Critical minerals, climate neutrality and transition pathways
Explore the exhibits at Dipoli Gallery, Otaniemi, 16.03.23-15.09.23
This exhibition focuses on energy transition, showcasing research from across the schools of Aalto University with top experts. What are the challenges and solutions driving our response to the global energy crisis across research and industry?
Energy Transition is a term which refers to the process of changing global energy production and consumption from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The global energy crisis and climate crisis are interlinked and international policy mandates from the United Nations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) including treaties such as the Paris Agreement committing to significantly lowering carbon emissions. But is this an effective enough strategy?
In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the entire energy system requires a radical restructuring, including how we store energy and the environmental and economic impact of mineral scarcity. What does an effective transition to renewable energy sources require and what is the role of Hydrogen and Wind power in our energy future?
This exhibition will provide a combination of multidisciplinary perspectives on energy transition from ecology and biodiversity impact, environmental economics and new energy technologies to wind, hydrogen, fuel cell conversion and infrastructures.
Energy Transition Glossary
From SDG, 1.5 and Finland 2035 policies to understanding the difference between blue and green hydrogen, zero carbon, climate neutrality, the energy transition glossary explains some key terms needed to navigate the discussion on the transition away from fossil fuels
Finnish Renewable Energy
Thanks in part to its large geography and low population density, Finland has great wind power generation potential. Aside from questions of who will build turbines and where, Finland’s national energy grid must receive investments in transmission capacity to meet future electricity demand.
Engineering education has long been concerned with innovation, while ecologists have been occupied with biodiversity loss and climate change for decades. Researchers at Aalto University are creating an interdisciplinary textbook and learning materials set to better prepare tomorrow’s engineers to create sustainable future energy infrastructures.
Multinational electricity utilities firms are major forces in the global energy sector. A successful energy transition to a world run on renewables therefore requires huge investments on behalf of electricity utilities firms. Researchers from Aalto University help shine a light on the dynamics determining their cross-border investments into renewables.
Sustainable energy production technologies like wind turbines are common knowledge, but what about sustainable energy storage solutions? Researchers from Aalto University have developed a compact, long-term thermal energy storage system comprised of some surprising household materials.
The hydrogen economy is critical for two interlinked needs in the energy transition; to realise the decarbonization of the most challenging industrial and transportation applications, and secondly to facilitate the storage of intermittent renewable electricity. These include industrial processes such as steelmaking, and transport modes like heavy duty vehicles, shipping & aviation. These applications rely upon hydrogen’s properties as an energy carrier and reactant in terms of applicability to industrial processes, for example in high temperature applications, and the much higher energy density it offers compared to batteries for example, which is necessary for heavy duty transport applications. At present, most hydrogen is produced for industrial applications from steam methane reformation but a key concept in the hydrogen economy is to produce hydrogen by electrolysis of water, using power from renewables, and other low carbon sources of power generation such as nuclear.
Hydrogen produced from renewable electricity is known as green hydrogen, and offers the possibility for mass storage store intermittent forms of power generation such as wind and solar, which cannot typically be fully achieved with existing technologies – batteries for example are limited by the availability of critical materials. This stored hydrogen may then be used directly in industry, or used in fuels cells to produce electricity, this reversing the process of electrolysis. Hydrogen can also be used in refined versions of existing internal combustion engines, such as in shipping, and be used to produce hydrogen-based energy carriers such as methanol and ammonia, which can be more convenient to use in such engines.
Realising this hydrogen economy requires many technologies across the value chain, and the research capabilities at Aalto cover many of these. The exhibition presents some key examples. Beginning with the production of renewable electricity, Aalto’s expertise in wind and solar power are shown in the “Finnish Renewable Energy” part of this exhibition. Moving to the production of hydrogen through electrolysis, the FinH2 project represents a research and industry partnership to improve electrolyzer technology. Producing electricity from hydrogen through fuel cells, addressed in the “Cutting edge, solid-oxide fuel cells” project. Projects such as this seek to improve the lifespan and reduce waste in the manufacture of the fuel cells. The “Hydrogen for carbon neutral shipping” project focusses on the improving the combustion of hydrogen in internal combustion engines. Aalto’s research thus addresses many of the key challenges in realizing the hydrogen economy. Our research contributes to making a Finland a global leader in the technologies required for the hydrogen economy, not only to achieve carbon neutrality on national scale, but also in technology exports to achieve the energy transition on a worldwide scale.
Text by Samuel Cross, Director, Energy, Aalto Networking Platform