Research project ORBIT II

Expansion of a highly efficient trickle bed bioreactor and optimization of the methanation plant for commercial industrial use

Cooperative doctorate in the field of biological methanation successfully completed

With the defense of his dissertation in November 2020, Martin Thema from the Energy Networks and Energy Storage Research Unit successfully completed his cooperative doctorate.

Dr.-Ing. Martin Thema successfully cleared the final hurdle to his doctorate with the oral doctoral examination on November 10th 2020, and completed his dissertation “Process optimization for microbial biosynthesis of methane in a trickle-bed reactor for power-to-gas applications: the ORBIT-process.”

Already during his bachelor and master studies in engeneering sciences, Martin Thema actively worked on various research topics of FENES. Since 2012, he has been working on various topics in the field of energy transition and climate change. Since 2013, with his appointment as a research associate at the research center, the focus of his work has increasingly been directed towards power-to-gas and specifically biological methanation. In addition, Martin Thema was also a member of the faculty council and extensively involved in setting up the Energy Storage and Energy Networks Laboratory at OTH Regensburg.

The cooperative doctorate was supervised by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner from the OTH Regensburg and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Karl from the Chair of Energy Process Technology (EVT) at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. It is the first joint doctorate to be completed within the BayWISS-Kolleg Energie (Bavarian Science Forum) at OTH Regensburg and the second in the Verbundkolleg Energie.

In his doctoral thesis, Dr. Thema worked on the construction, the operation and, in particular, the optimization of a trickle-bed bioreactor. With the help of archaea, hydrogen and carbon dioxide can be biologically converted to methane. Much of the work was carried out as part of the ORBIT joint research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) which Martin Thema supervised and co-initiated as a project coordinator.

His work makes an important contribution to the interdisciplinary understanding between biology, process engineering and energy technology: the ORBIT project initiated the development of a new series of guidelines (“VDI 4635 Power-to-X”) at the Association of German Engineers (VDI). Martin Thema is the spokesman for the methanation working group in the guidelines committee which now has over 70 members from and is contributing to the market launch of these future technologies by standardizing semantics and calculation methods in the entire field of power-to-X.

Due to the Corona pandemic, the number of listeners in the room at the time of the defense was severely limited. The entire event, including the hat presentation, was thus transmitted by the Chair of Energy Process Engineering via video conference. This way, more than 40 friends, family and colleagues could remotely participate in this memorable moment.

Authors: FENES, Michael Sterner, Michael Heberl

Dr.-Ing. Martin Thema, Tobias Weidlich (Lehrstuhl für Energieverfahrenstechnik) und Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner bei der Hutübergabe. Foto: Julia Sattler
Dr.-Ing. Martin Thema, Tobias Weidlich (Chair of Energy Process Engineering) and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner at the hat presentation. Photo: Julia Sattler
Von links nach rechts: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Franke (FAU), Prof. Dr. Kathrin Castiglione (FAU), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner (OTH), Prof. Dr. Katharina Herkendell (FAU), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Karl und Martin Thema bei der Notenbekanntgabe. Foto: Julia Sattler
From left to right: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Franke (FAU), Prof. Dr. Kathrin Castiglione (FAU), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Sterner (OTH), Prof. Dr. Katharina Herkendell (FAU), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Karl and Martin Thema at the grade announcement. Photo: Julia Sattler