press release, 11. January 2021

Important biotechnology perspective

Prof. Katja Bühler appointed to the German National Hydrogen Council

In early January, the German Federal Cabinet appointed Prof. Dr. Katja Bühler, a microbiologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), to the National Hydrogen Council (NWR). This council of experts has the task of advising the Federal Government with proposals and recommendations for action in the implementation and further development of the National Hydrogen Strategy adopted in 2020.

Prof. Dr. Katja Bühler Photo: Sebastian Wiedling/UFZ
Prof. Dr. Katja Bühler
Photo: Sebastian Wiedling/UFZ

"The development of hydrogen technology is a key aspect of the effort to promote climate protection and the energy transition in Germany and around the world. Having UFZ expert Katja Bühler bring the key perspective of biotech hydrogen production to the National Hydrogen Council represents a great honour and an undertaking with great responsibility for the UFZ," says Prof. Dr. Georg Teutsch, UFZ Scientific Managing Director.

With the National Hydrogen Strategy, the German government intends to transform Germany into the lead market and leading provider for green hydrogen technologies in a future climate-neutral economy. Prof. Dr. Katja Bühler and her team are developing options for producing hydrogen with bacteria that are capable of photosynthesis. "Phototrophic bacteria have the natural ability to convert solar energy into biological energy carriers. We want to use this process - the so-called light reaction - to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight with the help of enzymes," says Katja Bühler and adds: "We want to produce biohydrogen efficiently and in a way that is both environmentally and resource-friendly. However, the transition from fundamental research to an industrial application can only be achieved in an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. We are therefore working together with many partners from science and industry to realize this challenging idea. Being appointed to the National Hydrogen Council is a great honour and I will do my best to implement the biotechnological approach into the hydrogen debate" 

Katja Bühler, born in 1973, studied biology with a focus on microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Hamburg. After she received her doctorate at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and her habilitation at TU Dortmund University, the Dresden University of Technology and the UFZ jointly appointed her as professor for the Technology of Productive Biofilms in late 2015. Katja Bühler is conducting research at the UFZ Department of Solar Materials, which is developing biological alternatives for hydrogen production based on photosynthetically active microbes. This so-called white hydrogen could supplement the current production of green hydrogen, which is produced by electrolysis based on solar or wind energy. Her work focuses on the use of surface-adhered organisms as an alternative solution for  continuous bioprocesses.

The National Hydrogen Council was established by the German Federal Government with the decision on the National Hydrogen Strategy on June 10, 2020. The council has the task of advising and supporting the Federal Government with proposals and recommendations for action in the implementation and further development of the hydrogen strategy. The National Hydrogen Council comprises 26 experts from the scientific and industrial communities and from civil society.

Further information: 
Video portrait of Prof. Katja Bühler

Further information

UFZ press office

Susanne Hufe
Phone: +49 341 235-1630

In the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), scientists conduct research into the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. Their areas of study cover water resources, ecosystems of the future, environmental technologies and biotechnologies, the effects of chemicals in the environment, modelling and social-scientific issues. The UFZ employs more than 1,100 staff at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the Federal Government, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research fields: Energy; Earth and Environment; Health; Key Technologies; Matter; and Aeronautics, Space and Transport. With some 39,000 employees in 19 research centres, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation.
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