Inga Bürger (DLR)
Inga Bürger conducts research into the development of high-performance thermal reactors for energy storage and energy conversion. She is a team leader at the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics at the German Aerospace Center. We spoke to her in an interview about her work and her motivation.
What are you currently working on?
Inga Bürger: I am currently trying to connect the hydrogen infrastructure with heat pump applications. Such a connection can realize a new kind of sector coupling and thus contribute to an increased efficiency in the future energy supply. In detail, I am working with thermochemical systems, hence reversible chemical reactions able to provide or remove thermal energy. In my case this is the reaction system of metal hydrides based on the reaction of hydrogen with metals. Due to hydrogen as the reacting gas and the corresponding strong heat release or heat removal by the reaction, the special connection between two specific research areas is obvious: On the one hand the hydrogen infrastructure, responsible for storage and transport of large amounts of chemical energy. On the other hand, the heating sector, which is gaining more and more importance due to its significant contributions to CO2 emissions. In our case, we would like to integrate our thermochemical reactor into the existing H2 infrastructure to use the existing potential energy as a driving force for a heat pump or a refrigeration unit.
What is your personal motivation?
Inga Bürger: I am motivated to contribute to the transition of the energy system in the next decades. The field of hydrogen as well as the field of storage and production of thermal energy will represent major pillars in this system. As an engineer and supervisor of students and phd candidates, I consider it as a unique chance to develop and demonstrate possible applications and solutions.
What kind of challenges are you facing in the near future?
Inga Bürger: Hydrogen as well as heat are discussed everywhere, however, providing solutions with a sufficiently high TRL for a real application is challenging. In a new project, that is currently in the grant approval process, we would like to demonstrate the technology of a metal hydride based cooling unit for application in trains. In order to reach this goal, several challenges in production and recycling of materials and reactors as well as system integration need to be overcome.
If you could make a wish for something for your research, what would you wish for?
Inga Bürger: Considering the European CO2 Emission goals, the energy system of the future needs to change in the next years. I really wish for my research that the topics we are working on will make it into applications. Thus, that products will be developed assisting many people and especially providing a contribution to CO2 reduction.
Where do you see your discipline in 5-10 years?
Inga Bürger: In the next 5-10 years, the energy system of the future will be continuously developed and the infrastructure for energy vectors will be enhanced. I am convinced that thermochemical energy storage can follow these trends and that it will continue to address the main goal of increasing the efficiency of thermal energy storage conversion and production. To reach these goals, it will be especially important to find and characterize new and sustainable materials.