Applied Photonics Award for Master's Thesis Co-Supervised by Fraunhofer HHI

November 23, 2021

Applied Photonics Award for Master's Thesis Co-Supervised by Fraunhofer HHI

TU Clausthal student Luise Hoffmann received the "Applied Photonics Award" for her master’s thesis entitled "Fabrication and characterization of femtosecond laser-alloyed nickel mesh electrodes for alkaline water electrolysis". Professors Wolfgang Schade and Eike Hübner from the "Fiber Optical Sensor Systems" department at the Goslar site of the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) co-supervised the thesis. According to TU Clausthal, the method developed within the master's thesis shows great potential for realizing new material compounds and structures with simple process steps for a wide range of applications.

In order to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the mobility sector must shift from gasoline and diesel drives to E-mobility and systems of alternative energy storage such as hydrogen. The electrode materials required for hydrogen electrolysis are currently still very inefficient in terms of energy conversion. Therefore, a major focus of current research lies on the improved generation and storage of hydrogen in order to minimize electrochemical loss.

To this end, researchers from the "Fiber Optical Sensor Systems" department at Fraunhofer HHI are involved the InnoEly project, where they are using laser-based processes to structure electrodes for alkaline water electrolysis in order to minimize energy loss by around 20 percent. This involves the use of perforated plate electrodes or nickel mesh electrodes for a more effective wetting process.

In her master's thesis, Luise Hoffmann combines these laser-based optimization processes with alloying of the metal molybdenum, which serves as a catalyst during the laser structuring process of the electrode. Since the two processes take place simultaneously, this method provides a time-efficient increase in energy utilization. Luise Hoffmann thus presents a novel, more efficient and completely laser-based process for the production of structured and alloyed electrode materials. She wrote the award-winning paper in 2020 at the Energy Storage Technologies Research Center (EST) at Clausthal University of Technology in the “Materials Functionalization” group by and under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Gimpel within a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Thanks to the cooperation between the TU Clausthal and the Fraunhofer HHI branch in Goslar, the newly gained insights can be implemented straight away. Prof. Wolfgang Schade and associate Prof. Eike Hübner of the "Fiber Optical Sensor Systems" department co-supervised and reviewed the award-winning thesis. Together with their teams, they are now in the process of transferring this fundamental knowledge into practice.

"This type of scientific work is particularly important for Fraunhofer HHI, as we have a clear focus on the future topic of photonics as well as material functionalization. With her pioneering achievement, Luise Hoffmann has shown how breakthroughs in one research area can foster innovation in another. We congratulate her most sincerely on this award," said Prof. Wolfgang Schade, who, in addition to his work as department head at Fraunhofer HHI, is also chairman of the board of TU Clausthal's EST.

The newcomer award recognizes particularly original and innovative final theses in the field of applied photonics that address solutions to pressing challenges facing society, business and industry. The "Applied Photonics Award", which comes with 2,000 euros in prize money, is presented annually since 2018 as part of the "Photonic Days Jena" for the best bachelor's, master's and dissertation thesis, as well as a jury prize for outstanding application potential.

The prize was presented by Professor Reinhardt Genzel (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics), Nobel Laureate in Physics in 2020, and Professor Andreas Tünnermann (IOF) in Jena in a hybrid event hosted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF). The award ceremony was supported by the Association of German Engineers (VDI) and the companies Active Fiber Systems, Jenoptik and Trumpf.