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Increasing battery and fuel cell power with quantum computing

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Increasing battery and fuel cell power with quantum computing

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is conducting research into new materials for more powerful batteries and fuel cells. DLR scientists are now using a quantum computer to simulate electrochemical processes within energy storage systems. This makes it possible to design the materials used in such a way that the performance and energy density of batteries and fuel cells increase significantly.

The special thing about QuESt (Quantencomputer Materialdesign fur elektrochemische Energiespeicher und -wandler mit innovativen Simulationstechniken; Quantum computer material design for electrochemical energy storage systems and converters with innovative simulation technology) is that it uses quantum computers for a highly application-oriented task in materials research. QuESt thus combines both fundamental and applied research in the field of energy storage.

Quantum chemistry determines power and energy density

Above all else, electromobility requires small, lightweight energy storage systems with high capacities and performance. The material and structure of the electrodes are key factors, as they affect the energy density and the voltage. With optimised materials, it is also possible to prevent decomposition processes and thus prolong the service life of batteries and fuel cells.

When electricity flows through a battery or fuel cell, ions within it travel from one electrode to the other. Ions gain or lose an electron at the surfaces of the electrodes. “The processes can be described with precision with the help of quantum physics. The electrons essentially change their quantum mechanical state. We can simulate these energy states using a quantum computer. This allows us to calculate how much energy is in the electrochemical reactions and how fast these are occurring,” says Birger Horstmann, Head of the Theory of Electrochemical Systems Group at the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics.

In these simulations, the DLR scientists compare the quantum chemical interactions that occur with various novel materials and electrode structures. They are aiming to achieve the highest possible chemical bonding energies for electrons in batteries. In fuel cells, hydrogen and oxygen should react with each other as efficiently as possible.

Targeted material design of battery electrodes with quantum computers

The QuESt project is seeing the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics, Institute of Quantum Technologies and Institute for Software Technology, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials (Fraunhofer-Institut fur Werkstoffmechanik; IWM), breaking new ground in terms of materials design for energy storage systems.

With the help of a quantum computer, the researchers study how atoms and molecules interact with the different electrode materials in batteries and fuel cells. “Quantum simulations have the potential to revolutionise computer-aided materials design. We want to use them to optimise the chemical compositions of the electrodes and their microscopic structure,” says Horstmann.

“A quantum computer enables us to study the quantum-chemical processes occurring at the electrodes of batteries and fuel cells with the utmost precision. We are conducting research to find out the best way of programming our quantum computer for that purpose,” says Sabine Wolk of the DLR Institute of Quantum Technologies.

The QuESt project is using the Fraunhofer Society’s IBM quantum computer, which is funded by the German Federal State of Baden-Wurttemberg. This uses very small, superconductive coils, referred to as Josephson junctions, as qubits.

Quantum simulation of energy storage systems has applications in other fields

The quantum algorithms devised over the course of the QuESt project also serve as a starting point for future quantum software. The underlying algorithms and steps towards solutions could be carried across to other problems in quantum physics. Findings arising from the simulation of energy storage devices as quantum many-body systems are also set to be applied to other areas of research, such as medicine and the chemical industry.

The Baden-Wurttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing is funding the QuESt project, which was launched in January 2021, with 1.5 million euro over two years. In addition to the DLR institutes and Fraunhofer IWM, the companies Robert Bosch GmbH and Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America Inc. are also involved in the project as associated partners.

QuESt combines interdisciplinary expertise in quantum technology and battery and fuel cell research at the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) and the University of Ulm. The HIU was founded in 2011 by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), with the University of Ulm, DLR and the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (Zentrum fur Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Wurttemberg; ZSW) as associated partners.

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Solar Energy

Project receives funding for advanced solar-thermal research

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Project receives funding for advanced solar-thermal research


Project receives funding for advanced solar-thermal research

by Sophie Jenkins

London, UK (SPX) Apr 12, 2024






The University of Surrey, leading a collaboration with the University of Bristol and Northumbria University, has received a GBP 1.1 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop solar-thermal devices. These devices aim to revolutionize the way we heat homes and generate power, differing from traditional solar cells by converting sunlight into heat for energy production.

The research focuses on creating surfaces that selectively absorb sunlight and emit heat through near-infrared radiation. This project leverages the combined expertise of the institutions in photonics, advanced materials, applied electromagnetics, and nanofabrication to address a global need for efficient solar energy utilization.



Professor Marian Florescu, Principal Investigator from Surrey, highlighted the importance of the project: “The sun provides an immense amount of energy daily, much more than we currently harness. By advancing these solar-absorbing surfaces, we aim to transform solar energy use into a sustainable powerhouse for our increasing energy needs.”



Goals of the project include developing high-temperature solar absorbers, enhancing the efficiency of solar-absorbing structures, and improving the management of heat generated from sunlight. Prototypes will be constructed to demonstrate these technologies.



Professor Marin Cryan, Co-Principal Investigator from the University of Bristol, explained their focus on thermionic solar cell technology, which uses concentrated sunlight to initiate electron emission for high-efficiency solar cells.



