Chemistry Laboratory



Peter Gerhards

Head of Chemical Laboratory


+49 241 80 48058


  Image of a thermal desorption gas chromatography mass spectrometer Copyright: © RWTH Aachen | TME

Research Fields Chemistry Laboratory TME

The global diversity of mobile energy transition systems and the associated chemical issues have experienced enormous growth in recent years and have developed an increasingly interdisciplinary dynamic. In addition to the classic internal combustion engine, it is in particular electrical energy-based systems and alternative energy storage systems that are increasingly defining the mobility sector. Thus, the focus of work in the TME chemistry lab has evolved from classic internal combustion engine topics to research on electric powertrains. The team around the chemistry lab at TME is focused on the resulting diverse chemical and electrochemical topics that contribute to the optimization of individual subcomponents as well as overall systems in the spectrum of mobile energy transition systems.

In the topic complex of the fuel cell energy transition system, trouble shootings are carried out on damaged fuel cells. Post-mortem conclusions about the cause and sequence of faults are drawn from the fault patterns. For example, the discoloration of an overheated titanium bipolar plate can be used to determine the temperature peaks during the damage using optical analysis methods. Furthermore, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can provide detailed insights into the distribution of the catalyst material to quantify thermal or chemical aging mechanisms.

Furthermore, the team is working on new insights in the field of gas diffusion layer (GDL) to optimize the multiple transport parameters of hydrogen, air and reaction water. Regarding the improvement of the electrode-membrane-assembly (MEA), both the proton transport and the measures to prevent, or slow down, degradations are investigated. These degradations result, for example, from variously caused overheating or poisoning of the MEA by air components.

In the sector of battery-based propulsion systems, research activities focus in particular on the chemical aspects of the various storage materials and the associated storage and retrieval reactions with regard to power density and the time course.

Fuel cells and battery storage, which have also reached series production readiness in combination with the internal combustion engine as hybrids in a wide variety of combinations, are joined by the new, non-fossil fuels. For the internal combustion engine, the new energy carriers hydrogen, methanol, ammonia, and synthetic hydrocarbons with a wide variety of production paths are a focus of research activities.

In addition to the chemical and physical characteristics of the fuels and lubricants used, research focuses on the exhaust and particulate emissions resulting from combustion. In this context, the team is working intensively on the further development of catalytic systems, with exhaust gas aftertreatment, which is undergoing major changes due to new pollutants, as the central topic. Catalytic systems are also being researched and further developed for conditioning and cleaning the various energy sources.