German-Taiwanese Collaboration in Battery Research
In addition to his chosen home in Jülich, Germany, Taipei in Taiwan has become a city that Professor Olivier Guillon enjoys visiting. While his visits to Taiwan are primarily for scientific purposes, the scientist not only appreciates the collaborative research but also the incredibly welcoming nature of the Taiwanese people. As a result, the exchange is both highly productive and enjoyable.
From the Oldest Known Material to High-Tech Innovations in Energy Transition
Professor Olivier Guillon’s scientific passion lies in a material with a history dating back thousands of years: ceramics. “Ceramics are among the oldest materials known to humankind, and their relevance remains striking even today,” the scientist remarks about his field of research.
Indeed, over 30,000 years ago, our ancestors began shaping and firing clay to create primitive vessels and figurines. Even in those early days, ceramics were not just aesthetically pleasing but also served practical purposes.
Throughout the 20th century, ceramics evolved into a high-tech material used extensively in the electronics industry, particularly in the production of semiconductor devices as capacitors and insulators. This has led to modern advanced ceramics being not only present in medical and energy technologies but also enabling humanity’s journey into space.
At the helm of the Institute for Energy and Climate Research, Materials Synthesis and Manufacturing Processes (IEK-1), which Professor Olivier Guillon leads, he and his colleagues are engaged in developing and processing ceramic materials crucial for the energy transition. Guillon describes his work, saying, “The ability to infinitely vary the properties of ceramics is absolutely fascinating. Ceramic components are therefore omnipresent, even if often hidden from view.” For example, ceramics are indispensable for energy storage in battery cells, high-temperature electrolysis, material separation through membranes, as protective coatings under very harsh conditions in hydrogen turbines, and much more.
The Value of Research Collaborations
The collaboration with the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in Taiwan arose from Professor Guillon’s scientific pursuits. Above all, the connection with Professor Bing Joe Hwang formed the foundation for joint research. Guillon states, “We’ve known each other for several years in the context of German-Taiwanese battery research projects funded by the BMBF on the German side. But it’s worthwhile to deepen this connection and extend our on-site presence.”
What makes this joint research so fruitful is the straightforward nature of the collaboration with their Taiwanese partners. The complementary expertise of all participants contributes to the success of joint projects, as does Taiwan’s special significance in the semiconductor and electronics industry. Taiwan, as a small island nation, holds a remarkable position in the semiconductor and electronics industry and is formally recognized as a globally open high-tech industrial nation. Professor Guillon sums up his impressions, saying, “These conditions are ideal for a successful collaboration.”
The excellent rapport with Professor Bing Joe Hwang greatly facilitates the exchange, as both parties understand each other’s approaches and the research landscape through research visits. Professor Hwang, as a Humboldt Award recipient, had the opportunity to spend a six-month research stint at IEK-1 of Forschungszentrum Jülich. Professor Guillon elaborates, “Understanding the research conditions of both countries and establishing personal connections from both sides is crucial for collaborations and joint research.”
Mutual understanding is the cornerstone for cooperation on equal footing, which has the potential to grow in the future.
At the Intersection of Innovation, Hospitality, and Culinary Delights
“My esteemed colleague, Bing Joe, once said to me: there are two things that truly stand out in Taiwan—its hospitality and its cuisine,” Guillon shares about his Taiwanese research partner. “He’s absolutely correct in that regard. From my perspective, the reactivity, diligence, and innovative thinking of Taiwan and its residents are also central characteristics. I’m thrilled every time our research can benefit from this characteristic.”
Taipei 101, Taiwan’s tallest building and a global icon from 2004 to 2009, is the most visible testament to Taiwan’s innovative prowess. Standing at 508 meters, the building is a marvel of engineering, featuring a sophisticated mechanism that makes it highly earthquake-resistant—an essential trait in a small state where the ground shakes up to 300 times a year.
In July 2023, Professor Olivier Guillon was appointed as an honorary professor at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in Taipei. This professorship not only signifies appreciation but also serves as an incentive for the French-German materials researcher and his younger colleagues to plan further (research) stays in Taiwan. During this visit, Guillon also visited the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan and signed a Memorandum of Agreement between the Hierarchical Green Energy Materials Research Center (HiGEM) and IEK-1.