Electricity as a Resource

Fraunhofer lighthouse project

© shutterstock.de / Collage: Fraunhofer UMSICHT

Fraunhofer lighthouse project "Electricity as a Resource"

The energy transition makes it possible to generate electricity with significantly lower CO2 emissions. If this electricity flows into electrochemical reactions, basic chemicals become accessible for industrial production, for which crude oil was previously used. This opens up new avenues for the development of electricity-controlled production in the chemical industry. Electrochemical processes are becoming key technologies for coupling energy systems with chemical production.


Nine Fraunhofer Institutes under the leadership of Fraunhofer UMSICHT have pooled their expertise in order to shape the transition towards electricity-controlled production. As part of the lighthouse project "Electricity as a Resource", researchers are developing and optimizing new electrochemical processes that synthesize important basic chemicals with renewably generated electricity. The aim of the joint project is to establish new process concepts for efficient, modular and decentralized production plants, thus making the chemical industry more sustainable over the long term.


In the lighthouse project, new electrochemical processes are developed, technically demonstrated and their coupling into the German energy system is prepared. The focus lies on two synthesis routes: (1) The decentralized electrochemical production of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and (2) the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) to ethene, alcohols, and organic acids.

The development of these synthesis routes is supported by cross-sectional research: These include optimized catalysts, electrode systems, and ion-conducting polymer membranes. In this way, for example, a completely new, cost-effective and environmentally compatible membrane type for electrochemical cells has been developed. Market analysis, modeling tools and new methods for assessing sustainability round off system optimization for electricity-controlled production in the lighthouse project.

"Electricity as a Resource" is designed for a long recycling chain. To this end, innovation interfaces to sectors such as chemicals, plant construction, paper, textiles, recycling, and water are developed using a multi-industry approach.

The Business and Innovation Center (BIC) provides R&D services for industry and society. This creates the Fraunhofer brand world "eSource®", which bundles together all competencies, products, processes, and services relating to electrochemistry and process engineering.



Electricity to create hydrogen peroxide

Producing H2O2 on demand is an advantage for many users. The new process enables decentralized production, which can be operated with 100 percent green electricity.


Electricity to create ethene

Ethene is one of the most important basic chemicals in the petrochemical industry. The process demonstrates the production of ethene from CO2 and water in just one step.


Electricity to create alcohols and acids

Short-chain alcohols are basic substances in the chemical industry. The new process converts CO2 and water into short-chain alcohols using a single-step high-pressure electrolysis process.


Electricity to create long-chain alcohols

Long-chain alcohols are valuable raw materials, e.g. in plastics production. A coupled process involving high-temperature electrolysis and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is used to extract CO2 and water.


Innovative helpers

Membranes, electrodes, and sophisticated analytics are important tools for electrochemical cells and processes. New membranes and characterization methods are now available for electrochemically controlled production.


From molecule to process

A digital tool was designed to support the individual processes. The interactive tool for multidimensional data sets visualizes and controls electrochemical processes according to the energy market.


From process to system

The concept of "electricity as a Resource" was evaluated according to sustainability aspects. The results of the coupling of electrochemical production processes with the energy system were evaluated in stakeholder dialogues with industry.