The research fields of material structure, energy, space research, quantum technology and nanotechnology

One of the primary aims of scientific research in the past centuries has been to explore the structure, behavior and usability of materials around us. This subject has always been complemented by the question of where the energy to transform materials, to form our environment and to optimally exploit materials can be obtained from.

In Hungary, the key players in energy research are the Institute for Nuclear Research (ATOMKI), the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (CSFK), the Centre for Energy Research (EK) and the Wigner Research Centre for Physics (Wigner FK). These institutes achieve important results using their own or large international infrastructures, in a number of occasions as members of megaprojects. Their research activity is at the cutting edge of international science, and their results can ensure a competitive advantage for domestic industry owing to successful technological transfer.

Man and space, and the exploration of the cosmos are disciplines that require the highest technology with respect to the challenges of civilization. The following research sites belonging to the ELKH network conduct research on phenomena in outer space: ATOMKI, CSFK, EK, ÖK and Wigner FK. They put special emphasis on raising the level of Hungarian activity in the programs of the European Space Agency (ESA). In EK, a space research developing laboratory and a space industrial test center conforming to the European space industry standards was created, audited by ESA.

As for space astronomy and space weather research, CSFK and Wigner FK participate in several outstanding European space astronomy missions. ATOMKI examines the chemical processes induced by radiation in the environment of large planets within the EUROPLANET collaboration. The research of space weather is gaining importance, which includes the detection, monitoring and prediction of processes and their effects influencing planets in the solar system. The researchers of CSFK, EK and Wigner FK are prominent participants in the projects aiming at exploring and modeling space weather. They also take part in the development of devices and onboard equipment used to measure space weather parameters.

Developments related to space research. Concerning developments related to space research, the Government of Hungary has expressed its intention to send a Hungarian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2024. The research program is already in the preparatory phase. According to the agreement to be signed, Wigner FK is to create three devices that are capable of measuring the magnetic field, detecting particles and observing space junk and micrometeorites, respectively. According to the plans, EK is to participate in the project with onboard dosimeter systems and a measurement system that detects the changes of radiation reaching the ISS. In the past years, several innovative device development projects have been launched and implemented at CSFK that can be followed up by direct industrial usage. CSFK participates in a number of R&D projects concerning satellite technology, such as the HERMES or the CAMELOT programs.

The Government of Hungary published the National Energy Strategy in 2020. Its primary aim is to completely decarbonize energy production in line with the European initiatives. One major pillar of the strategy is to enhance the reliability of the energy supply and to reduce Hungary’s dependence on energy import. A basic objective of energy management is to search for energy-efficient and environment-friendly solutions, and the development and usage of new materials and technologies. Hungarian R&D objectives fit into this strategy: to maintain the domestic nuclear competence and to prepare for the technological challenges of the future decades. RDI activities need to be coordinated in order to support future technologies, including fusion energy production and nuclear power stations of the 4th generation and to solve the closure of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Assisting the energy use of renewable resources by developing new storage systems and energy converting methods. When electricity is produced from weather-dependent renewable sources, there are times when excess energy is produced, therefore storage systems must be created and networks need to be developed in order that the electric grid can handle this excess energy, with researchers modeling these developments by simulation. Scientists also focus on highly effective, sustainable, long-life, cheap and safe fuel cells and Li-ion batteries and perform experiments to prepare their manufacturing.

Finding new, cost-effective chemical processes to produce hydrogen as a fuel is also an important objective. EK has achieved significant results in the past decade in the evaluation of the environmental and social effects of various energy scenarios. Some alternatives, such as the increasing use of the biomass as a fuel, may cause serious damage to the ecosystem and humans by increasing air pollution. By applying the measurement techniques developed for nanotechnology, revolutionary new results may be obtained on the sources and health effects of ultrafine particles in the environment, which to date have been unknown.