Crystallography Helps Drive the Energy Transition




Mirijam Zobel

Institute Director


+49 241 80 96916



The German Research Foundation DFG provides funding for a reseach project at RWTH.


As part of the priority program Catalysts and Reactors under Dynamic Conditions for Energy Storage and Conversion, the German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding a new project at RWTH to help drive the energy transition. The involved researchers are investigating how catalysts and reactor operation can be optimized to better cope with the energy fluctuations caused by the limited availability of sun and wind.

Researchers from the RWTH Institute of Crystallography are collaborating with project partners from the University of Paderborn and TU Kaiserslautern to pool competencies in the field of catalyst production and structural characterization. The project is being funded with a total of just under 700,000 euros over a three-year period and will start in spring 2022. At RWTH, the project is led by Professor Mirijam Zobel, who is director of the Institute of Crystallography.

The aim of the project is to produce methane from green hydrogen and climate-damaging carbon dioxide. Methane serves as a chemical energy carrier, for example as fuel or for heating purposes. "Since the sun and wind have natural fluctuations, green hydrogen is not constantly available. In view of the supply shortages of green hydrogen, we need to develop materials and processes that are stable over a long period of time and enable methane synthesis under dynamic conditions." says Professor Zobel.

To understand how the activity of the catalyst materials is affected by structural changes during the reaction and supply bottlenecks, the scientists use unique methods based on X-ray light. They use model reactors in large-scale research facilities to study the processes and structures at the atomic level, resolved in time on the scale of seconds. "Structure and activity are very closely linked. It is fascinating to see how we can use modern crystallography to make contributions to the energy transition," says Mirijam Zobel.