Logo of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt

Energy and the environment

Metrology is a key discipline for environmental and climate protection as well as for a safe, sustainable, environmentally compatible and economic energy supply. The metrological challenge in the years to come will be the extension of the measurement ranges of energy-relevant physical quantities and the development and traceability of sensitive and high-precision measurement procedures for environment-relevant quantities.

  • To ensure a sustainable energy supply and to achieve the climate targets, the German Federal Government aims at increasing the share of renewable energies in power generation to at least 30 % by 2020. Wind energy will probably make the largest contribution to this intended extension. Germany has a widely ramified and worldwide operating industry in the field of wind turbines. To support the innovation efforts in this area, PTB will set up a wind power competence center. In this center, PTB will pool its activities in the fields of metrology of geometrical measurands and large torques for wind power components as well as research work for the determination of wind velocities.

  • Photovoltaics (PV) is a worldwide growth market. German enterprises contribute a large share of calibration services to this market. The electrical energy generated for a specific location over the entire service life of a PV module is the decisive parameter for investment decisions. The determination of this parameter requires a metrologically sound PV efficiency determination. Measurement procedures for large-scale PV modules of various technologies are required which make it possible to project the efficiency under operating conditions. For this purpose, these new measurement procedures must be able to realize various lighting spectra and varying angles of incidence.

  • Biogas and substitute synthetic gas will increasingly replace fossil natural gas in the future energy mix. Their typically decentralized feeding changes the condition of the gas mixture in the natural gas grid. For safe operation of the gas supply infrastructure, for compliance with emission requirements and for a fair invoicing of individual consumption, the determination of the mixed gas composition as a function of time and place is required. However, a country-wide equipping of the gas networks with instruments measuring the gas composition and the calorific value is cost-intensive. Here, in future, mathematical methods for the state reconstruction of gas grids will increasingly be developed and applied. Combined with novel gas measurement procedures and gas meters, the correct quantification of gas quantities can be carried out in a strongly meshed grid for transportation purposes and for the correct determination of the consumption.

  • Electrical energy from regenerative sources, for example from wind and photovoltaic power stations, is mainly generated locally. With its decentralized feeding into the power grid, the requirements made on the determination of grid state parameters increase. The detection of these parameters is important in order to ensure the quality of electric energy supply, for example the stability of mains voltages and frequencies. The precise detection of grid interference voltages and currents – especially the novel interference voltages caused, for example, by photovoltaic power stations – require the measurement procedures to be newly developed and metrologically safe. Furthermore, broadband current and voltage transformers as well as power measuring devices will be developed for the determination of the efficiency of new transmission methods, such as high-voltage direct current power transmission.

  • Approximately 55 % of the final energy provided in Germany are allotted to useful heat for households, service companies and industry. Therefore, improved thermal insulation of heated rooms and optimized process control in industry represent a considerable potential to increase energy efficiency. In order to use this potential, the precise knowledge of the thermophysical properties of raw materials and energy carriers is an important precondition. New methods for the precise determination of the relevant material parameters "thermal conductivity", "heat capacity", "emissivity", "density" and "viscosity" will be required.

  • In the environment of mobility on the basis of internal combustion engines, the efficiency of the motor unit as well as the generation of pollutants (soot aerosols, among other things) depend on the process conditions; the same goes for current generation for electromobility from conventional power plants. An optimization is possible due to the exact modeling of chemical reaction processes, for which precise and metrologically traceable reaction kinetic parameters will be required.

  • Conventional base load plants will play a major role for the energy supply in Germany beyond the year 2050. More exact flow rate and temperature measurements of the working fluids "water" or "high-temperature salt melts" allow a considerably more precise process control and thus an improved energetic exploitation of the processes in thermal power plants; at the same time, this reduces the specific emission of CO2. The minimization of the measurement uncertainty of flow-rate measurements in power plants can be exclusively achieved by the calibration of the flow-rate measuring instruments on site. For this purpose, novel methods of laser-optic flow-rate measurements for the metrological traceability of volume flow measurements in power plants must be developed and validated.

  • The safeguarding of water resources and of the water quality requires the country-wide control of pollutants occurring in water on the basis of consistent limit values and metrologically validated and comparable measurement results. For this purpose, new measurement procedures with the lowest detection limits and the highest precision must be developed. The aim is to develop procedures for the investigation of the whole "water body", i.e. including the contaminated suspended material contained therein, with quantities in the range of micro- and nanometers.

  • For the surveillance of gaseous pollutants in air and the detection of the atmospheric composition and solar radiation for climate protection, optical-spectroscopic remote sensing and measurement procedures are used in the spectral range of the medium infrared to the vacuum ultraviolet. To a large extent, the precision of these measurement procedures determines the accuracy of emission registers and climate models. It can be improved, on the one hand, by innovative reference spectrometers which are suitable for outdoor use and, on the other hand, by providing metrologically validated reference data.

  • Unhealthy, superfine particles with sizes under 100 nm, in particular soot aerosols from combustion processes in vehicles, increasingly pollute the atmosphere. Both stationary measuring networks and apogee observations are used for the detection of aerosols. Metrologically validated procedures for the determination of the classifying parameters "size", "size distribution" and "number of aerosols" as well as of their optical properties are required to improve the reliability of aerosol measurements. Verifiably correct measurement is a vital precondition for legal security in regulatory measures as well as for social acceptance.

  • The intermediate storage and disposal of radioactive waste, including neutron-emitting highly radioactive waste originating from the use of nuclear energy, is a long-term task which involves great apprehension among the population who has reservations against the operators of nuclear facilities. Trustworthy measurements, carried out by an independent institution like PTB, are thus of high significance for society. Therefore, PTB's competence in the field of neutron metrology has to be bundled and consolidated in a Neutron Metrology Competence Center in the years to come.