As part of the energy transition (Energiewende), Germany has set a goal to transform the existing energy system into one that is based on renewable energy and free of carbon emissions. Efforts to overhaul the energy system have long targeted the electricity sector, but now it is crucial to focus on the key role of new technologies that can store and utilise renewable energy by making it available to other sectors, such as transport and heating.
Area of innovation
Key innovations include technologies that enable the decentralised production of green ammonia (NH3) using locally generated wind or solar power, air and water and apply it as a carbon-free fuel for zero-emission marine mobility. The integration of new types of electroceramic thin films into energy systems makes resource-saving direct energy conversion processes for ammonia both feasible and economical. Ammonia, a chemical compound formed by the synthesis of abundant nitrogen and hydrogen, provides excellent energy storage for hydrogen and will revolutionise marine mobility. Electroceramic membranes are mass-produced using thin-film processes and allow for high system efficiency and cycle stability. Based on a roadmap created in the CAMPFIRE project, cost-optimised production methods for basic innovations are being devised and implemented as a prerequisite for establishing emission-free propulsion systems to be used in shipping. The CAMPFIRE consortium brings together experts in the natural sciences, engineering, law, economics and climate policy who are collaborating to develop new technologies and embed them in a market influenced by climate policy goals.
In addition to its focus on technological issues, the CAMPFIRE research project examines the legal, economic and political framework for the new membrane technologies. To shed greater light on these issues, consortium partners hold interdisciplinary workshops featuring in-depth dialogue and exchange with participants from the fields of politics, industry and academia. Together, attendees identify potential applications for the new technology and develop ideas for implementing project research and objectives. The active cooperation of all stakeholders is necessary for the project to be successful in building the economy and aiding the transition in Northeast Germany.
An initiative of the WIR! funding programme
The CAMPFIRE research project is financed through the Innovation and Structural Transformation (German: Wandel durch Innovation in der Region (WIR!)) funding programme of the Federal Ministry for Education and Outreach (BMBF). The goal of the project is to develop new energy conversion and storage technologies for green ammonia as ‘hydrogen technology 2.0’, with a breakthrough invention based on electroceramic thin-film membranes.
CAMPFIRE technologies enable locally generated wind power to be converted into green ammonia that is easily and cost efficiently stored, transported and distributed. Ammonia may be used directly or converted back into hydrogen in combustion engines, turbines and fuel cells, allowing propulsion systems to operate carbon free. The new technologies can then be integrated into existing value chains that have been developed on the basis of established technologies. This makes the region of Northeast Germany a pioneer in carbon-free hydrogen technologies 2.0 for zero-emission shipping in Europe.
A future energy economy based on green ammonia from renewable energies will enable us to use hydrogen as an economical fuel and as the key component of a secure, carbon-free energy supply. In the long term, it will also open up a new path for effective and cost-efficient methods to reduce global carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The seven-month CAMPFIRE concept phase was completed by 31 consortium partners and supporters at regional and multi-regional levels and coordinated by the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology (INP). Together, participants developed a clear vision for the economic future of north-eastern Germany that is based on new, disruptive innovations. The goal is to create strong economic incentives that will lead to the development of new business models and strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region. In spring 2019, CAMPFIRE was selected by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as one of 12 projects to receive €15 million in funding over the five-year implementation phase.
The region of Northeast Germany
Northeast Germany is an important energy region that will play a key role in providing the decarbonised energy supply in the future. The region – which includes the cities of Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald and the Uckermark – is characterised by its large on-shore and off-shore wind capacity and by its geographical location along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, in the vicinity of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Scandinavian states. The region is ideal for the development and implementation of energy technologies that enable decentralised ammonia production and facilitate green ammonia propulsion systems for marine mobility. This is due, in particular, to the area’s existing ammonia infrastructure for large-scale fertiliser production, and to the presence of renewable energy companies, shipping industry and their supply chains. Northeast Germany also boasts a world-class research landscape in nanotechnologies and catalysis for energy applications, as well as expertise in economic, political and legal frameworks.
Importance of these innovations for the region
Technological developments will open up new opportunities, above all for SMEs in the supply and service industry associated with the maritime and wind power sectors. Among other benefits, participation in new regional value chains based on green ammonia (‘hydrogen 2.0’) will offer these businesses unique selling points for their products. In addition, as climate policy goals increase demand for products compatible with sustainability-oriented structural change, SMEs in these fields will gain a competitive edge as leaders in sought-after technologies. More broadly, these developments are expected to improve collaboration across industries, creating a solid foundation for the emergence of other fields of innovation.