We asked one of the finalists of the ACHEMA Start-Up Award 2015 to share their experience. The competition invited entrepreneurs in the fields of energy, industrial biotechnology, and measurement technology and analytics to participate.
Dr. Daniel Teichmann from Hydrogenious Technologies, Erlangen, Germany, talks to Catharina Goedecke for ChemViews Magazine about the scientific aspects of their hydrogen storage technology, describes the challenges of starting your own company, and gives advice for founders from an academic background.
Founded in 2013, Hydrogenious Technologies is a spin-off of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg by Daniel Teichmann and the three co-founders Professor Wolfgang Arlt, Professor Peter Wasserscheid, and Professor Eberhardt Schlücker. The team has developed a technology which allows the storage of hydrogen under ambient conditions using a liquid carrier.
Please tell us about your idea in simple terms.
Hydrogen has great potential as a future energy vector. However, storage and transport of hydrogen is very challenging. We store hydrogen in Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHCs). This hydrogen storage technology is very safe and efficient. Hydrogen can be stored and transported in high storage densities, under ambient conditions, and using conventional fuel infrastructure.
Which problem does it solve?
Hydrogen has a very low density. Therefore, hydrogen has to be compressed to very high pressures (e.g. 700 bar) or cooled to very low temperatures (–253 °C) to achieve the necessary storage densities for hydrogen transport. By using LOHC technology, we can store hydrogen in liquid, Diesel-like substances under ambient conditions and at storage densities comparable to 2000 bar compressed hydrogen. Handling and storage is as easy as with any liquid fuel that we handle today, but even less toxic.
On what scale do you see the use of your storage system?
Hydrogen storage is especially demanding if large amounts of hydrogen have to be stored or transported. The storage capacity of our LOHC hydrogen storage systems is only dependent on the LOHC tank (standard fuel tank technology). One cubic meter of LOHC can store 700 m3 of hydrogen (62 kg of hydrogen), which equals 2 MWh of energy. Therefore, even large amounts of hydrogen/energy can be stored easily.
Our first demonstration units can store and release 1 kg of hydrogen (about 33 kW) per hour. Furthermore, we develop LOHC storage systems for 10 kg (330 kW) and 30 kg (1 MW) per hour. Storage capacities are available from 1 MWh to 100 MWh.
What type of equipment is needed for your storage solution?
Our containerized storage solutions include LOHC hydrogen storage and release units as well as LOHC tanks. For the application as energy storage solution (e.g. in combination with renewables), we offer full electric LOHC systems including an electrolyzer and a fuel cell.
Where does the hydrocarbon carrier you use come from? Could there be supply problems?
We use dibenzyltoluene as LOHC material. Dibenzyltoluene is industrially well known as heat transfer liquid at temperatures up to 350 °C. It is synthesized from benzylchloride and toluene.
Since dibenzyltoluene is continuously recycled in our LOHC hydrogen storage process, it only has to be synthesized once and, in case of heavy use, regenerated after a certain amount of time. In addition, since it is well established as heat transfer oil, it is produced in multi-ton scale and supply is not an issue.
How does the transport of LOHCs affect the energy balance of the entire system?
The storage density of hydrogen/energy in LOHC is very high. Compared to standard hydrogen storage and transport, five times more hydrogen can be stored in a 40 ton truck for instance, up to 1,800 kg! Therefore, much longer transportation distances become feasible with LOHC hydrogen transport. Since no high pressures or low temperatures are necessary for LOHC storage and transport, LOHC-based systems are much more energy efficient than conventional hydrogen storage.
When will we see your product on the market?
Our first fully-commercial product line will be introduced on the market in 2016. We already have commercial-sized prototypes, about the size of a container, running in our headquarter in Erlangen.
What are the challenges of starting your own company?
In the beginning there is usually only an idea, the fundamentals of a technology and maybe a patent application. The road towards definition of a business model and a business plan, and to finally acquire investors and customers, is long and usually does not come without setbacks. You consequently need to have believe in your idea and in yourself and you must not let others mislead you.
How did the university support you during the founding process?
The university has transferred its patent applications on LOHC to the company in exchange for shares.
Why do you participate in start-up competitions?
We see a high benefit from the participation in start-up competitions through external evaluation of our business concept, feedback from experts, publicity and networking.
How do you handle the business aspects as a scientist? Do you have any advice for founders from an academic background?
I have worked in different positions in industry before founding Hydrogenious. Also I had already made entrepreneurial experience in a start-up company I had founded as a student during my university time.
If you are an engineer or scientist, try to find a co-founder or leading employee with a background in business and/or sales quite early. Even if technology is the major driver of your business concept, the perception and mindset of a commercial employee is very helpful and a valuable supplement.
Daniel Teichmann studied business administration and engineering at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, where he also received his Ph.D. in 2014 under the supervision of Wolfgang Arlt.
He coordinated the Bavarian Hydrogen Center, Erlangen, Germany, from 2012 to 2014. Since 2013, Dr. Teichmann is CEO of Hydrogenious Technologies GmbH, Erlangen, which he founded together with Professor Wolfgang Arlt, Professor Peter Wasserscheid and Professor Eberhardt Schlücker.
- Bavarian Founders Price, 2014
- Science4Life Venture-Cup, 2014
- Hochschulgründerpreis Nordbayern, 2013
- Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers as an efficient vector for the transport and storage of renewable energy,
Daniel Teichmann, Wolfgang Arlt, Peter Wasserscheid,
Int. J. Hydrogen Energy 2012, 37, 18118–18132.
- Energy storage in residential and commercial buildings via Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC),
Daniel Teichmann, Katharina Stark, Karsten Müller, Gregor Zöttl, Peter Wasserscheid, Wolfgang Arlt,
Energy Environ. Sci. 2012, 5, 9044.
- A future energy supply based on Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC),
Daniel Teichmann, Wolfgang Arlt, Peter Wasserscheid, Raymond Freymann,
Energy Environ. Sci. 2011, 4, 2767.
- Energiespeicherung mittels Methan und energietragenden Stoffen – ein thermodynamischer Vergleich (in German),
Benjamin Müller, Karsten Müller, Daniel Teichmann, Wolfgang Arlt,
Chem. Ing. Tech. 2011, 83, 2002–2013.
Also of Interest
- ACHEMA Start-Up Award 2015,
ChemViews Mag. 2015.
Finalists announced in the competition for technology-oriented entrepreneurs
- Science4Life Competition For Startups,
ChemViews Mag. 2014.
Largest German business plan competition for the life sciences and chemistry celebrated the winning startup companies
- See all interviews in ChemViews Magazine