, conversion of solar energy into a transportable storage form is a major long-term research aim at PSI, in which solar energy is used to produce chemicals with a high energy content or heating value, may provide an answer to the mentioned problems.
Short, medium and long term storage of electric energy is of high importance for a variety of technological applications, including transport applications and power supplies for devices. Research at PSI focuses on the development of advanced rechargeable battery systems with superior energy and power densities. Lithium batteries based on Lithium insertion electrodes offer superior power densities and energy storage characteristics.
Efficient and low emission energy use
Fuel cells are potentially the most efficient converters of stored chemical energy into electric energy. Work at PSI focuses on the development of low temperature fuel cells for transport applications, such as hybrid electric vehicles. A low-cost, high performance solid polymer electrolyte membrane has been developed, which is now used in fuel cell stacks in order to address gas flow, heat and water management issues, which are crucial for a reliable overall systems performance.
Measurements of air pollutant and trace gas fluxes in the atmosphere
The effects of air pollutants on the vegetation are a crucial factor determining the external costs of energy use. Experimental techniques are developed to assess how forests and crops respond to the complex interplay of weather conditions (temperature, humidity), nutrients (nitrates), air pollutants (ozone) and atmospheric trace gases (increased CO2 concentration due to anthropogenic emissions).