Dr. Daniel Ho, Co-Principal Investigator from Northumbria University, added: “Our university leads in thermophotovoltaic research, utilizing advanced thermal analysis techniques. We’re excited to contribute to groundbreaking developments in renewable energy.”


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Solar Energy

Improving Solar and Wind Power Integration in the U.S. Grid

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Improving Solar and Wind Power Integration in the U.S. Grid


Improving Solar and Wind Power Integration in the U.S. Grid

by Clarence Oxford

Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 11, 2024






The Midcontinent Independent System Operator manages a high-voltage electricity network spanning from Manitoba to Louisiana, serving 45 million users. This vast operation requires maintaining a balance between the energy generated and the demand across its regions.

The traditional reliance on coal and natural gas power plants is changing. For example, wind farms in Iowa now generate over 64% of the state’s electricity, and recent initiatives like the Alliant Energy Solar Farm at Iowa State University represent the shift towards renewable energy sources. These sources, however, introduce variability and uncertainty into grid management.



Zhaoyu Wang, a Northrop Grumman associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State, emphasized, The power system seeks certainty which is challenging with unpredictable natural resources like sun and wind.



Wang is leading the MODERNISE project, aimed at modernizing grid operations. The U.S. Department of Energy has earmarked a $3 million grant over three years for this initiative, with an additional $1.1 million coming from project collaborators including Argonne National Laboratory and Siemens Corp.



The project, titled Modernizing Operation and Decision-Making Tools Enabling Resource Management in Stochastic Environment, involves developing computational tools that allow for better integration and management of renewable energy sources into the grid.



Jennifer M. Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, supported this initiative stating that effective integration of renewable resources is essential for deploying clean energy. The project is part of a larger $34 million investment by the DOE to develop technologies that enhance grid reliability and efficiency.



By aggregating smaller renewable energy resources into larger operational blocks, MODERNISE aims to improve grid stability and predictability. Bai Cui, project co-leader and assistant professor at Iowa State, explained that this approach allows operators to manage grid operations more effectively by understanding and handling the uncertainties of renewable supply sources.



This initiative promises to make grid operations more adaptable and efficient, critical for accommodating the increasing reliance on renewable energy.


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Solar Energy

Quantum Material Achieves Up to 190% Efficiency in Solar Cells

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Quantum Material Achieves Up to 190% Efficiency in Solar Cells


Quantum Material Achieves Up to 190% Efficiency in Solar Cells

by Clarence Oxford

Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 11, 2024






Researchers from Lehigh University have developed a material that significantly enhances the efficiency of solar panels.

A prototype incorporating this material as the active layer in a solar cell displays an average photovoltaic absorption rate of 80%, a high rate of photoexcited carrier generation, and an external quantum efficiency (EQE) reaching up to 190%. This figure surpasses the theoretical Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit for silicon-based materials, advancing the field of quantum materials for photovoltaics.



This work signifies a major advance in sustainable energy solutions, according to Chinedu Ekuma, professor of physics at Lehigh. He and Lehigh doctoral student Srihari Kastuar recently published their findings in the journal Science Advances. Ekuma highlighted the innovative approaches that could soon redefine solar energy efficiency and accessibility.



The material’s significant efficiency improvement is largely due to its unique intermediate band states, which are energy levels within the material’s electronic structure that are ideally positioned for solar energy conversion.



These states have energy levels in the optimal subband gaps-energy ranges capable of efficiently absorbing sunlight and producing charge carriers-between 0.78 and 1.26 electron volts.



Moreover, the material excels in absorbing high levels in the infrared and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.



In traditional solar cells, the maximum EQE is 100%, which corresponds to the generation and collection of one electron for each photon absorbed. However, newer materials and configurations can generate and collect more than one electron per high-energy photon, achieving an EQE over 100%.



Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG) materials, though not yet widely commercialized, show immense potential for enhancing solar power system efficiency. The Lehigh-developed material utilizes intermediate band states to capture photon energy typically lost in traditional cells, including energy lost through reflection and heat production.



The research team created this novel material using van der Waals gaps, atomically small spaces between layered two-dimensional materials, to confine molecules or ions. Specifically, they inserted zerovalent copper atoms between layers of germanium selenide (GeSe) and tin sulfide (SnS).



Ekuma developed the prototype based on extensive computer modeling that indicated the system’s theoretical potential. Its rapid response and enhanced efficiency strongly indicate the potential of Cu-intercalated GeSe/SnS as a quantum material for advanced photovoltaic applications, offering a path for efficiency improvements in solar energy conversion, he stated.



While the integration of this quantum material into existing solar energy systems requires further research, the techniques used to create these materials are already highly advanced, with scientists mastering precise methods for inserting atoms, ions, and molecules.



Research Report:Chemically Tuned Intermediate Band States in Atomically Thin CuxGeSe/SnS Quantum Material for Photovoltaic Applications


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All About Solar Energy at SolarDaily.com





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