Aachen-Tsinghua Workshop on the Future of Electricity Generation Technologies

  People sitting around a table Copyright: © Thomas Bexten

In April the RWTH Aachen Institute of Power Plant Technology, Steam and Gas Turbines, IKDG and the BP Clean Energy Center at Tsinghua University in Beijng held a five-day research workshop on future technologies of electricity production. Aside from institute directors Professor Manfred Wirsum and Professor Li Zheng four doctoral candidates from IKDG and numerous doctoral candidates, academic staff, and students from Tsinghua University participated.

The IKDG works on current problems in energy technology. This includes challenges resulting from the robust expansion of renewable energies: decentralized electricity and heat production, energy storage, the reduction of pollutant emissions, the flexibilization of conventional power plants, and measures to reduce the resulting lifetime consumption.

As one of the largest and aspiring political economies of the world, China is currently facing the beginning of a energy-political revolution that can be compared to the German energy transition. Until now, energy supply in China has been primarily based on coal-fired, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants. The energy market is predominantly centrally controlled, so that there is little market-based competition. The result is persistent high emissions and an excess capacity of coal-fired power plants, which result from the currently slightly weakened economic growth. Combined with the climate goals determined in Paris these factors will likely lead to a reversal of China's energy politics.

BP Clean Energy Center

The BP Clean Energy Center at Tsinghua University, the leading technological university in China and a strategic partner of RWTH Aachen, possesses a wealth of know-how in various topic areas of energy technology. This includes but is not limited to the analysis of long-term data on thermal power plants, the processing and quality improvement of process data using statistical methods, performance monitoring, and a modern method for analyzing fuel composition to optimize the firing and reduction of pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Particularly in the topic areas named interests overlap between both research institutions. Future knowledge transfer and collaboration would enable scientific advances to be generated together more efficiently and more quickly.

A doctoral candidate exchange has been in place for many years between the BP Clean Energy Center at Tsinghua University and the RWTH Aachen IKDG. As a result of the workshop, the relationships have been strengthened and joint objectives for future research collaboration have been set. The workshop was made possible with funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF, within the framework of the DAAD Strategic Partnerships and Thematic Networks funding program

Intensification of Scientific Exchange

During the workshop current research fields at both partner institutes were presented and discussed. The participants split into working groups to discuss future research topics and create suggestions for joint research projects. Objectives include intensifying the exchange of academic staff and students, establishing an annual workshop as a foundation for the establishment of joint research structures, and the intensifying the collaboration within the framework of the RWTH-Tsinghua Joint Research Laboratory.

The workshop aimed not only to offer a space for technical exchange but also for participants to get to know each other. During the event there were many opportunities to do so, so that further activities planned as part of joint research work can take place on a much more personal and uncomplicated level. The workshop ended with a joint visit to the Great Wall of China. The Chinese colleagues proved well-informed and provided detailed information about the history of this World Heritage Site.

Text: Thomas Bexten, Dennis Többen, Dr. Birte Seffert, Philipp Vinnemeier