e-conversion is a new Cluster of Excellence funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) with a focus on investigating fundamental mechanisms of energy conversion processes.
Today’s sustainable energy research gains momentum by targeting specific energy technologies and their related materials. The cluster e-conversion instead strives to establish a complementary paradigm that bridges major energy conversion strategies ranging from photovoltaics over (photo)electrocatalysis to batteries by focusing on the materials interfaces that underlie these functions. Critical bottlenecks like recombination and relaxation losses, overpotentials, and resistances presently arise due to insufficient control of microscopic excitation and energy conversion (e-conversion) processes at these interfaces. e-conversion therefore merges the powerful concepts of nanoscience and mechanistic energy research to create well-defined and tunable reference systems, and to establish fundamental understanding through their comprehensive (operando) characterization. For this, we will structure and sculpt materials from their constituting units to controlled compositions, morphologies and molecular architectures. We will follow and orchestrate processes as short as femtoseconds and observe matter with resolution down to atomic dimensions. Research thrusts will address e-conversion processes at interfaces between different solid phases, between solids and liquids, and between molecular layers and solids. Unprecedented synergies, cross-fertilization and coherence of the research program arise from materials and processes common to different energy applications, and from different interfaces all contributing towards specific energy functions.
With this agenda, e-conversion will act as innovation hub for the development of novel microscopic concepts regarding the efficient conversion of excitations and energy at interfaces that currently limit sustainable energy technologies. The enhanced knowledge base and a deep understanding of the key bottlenecks will fuel intrinsically new approaches towards enhanced efficiencies, improved stabilities and a sustainable materials base. Our mechanism-oriented strategy will be consciously extended over a wide range of novel materials and morphologies. Evolving the exploratory research to scalable synthesis and processing methods, e-conversion will thereby break the ground for a breadth of new systems with optimized optoelectronic, photocatalytic or electrochemical functions.
For these ambitious endeavors, e-conversion draws on a scientific ecosystem of experts and facilities in the nanoscience and energy applications that is uniquely present in the Munich area. Young academics will strongly benefit from the dynamic environment of the cluster, and will be directly supported through access to a seed funding scheme and research fellowships as well as a comprehensive offer of workshops, mentoring, family and diversity programs. These and all other activities are driven by the enthusiasm and determination to create a rich and rewarding experience in both research and education for established and young academics alike.