Energy Use
Energy Conversion
Energy Storage

Energy Conversion

Solar and geothermal energy is abundantly available. The energy reaching the earth surface is more than enough to cover all our energy demands. Nevertheless, it has to be harvested, converted, stored and transported to be available for the consumer.

Photovoltaic and thermoelectric devices can convert the solar energy directly into electricity. The electricity can be used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis in a se-cond separate step. Hydrogen can also be produced directly from sunlight by water photoelectrolysis. Here a semiconductor material absorbs solar energy and uses it to drive water reduction. Hydrogen can be used to fuel a fuel cell to deliver electricity when needed.

The specific research topics on energy converters materials and technologies covering all aspects from basic research to device manufacturing at Empa are:


Photovoltaics Frank Nueesch, Ayoda Tiwari
Conversion of radiation energy into electricity by high performance solar cells
Materials: nanocomposites, organic semiconductors, thin films.

Thermoelectricity Sascha Populoh
Direct conversion of heat into electricity with temperature stable non-toxic highly efficient devices.
Materials: Oxides, half Heuseler compounds

Ceramic fuel cells Artur Braun
Conversion of chemical energy into electricity at intermediate (T= 500°C ) and high temperature (T= 800°C ) levels.
Materials: Solid oxides, ceramic proton conductors

Hydrogen Production, (Solar) Water splitting Ulrich Vogt, Artur Braun
Conversion of electricity into chemical energy, hydrogen or direct photolysis
Devices: high temperature electrolysis, alkaline electrolyseur and photoelectrochemical cells PEC
Materials: membranes, electrolytes, oxides, oxynitrides, perovskites, nanocomposites

Power electronics Urs Sennhauser
Semiconductors and insulators (oxides, polymers), metals (heat and electronic transport)
Characterisation: performance, reliability, lifetime
Devices: IGBT, GTO, Power MOSFET, Diodes
Applications: batteries, power trains, buildings-PV, portable electronics
Electric power lines: voltage and frequency conversion
Processing: Bonding, soldering, integration, packaging

High temperature materials Edoardo Mazza
Mechanical Integrity of High Temperature Components.
Physically based models of high temperature deformation, damage and fracture behaviour of metals for optimizing the design of power generation components.
Methods for accelerated aging of novel high temperature materials.


  • Advanced Creep Damage Assessment of Power Plant Components Creep-fatigue
  • Assessment of High Temperature Turbine Rotors
  • Thermo-mechanical lifetime assessment of 700oC ST components
  • Evolution of microstructure and mechanical response due to HT LCF


Urs Elber

Tel. +41 58 765 42 21

E-Mail: urs.elber@empa.ch

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