Such storage materials are only useful, however, if vehicles with fuel cell drive systems are used that are compatible with the conditions under which the hydrogen storage works. In addition, sustainable processes for efficient hydrogen production must be available, and distribution infrastructure systems must be developed that can supply the hydrogen in the pressure range required for the storage material. Finally, it must also be possible to produce the storage material cost-effectively and in large volumes. Similar considerations also apply to many other energy technologies and their individual components. Moreover, the research on energy technologies – at least the technologies that are likely to be used in the relatively near future – is strongly influenced by the engineering sciences.
These characteristics are not easy to reconcile with the typical Max Planck research an approach which generally involves research projects that have a long-term horizon, are strongly rooted in basic research and are carried out by individual scientists. Moreover, the Max Planck Society’s activities are mainly focused in the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. Only one of the Max Planck institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, has a predominantly engineering-based profile.
Nonetheless – or, perhaps, precisely because of this – the Max Planck Society also plays a key role in energy research, particularly in relation to very long-term questions of fundamental significance and approaches that lie outside of the ‘mainstream’ of application-oriented research, because their exploitation lies too far ahead in the future or their prospects of success are assessed as being too low. In view of the complexity of the task that faces us in developing energy systems, this role of the Max Planck Society will become more clearly defined in the future, as the pressure on the dwindling energy sources will increase; as a result, the fundamental results of the research carried out by the Max Planck Society and other institutions committed to basic research will be increasingly incorporated into technological development. A few examples of the ways in which typical Max Planck research is helping to shape our future energy supply are presented below.