The Deutches Museum (translated to the German Museum) is one of the largest museums in Bavaria. It houses the accomplishments of Germany from the 1500s on, and focuses mainly on technical discoveries, inventions, and tactics. One can spend the entire day strolling through the enormous amount of exhibits, artifacts, and displays contained within. The collection which brought my attention to the museum was a recently installed exhibit on efficiency. It highlights the technologies developed to fight the ever growing needs of cities to consume energy along with future devices being developed today. Although there was a plethora of other collections which each could have taken a whole day to explore, I focused heavily on exhibits which pertain directly to my research, but also explored a few other displays.
To start my visit to the museum I figured I should take a look at a couple of the other sections before I started my research portion. I had no idea what I was getting into. The underground level of the museum is an entire history of mining in Germany. The first sign before walking down the stairs says something along the lines of “how long have I been down here? Hours or Days?” Not sure what to think of this, I noted seeing it and continued on my way down the stairs. As I descended the stairs, I entered into a dark tunnel which resembled a mine shaft. Well little did I know this mine shaft would continue for the next hour and a half of my walk! It was huge! The extent of the displays and factorial readings showed just how important the history of mining is to Germany. Unfortunately, the majority of them were in German and the comprehension level required surpassed my knowledge of the language. However, I did get a brief overview of the material.
Even since the time of the first settlers in Bavaria the resources of the German landscape were vital to their ability to survive and thrive. In my previous writings I have emphasized the importance of the river systems, plains for farming, and industrial complexes which included the current mining operation occurring in the country. However, at the beginning of my trip even I did not comprehend just how important mining has been to the German operation. The availability of minerals has fueled the civilization in Germany to succeed. For centuries the advancement of mining techniques has been coupled with the expansion of the economy in the surrounding areas. As technology advanced, the need for precious minerals and coal only increased. The business provided a stable market as well as a stable source for power.
After the war, the coal industry was one of the few markets that did not skip a beat. Most of the economy slowed to a halt from the destruction and the occupation of foreign nations. However, both the Allied and Russian forces kept the mines in eastern and western Germany respectfully operating at full force. Energy was a required resource no matter how war torn a country was. The plethora of coal made it that much more important to have on each side of the war. The industry continued to thrive. Even today Europe remains one of the largest contributors of coal in the entire world. Yet today, the topic of energy and consumption is much more complicated than it once was.
In past times the main concern of industries involved how quickly and how many fossil fuels could be pulled out of the ground. When it came to efficiency, company’s mainly developed this notion to create more energy from fewer resources to save money. Today, efficiency is needed for this same reason, but also to protect the environment as well as find a solution to the ever increasing needs of the worlds growing society. This is where the ingenuity and innovation of companies in Germany comes into play. The large population density with minimal resources available has forced industries to build towards the future through innovation. The needs of society foreshadow what the rest of the world will face, thus putting the small European country one step ahead from the majority of the world. The country’s rich engineering history, applicable infrastructure, as well as availability of resources have made it the ideal location for companies to grow and reach for future technologies.
There was a special portion of the museum, sort of a temporary exhibit, dedicated to portraying the development of future technologies involving energy. It showed the difficulties of supplying the cramped cities in the most efficient ways possible. The first section discussed renewable energy sources.
The number of solar panels among rooftops is continually growing and the technology is improving. There are various designs of solar panels which vary based on the material and how it interacts with light. The true detail is how the surface of the material is shaped. The shape impacts the ability of the material to absorb light but also contain a system to transfer the energy. This is important for how the material will be used. Sweden actually is the first company to successfully install solar panels roadways. The panels are made of a durable material which is covered in clear layers of dense plastic which allow them to both absorb energy as well as function as a roadway. Now this technology has a long way of development to go before it can be used on actual roads across the world. The strips were installed in bike path over a short distance. But the potential for this technology is enormous.
The second most important renewable form of energy comes in wind. Wind energy is simple technology that only faces the challenge of infrastructure. The innovation comes in its versatility to be used in various environments. The classic picture which comes to mind is a large white propeller in an open field. However, this is not a versatile technology because the places which require the largest energy outputs are cities. And cities do not have a reliable source of wind due to the obstruction of buildings. Thus, developers are working towards creating the ideal structure of the harvesters to work in a variety of environments. These devices usually do not create a significant amount of energy either because they have to be small enough to fit in the urban environments. Another major issue facing development of the technology is the infrastructure. Many farmers oppose install find farms because it obstructs their ability to use the land and causes an immense amount of noise pollution to the nearby area. The ground has to be dug into and “wired” in order to pass the harness the energy which can damage farm lands. Also, the wind farms take a large initial investment. A region which is becoming increasingly popular for complexes is the ocean from the absence of obstructing objects or damage to the surrounding areas. Yet it takes a large amount of funds to create the grid system to pass the energy. The accessibility is increasing and it is a great resource. But in the end, wind energy requires a massive amount of land in order to create enough energy to be considered sustainable. This is the problem the future of engineering has to solve. Germany has before has recorded a day in which 80% of the energy used in cities came from renewable sources. The hope is the future will have this as a daily occurrence.