KIT, the University of Ulm and the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wuerttemberg are researching next-generation energy storage systems. The CELEST platform therefor creates a cross-location framework.

Lithium and cobalt are precious raw materials. They form the basis of lithium-ion batteries, which not only supply cell phones and laptops with power, but also feed more and more electric vehicles with energy. However, while demand for high-performance energy storage devices is rising, raw material deposits are steadily dwindling. Added to this are geopolitical uncertainties: For example, by far the largest deposits of cobalt are found in the Congo – a country marked by civil wars, where the raw material is still being mined in part under inhumane conditions.

"It is up to us researchers to develop solutions today for the challenges of the future," says Prof. Maximilian Fichtner, director of CELEST and deputy director of the Helmholtz Institute in Ulm (HIU), which was initiated at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

"Despite the physical distance, it's a huge advantage to have partners with whom you can exchange ideas. From basic research to application, we can benefit from the accumulated expertise of all CELEST members."

Prof. Helmut Ehrenberg, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

In order to strengthen cooperation and consolidate joint research activities, the University of Ulm and the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wuerttemberg (ZSW), together with KIT, founded CELEST in January 2018, the largest German research and development platform for energy storage systems. The acronym stands for Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage Ulm & Karlsruhe.

The focus of CELEST is on three topics: Lithium-ion technology, energy storage beyond lithium and alternative technologies for electrochemical energy storage, such as fuel cells or redox flow batteries. "It was important to us to bundle specific competencies without being too thematically restricted. This allows us to further develop existing technologies such as the lithium-ion battery, but at the same time to think outside the box and conduct research with alternative raw materials," explains Prof. Helmut Ehrenberg. He leads the Institute for Applied Materials – Energy Storage Systems (IAM-ESS) at KIT and serves as deputy director of CELEST.

Ehrenberg also emphasizes: "With CELEST, we are finally giving battery research the attention that is demanded by society. Here, technologies can be tested in an overall context instead of only looking at individual components and processes."

Currently, CELEST members are researching magnesium and sodium-ion batteries, among other things. These raw materials are available in Europe in larger quantities, are non-toxic and easy to recycle. Compared with lithium-ion batteries, however, they have a lower energy density and are thus much heavier for the same power output. "When it comes to stationary applications, however, low mass is not absolutely necessary. It rather counts that the storage medium is durable and cost-effective and that you leave a footprint that is less harmful to the environment. My vision is sustainable energy technology," says Ehrenberg.

The company also wants to set the course for the future in the area of education and training. Plans are currently focusing on a joint graduate school. Fichtner explains: "We want to provide society not only with technical innovations, but also with well-trained personnel. Training plays a central role at CELEST; after all, qualified young scientists form the basis for the success of our research."

"However, we are only really successful when our research results also meet the induytry’s interest" Fichtner emphasizes. One year after the launch of CELEST, the combined research expertise is already bearing fruit. A wide variety of cooperation partners are in contact with the researchers, such as material manufacturers and mobility service providers. The Battery Technology Center at KIT's North Campus also plays an important role – a research factory where projects with high market proximity are implemented. From the development of new materials and cells to their integration into the overall system, holistic approaches are pursued here in cooperation with industry. Ehrenberg and Fichtner are optimistic about the future: "Good foundations have been laid. Now it's up to us to make something out of it."

Pictures f.u.t.d.: Stocksnapper / Shutterstock, edited by DER PUNKT | Andreas Drollinger / KIT


The increasing importance of sustainable energy storage systems is illustrated by the joint Cluster of Excellence of KIT and the University of Ulm, which is funded within the framework of the Excellence Initiative of the German Federal and State Governments since January 2019 for an initial period of seven years. From a total of 88 cluster applications submitted, the German Excellence Commission selected the application "Energy Storage Beyond Lithium – New Concepts for a Sustainable Future" together with another 56 applications.

The central goal of the cluster is to develop a fundamental understanding of electrochemical energy storage in novel systems, to combine fundamental material properties with critical performance parameters and to lay the foundations for the practical use of post-lithium technologies. The Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wuerttemberg (ZSW) and Justus Liebig University Giessen are acting as partners in this effort.

Picture: Laila Tkotz / KIT



Prof. Maximilian Fichtner studied chemistry and received his Ph. D. with honors in chemistry / surface science at the University of Karlsruhe in 1992. After his doctorate, he pursued various activities at KIT until he took over the leadership of a group at the Institute of Nanotechnology (INT) in 2000. In 2013, his path led to the Helmholtz Institute-Ulm, where he has been deputy director since 2015.

In his research, he focuses on different fields in chemical and thermal micro process engineering. In particular, he conducts research in the field of new materials for hydrogen storage and focuses on the study of nanoscale effects in energy materials. He also tries to develop new solution concepts in battery research. Since 2018, Prof. Fichtner is director of the "Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage Ulm & Karlsruhe" (CELEST).


Prof. Helmut Ehrenberg studied physics and received his Ph. D. in materials science at the Technical University of Darmstadt in 1996. Since 2010, he has been involved in teaching at KIT as a habilitated professor, since 2012 he has been head of the Institute for Applied Materials- Energy Storage Systems (IAM- ESS). In addition to his work at KIT, Prof. Ehrenberg has been a senior scientist at the Helmholtz Institute Ulm for Electrochemical Energy Storage (HIU) since 2011. Furthermore, he has been deputy speaker of the "Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage Ulm & Karlsruhe" (CELEST) since 2018.

His research focus is in the field of materials research for sustainable energy technology, especially the characterization of battery cells in research and development. He also is involved in a number of committees and boards, such as for the topic "Energy Sources and Storage Systems" at the KIT Center Mobility Systems.

Pictures f.u.t.d.: HIU | Elvira Eberhardt, University of Ulm

Diese Seite nutzt Website-Tracking-Technologien von Dritten, um ihre Dienste anzubieten. Ich bin damit einverstanden und kann meine Einwilligung jederzeit mit Wirkung für die Zukunft widerrufen oder ändern.

Alle akzeptieren Einstellungen Nur notwendige akzeptierenImpressumDatenschutz