A glimpse of the future of energy
Energy and environmental technologies with great potential are being developed by scientists. To help these technologies make the transition to widespread use the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Dübendorf (Canton of Zurich), set up the demonstration and testing platforms “NEST” and “move”.
Getting industry to take up and commercialise the results of cutting-edge research requires a focused approach. In mid-2016, the four-storey NEST building opened on the Empa campus in Dübendorf. At NEST, Empa researchers work with industry partners to conduct practical tests on new energy and environmental technologies for the construction sector. One year before that, Empa launched the demonstration and testing platform move, which at its core comprises an electric charging station with stationary batteries and production, storage and refuelling facilities for hydrogen and methane. The aim is to demonstrate how fossil-fuel free mobility might work in practice.
Buildings and mobility account for three-quarters of final energy use in Switzerland, and the interest the Empa facilities attract from the public is correspondingly high. “The Empa platforms receive visits almost every day from businesses and experts interested in technical innovations and new operating models,” explains Empa mobility specialist Christian Bach. There is also interest from politicians and school/university students, as well as increasingly from investors, insurance companies and banks. At Empa, they can get a preview of the future of energy supply. One NEST project, for instance, is investigating the long-term durability of the flame-resistant wood developed by Empa, which will be used as a sustainable material in future building projects. Meanwhile, move is testing an industry partner’s prototype for a hydrogen refuelling solution.
These are just two out of several dozen NEST and move projects. One link between the two platforms is the Energy Hub, ehub for short, where researchers investigate district-level energy management and the potential for combining building and mobility applications. The Empa experts’ work isn’t just limited to demonstrating new technologies; they have also, for example, worked with relevant licensing and testing authorities and specialist bodies to produce guidelines on hydrogen station licensing – a crucial factor for the expansion of hydrogen technology and sustainable mobility.
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