Leonhard Probst is a research fellow at Fraunhofer ISE. He won an INVENT a CHIP award in 2009 at the age of 17 (image right).

| Privat (l.), INVENT a CHIP (r.)
2023-06-30 publication

A forward-thinking scientist

The energy transition will only be possible with the help of engineers who clear the obstacles standing in the way. Leonard Probst anticipated this back in 2009, when he won the INVENT a CHIP competition.

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Leonhard Probst was already thinking about the energy transition before many other people even had it on their radar. While he was at school, for example, he built a small Savonius wind turbine – only to determine that without a way to save the generated energy, not much was gained. “That’s when I started experimenting with my own battery storage units, which at the time were only really used in laptops and cellphones,” says Probst. While searching for suitable and flexible integrated circuits for managing the power of battery storage units, he came across the INVENT a CHIP competition.

The project he eventually submitted was called “Lithium Equalizer” and comprised an integrated circuit for battery management with lithium-based storage units. It included different methods for equalizing the charges of serially connected battery cells, as well as various sensors for monitoring the charge level and aging condition of a battery storage unit. The concept proved convincing: in 2009, Probst won INVENT a CHIP at the age of 17. He says the event itself was much more important than winning it, though. “I still have fond memories of working with the other teams and the extensive support we got from employees of the Institute for Microelectronic Systems at Leibniz University Hannover,” Probst recalls. “My experiences at INVENT a CHIP were certainly a major factor in my decision to study electrical engineering.”

Commitment to the energy transition

After completing his bachelor’s degree in Erlangen-Nuremberg and another degree in Dresden, Probst added a master’s in renewable energy in Paris to his résumé. He has now been a research fellow at Fraunhofer ISE since 2018 and a scientific employee of the “Electrochemical Energy Systems” group in the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) at the University of Freiburg since 2020. He also volunteers for the organization Engineers Without Borders and for Scientists for Future, whose regional group he played a major role in co-founding five years ago. The energy transition and renewable energy are topics that still fascinate him today. Having recognized the lack of storage technology as the greatest problem as a 17-year-old, Probst has since delved much deeper into the subject. “There are still a number of problems standing in the way of scaling and sustainability and thus preventing the wide-scale expansion of capacity,” he explains. These issues include the use of rare metals as catalysts and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in electrolysis membranes. However, there are already potential solutions for the latter – which happen to be the subject of the doctorate Probst hopes to complete soon.