The research fields of material structure, energy, space research, nanotechnology

One of the primary aims of scientific research over the 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 RCP). These institutes achieve important results using their own or large international infrastructures, often as participants in megaprojects. Their research activity is at the cutting edge of international science, and their results may deliver a competitive advantage for domestic industry if successful technology transfer is achieved.

Man, space and the exploration of the cosmos are disciplines that require the highest technology given the challenges civilization faces. The following research sites belonging to the ELKH network conduct research on phenomena in outer space: ATOMKI, CSFK, EK, ÖK and Wigner RCP. They put special emphasis on raising the level of Hungarian activity in the programs of the European Space Agency (ESA). A space research development laboratory and space industrial testing center in compliance with the European space industry standards has been created at EK. The facility was audited by the ESA.

As for space astronomy and space weather research, CSFK and Wigner RCP are participating 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. Research into space weather, which includes the detection, monitoring and prediction of processes and their effects influencing planets in the solar system, is gaining in importance. The researchers at FI, EK and Wigner RCP are prominent participants in the projects aiming to explore and model 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 RCP 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 to detect changes in radiation levels reaching the ISS. In recent years, several innovative device development projects have been launched and implemented at CSFK that can be followed up by direct industrial usage. CSFK is participating in a number of R&D projects concerning satellite technology, such as the HERMES and 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 European initiatives. One major pillar of the strategy is to enhance the reliability of energy supply and to reduce Hungary’s dependence on energy imports. A basic objective of energy management is to search for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions, and to explore the development and usage of new materials and technologies. Hungarian R&D objectives are aligned with this strategy: to maintain domestic nuclear competence and to prepare for the technological challenges of the decades to come. 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 resolve the closure of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Promoting the use of renewable resources for power generation by developing new storage systems and energy conversion methods. When electricity is produced from weather-dependent renewable sources, there are times when excess energy is produced, requiring storage systems to be created and networks developed in order for the electrical grid to manage this excess energy, with researchers modeling these developments in simulations. Scientists are also focusing on highly effective, sustainable, long-life, cheap and safe fuel cells and Li-ion batteries, as well as performing experiments to prepare them for 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 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 are still currently unknown.