Dr. Ulrich Berner
Increasing performance and mitigating degradation in next generation PEM fuel cells
„There is no area of the world that should not be investigated by scientists. There will always remain some questions that have not been answered. In general, these are the questions that have not yet been posed.“ Linus Pauling
I am a chemical engineer by training and have worked in multiple areas relating to energy conversion and storage. After my PhD on the topic of thin film photovoltaics, I started at Bosch Research on a project dealing with PEM electrolyzers and electrochemical compression. After a 2-year intermission working on solid state lithium polymer batteries, where I developed a new characterization technique, I returned to the PEM world with a focus on cause-effect relationships in the performance and degradation of fuel cell electrodes.
- PhD at the Department of Physics and Materials Science, Finalist for "Prix Rolf Tarrach" prize (best PhD Thesis 2015), University of Luxembourg
- Engineering diploma at the Institute of Thermal Process Engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
- Visiting student at the Danish Polymer Center, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
D. Colombara et al. (2017)Deliberate and accidental gas-phase alkali doping of chalcogenide semiconductors: Cu (In, Ga) Se 2
- Diego Colombara, Ulrich Berner, Andrea Ciccioli, João C Malaquias, Tobias Bertram, Alexandre Crossay, Michael Schöneich, Helene J Meadows, David Regesch, Simona Delsante, Guido Gigli, Nathalie Valle, Jérome Guillot, Brahime El Adib, Patrick Grysan, Phillip J Dale
- Scientific reports 7 , 1-18
U. Berner et al. (2016)13.3% efficient solution deposited Cu(In,Ga)Se2 solar cells processed with different sodium salt sources
- Ulrich Berner, Diego Colombara, Jessica De Wild, Erika VC Robert, Martin Schütze, Frank Hergert, Nathalie Valle, Markus Widenmeyer, Phillip J Dale
- Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 24, 749-759
U. Berner et al. (2015)Solution‐based processing of Cu(In,Ga)Se2 absorber layers for 11% efficiency solar cells via a metallic intermediate
- Ulrich Berner, Markus Widenmeyer
- Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 23 , 1260 -1266
U. Berner et al. (2015)4-Amino-1, 2, 4-triazole: Playing a key role in the chemical deposition of Cu–In–Ga metal layers for photovoltaic applications
- Ulrich Berner, Markus Widenmeyer, Patrick Engler, Phillip J Dale
- Thin Solid Films 582 , 39-42
S. Tombolato et al. (2015)Cu2ZnSnSe4 device obtained by formate chemistry for metallic precursor layer fabrication
- Sara Tombolato, Ulrich Berner, Diego Colombara, Daniel Chrastina, Markus Widenmeyer, Simona O Binetti, Phillip J Dale
- Solar Energy 116, 287-297
U. Berner et al. (2015)Formation of CU(IN,GA)SE2 from Solution Processed Sodium containing Metal Precursors
- U. Berner
- Dissertation Uni Luxembourg
Interview with Dr. Ulrich Berner
Team leader in electrode design
Please tell us what fascinates you most about research.
For me, the most fascinating aspect of research is that you are always working on problems that have not been solved before. The path to the solution is rarely straightforward and progress requires both persistence and creativity.
What makes research done at Bosch so special?
Working at Bosch Research allows you to work on cutting edge technologies while confronting challenges that affect real applications. This means, that you are able to see successful projects come to life. Additionally, there is a large degree of freedom in solving problems to find the best solution together with an international, highly interdisciplinary team of motivated experts.
What research topics are you currently working on at Bosch?
My research focuses on the electrodes of a low temperature PEM fuel cell. This is where the chemical reaction takes place: Hydrogen and oxygen are used to create electricity and water. Although the layers of the electrode are just a few micrometers thick, they host several processes simultaneously, including heat and mass transfer, electron conduction, and chemical reaction. Each of these processes has a different set of optimal design parameters, making optimizing overall efficiency of the fuel cell an exciting and challenging task.
What are the biggest scientific challenges in your field of research?
The basic concepts of PEM fuel cell electrodes were already developed 50 years ago. However, there are several technical challenges that impede the technology from being used on the mass market. For example, the electrode components have insufficient stability under typical operating conditions, limiting the applications. We are therefore working in an interdisciplinary team on new approaches for the next fuel cell generation.
How do the results of your research become part of solutions "Invented for life"?
In order to preserve the earth as a habitable planet for future generations, we need to harness all the possible technologies to effectively transition to a CO2-neutral future. Zero emission fuel cells, especially in mobility applications, are one part of the solution.