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Basic research for high-performance batteries


Physicist Prof. Dr. Kerstin Volz and physical chemist Prof. Dr. Jürgen Janek will receive the 2022 Greve Prize from the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina for their fundamental insights into rechargeable batteries.

The newly established prize, which is worth 250,000 euros, is donated by the Helmut and Hannelore Greve Foundation for Science, Development and Culture. This year's prize honours outstanding research into the scientific foundations of sustainable energy supply.

Kerstin Volz, Director of the Materials Sciences Center (WZMW) at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, and Leopoldina member Jürgen Janek, Director of the Center for Materials Research at the Justus Liebig University Gießen (JLU), investigate issues relating to electrochemical energy storage. Their research, both as individuals and as a team, has helped to improve high-performance batteries and develop new, resource-saving electrochemical energy storage concepts.

"Kerstin Volz and Jürgen Janek are advancing the research into and development of the battery systems of the future. They are thus making important contributions to sustainable energy storage, which is urgently required to tackle the climate crisis," says Leopoldina President Prof. (ETHZ) Dr. Gerald Haug.

Kerstin Volz (born in 1971) is a leading international scientist in the area of solid-state physics. She examines the production of novel functional materials and their quantitative characteristics. She enables high-resolution insights into batteries and semiconductors using electron microscope methods. Her fundamental insights into separation and structure have helped, for example, to develop energy materials and make them more powerful, and to significantly improve solar cells and devices for photo-electrochemical water splitting.

Volz studied physics at the University of Augsburg and after completing her doctorate did her habilitation at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, where she has been Professor of Experimental Physics since 2009 and Managing Director of the Materials Sciences Center since 2015. There she is head of a Collaborative Research Center (Sonderforschungsbereich) funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), which examines fundamental aspects of charging and energy transfer at and over interfaces, which then also play an important role in devices.

Jürgen Janek (born in 1964) is an expert in the field of solid-state electrochemistry and specialises in materials research for batteries. He is one of the world's most cited scientists in this area and his achievements include the development of a metal-oxygen battery that is based on readily available and affordable sodium instead of lithium. More recently, he has made significant contributions to the development of concepts for solid-state (lithium) batteries and the understanding of their physical and chemical characteristics.

Janek studied chemistry at the Leibniz University Hanover and after completing his doctorate did his habilitation in physical chemistry. He has been Professor of Physical Chemistry at the JLU Gießen since 1999, and head of the Center for Materials Research since 2016. He has also been scientific head of the Battery and Electrochemistry Laboratory (BELLA) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) since 2011 and is a member in the Cluster of Excellence POLiS at KIT and Ulm University, which focuses on developing new battery materials and technology concepts for storing electrical energy. Janek became a member of the Leopoldina in 2022.

In their collaborative work, Kerstin Volz and Jürgen Janek investigate processes in solid-state batteries and structural changes during operation. Using a combination of electron microscope and electrochemical methods they have managed, for example, to illuminate ageing phenomena which lead to reductions in battery capacity.

The German National Academy of Science Leopoldina's Greve Prize is awarded to scientists or research teams that work at German universities, non-university research institutes, or commercial enterprises. The newly established prize is awarded every two years and honours outstanding research achievements in the natural sciences/medicine and engineering sciences. The Greve Prize, on each occasion, focuses on a specific topic. This year, the topic was the scientific foundations of sustainable energy supply. The prize is endowed with 250,000 euros, with funds from the Greve Foundation.

The award ceremony takes place on Thursday, 17 November 2022 at 12.30 p.m. The President of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, First Mayor Dr. Peter Tschentscher, invites participants and guests to attend the event at the Hamburg City Hall. Journalists who are interested in the ceremony please make contact via email at by 15 November. We are happy to facilitate interviews with the prize winner(s).

Source: German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina