Energy Research Partnership with Max Planck Society to Boost Opportunities at UVA

Two researchers putting their arms into rubber gloves to work in a contained environment

A University of Virginia partnership with MAXNET Energy – an initiative of Germany’s Max Planck Society to advance research on new, renewable, environmentally friendly and economical energy sources – will provide new research and education opportunities for the University’s researchers and students.

On March 21, UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan signed a memorandum of understanding with the Max Planck Society to enter into a consortium with eight of its research institutes. UVA was invited last year to join and is the only U.S. member.

Researchers from UVA and the eight Max Planck Institutes within the MAXNET Energy consortium will work collaboratively on developing processes for the clean and efficient production of energy.

“There is no single technological factor that influences societies more than energy, and access to affordable clean energy from renewable resources is among the world’s most pressing challenges,” said UVA chemistry professor T. Brent Gunnoe, who co-directs UVA’s side of the partnership with Robert Davis, a professor of chemical engineering. “This collaboration is tailor-made to seek viable solutions to complex energy problems.”

T. Brent Gunnoe and Robert Davis, co-directors of UVA’s side of MAXNET Energy, an initiative with Germany’s Max Planck Society. (Photo by Dan Addison)

T. Brent Gunnoe and Robert Davis, co-directors of UVA’s side of MAXNET Energy, an initiative with Germany’s Max Planck Society. (Photo by Dan Addison)

Research efforts will focus broadly on new methods to use solar energy to produce fuels and new catalyst technologies for the clean conversion of natural gas – including renewable bio-gas – to liquid fuels for the transportation sector. UVA and the Max Plank Society each have committed $2 million to jump-start the research efforts for an initial five-year period.

“This partnership helps us advance our efforts to make UVA a truly global university, one with a strong international presence and global connections,” Sullivan said. “This partnership will also enable us to leverage existing strengths in the UVA faculty, particularly in three departments – Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering. We believe that the knowledge and experience of our faculty will complement the capabilities of the researchers in the Max Planck Society.”

The new collaboration also will enhance and augment progress on UVA research by adding the expertise of more than 200 scientists and technical staff with MAXNET Energy, along with access to advanced instrumentation within the Max Planck Society.

“The chance to work with some of the world’s leading scientists is a tremendous educational opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students working on these projects,” Gunnoe said.

The Max Planck Society supports 83 Max Planck Institutes spanning the social, medical and scientific spectrum, conducting fundamental grand-challenge research activities of vital societal importance. Its scientists have earned multiple Nobel Prizes. The Times Higher Education supplement, published in London, has ranked the Max Planck Society as the world’s foremost non-academic research institution.

The partnership is anticipated to augment efforts to secure external funding for UVA’s research enterprise, increase opportunities for discovery and the creation of intellectual property benefiting society, and increase the recruitment of top faculty and students to the University.

Media Contact

Fariss Samarrai

Office of University Communications