Out of the laboratory into the world

Sunfire’s vision is to make regenerative energy from sources such as wind farms, tidal power plants and photovoltaic systems available wherever and whenever it is needed – not just when the wind is blowing, the waves are crashing or the sun is shining.

In the year 2008, the firm’s three founders – Carl Berninghausen, Christian von Olshausen and Nils Aldag – commissioned a study into the technical and commercial feasibility of that vision. Carried out in cooperation with a German car manufacturer and partners from the worlds of science and business, the study was based on the construction of a laboratory facility with the aim of determining whether or not liquid fuels and gases such as hydrogen and methane can be produced on the basis of three freely available resources – water, CO2 and regenerative electricity. If so, can it be done efficiently and profitably?

The key component

The partners identified the so-called Solid Oxide Electrolyser Cell (SOEC) – a high-temperature electrolyser able to break both liquid and gaseous water (i.e. steam) into its constituent parts – as the key component. The main benefit of steam electrolysis is that the enthalpy of vaporisation can be achieved without the use of expensive electrical energy. On the contrary: The recycling of waste heat such as that generated by industrial processes makes it possible to increase SOEC efficiency to over 85 percent.

Sunfire and staxera: Merging knowledge

Way back in 2001, a scientific and commercial cluster focusing on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) – then seen as a complementary technology alongside SOECs – began to take shape in the eastern German city of Dresden. Key players included the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) and staxera GmbH, a joint venture between Webasto AG and Bayer subsidiary H.C. Starck GmbH.

In 2010, Sunfire was founded in Bremen. It was in 2011 that the founders of Sunfire recognized the staxera team’s expertise and knowledge and merged as equal partners. By then, staxera had become the global market leader in the field of innovative fuel cell stacks. It has been a strategic decision to sell the company, as the focus has changed meanwhile, from mobile to stationary fuel cell applications. The resultant cleantech firm selected the former staxera site on Gasanstaltstrasse in Dresden as its joint headquarters.

Strong partnerships

In November 2014, Sunfire opened its power-to-liquids pilot plant in the presence of Federal Research Minister, Johanna Wanka, at its headquarters in Dresden. A few months later, Sunfire proved on industrial scale that it is possible to produce synthetic hydrocarbons from water, CO2 and green energy.

Sunfire is being supported by strong partners such as Audi, Vaillant, Boeing or ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. It is the company’s goal to refine the SOEC and SOFC technology as well as the combination of the two as a Reversible Solid Oxide Cell (RSOC) and to advance their industrialization. Only then can Sunfire’s technologies be established as the cornerstones of a decentralized energy system of the future.

We are open
to new ideas

Do you have a project in mind? Are you looking for an expert in the field of renewable power generation and energy storage?

Please, feel welcome to contact us for further information on our products, for more details on our partnership model and the possibilities to work on a joint project. We will be happy to discuss the options with you.

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