Answers to Burning Questions: Combustion Research for the Energy Transition


Professor Heinz Pitsch, RWTH Aachen

Friday, December 8, 2017, 12noon - 1:30pm, Guest House of RWTH Aachen University


The provision of clean energy is one of the great challenges of our time. Even if the use of renewable energies has increased over the last years, current forecasts predict that over the next decades, a significant part of our energy demand will continue to be fulfilled through the combustion of fossil fuels. For this reason, it is essential to accelerate the development of new, efficient combustion technologies resulting in reduced greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions for mobility, industrial, and household applications.

The aim is to integrate combustion in a closed carbon cycle or completely prevent the generation of carbon dioxide. This can be achieved by technologies such as combustion of carbon-free fuels, including hydrogen and ammonia, for example; the use of tailor-made biofuels; and carbon capture and utilization strategies. As combustion is a highly complex multi-scale-process, relevant phenomena such as ignition and pollutant formation are very difficult to understand and control.

Apart from discussing the relevance and the challenges of new combustion technologies as facilitators of Germany’s energy transition, the presentation will emphasize the central importance of so-called direct numerical simulation in achieving technological progress. Using state-of-the-art supercomputers, this approach generates data which serve the analysis of physical-chemical processes and the generation of models. These models can be used in computer simulations for the development and optimization of modern combustion systems.



Professor Heinz Pitsch studied at RWTH Aachen University, where he also completed his doctorate.

Between 1998 and 1999, he worked as a DFG-funded postdoc at the University of California, San Diego.

In 1999, he became a research associate in the Flow Physics and Computation Division at Stanford University, where he was appointed Assistant Professor in 2003 and Associate Professor in 2008. During his time at Stanford, he received several awards, including the Dana Adams Griffin Award in 2003, the NSF CAREER Award in 2007, and the Chambers Faculty Scholar Award in 2008.

In 2012 he became a Fellow of the American Physical Society; in 2016, he received an einen ERC Advanced Grant.

In 2010, Heinz Pitsch was appointed full professor and director of the Institute for Combustion Technology at RWTH Aachen University.

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