An important step in developing sustainable energy systems lies in the replacement of fossil fuel technologies with renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy, tidal and wave power and hydroelectricity.
Our scientists are conducting a widerange of research into renewable energy sources, from improving the design of wind turbine blades to make them more efficient, to harvesting the heat energy from pavements. Examples of our research include:
We conduct a wide range of wind research, from improving the design and materials used to make turbine blades, through to the way wind energy is harnessed and used by the nationalgrid. Because of wind’s intermittent nature, our scientists are looking at ways in which energy can be stored during off-peak times, then released when there’s a high demand.
One novel way to do this is to use wind, wave and tidal power to compress and pump air into underwater bags anchored to the seabed. During periods of large demand, the air can be released through a turbine, converting it into electricity. We are also able to conduct sophisticated computer modelling of the wind field and wind structure interactions, as well as models to predict the future condition and maintenance requirements to enable us to calculate whole life cost and efficiency. This research can help better predict wind patterns, in turn helping wind farm operators to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Higher efficiency solar cells are needed for power station applications and our scientists are currently developing new materials that will be the major components in the next generation of these high-efficiency solar cells.
Material scientists and engineers are developing materials that use a wider spectrum of light than current solar cells. These make use of more of the sunlight available at the Earth’s surface and can be tailored to local conditions, thus improving applicability.
Social scientists are helping to facilitate the move to new energy systems by developing pathways that avoid the socio-economic inequalities, inefficiencies and costs of the dominant centralised grid-based systems. This is achieved through the co-design of community solar energy projects, in conjunction with scientists, engineers and the communities themselves. Off-grid systems must address the specific developmental needs and aspirations of communities and thus require the involvement of community members in the system design, business models, implementation, installation and operation and maintenance of the system.
We explore all aspects of biofuel production, including agricultural science, synthetic biology, chemistry, microbiology, plant science, enzymology, chemical engineering and fermentation science. Our research involves the generation of novel microorganisms, the breeding of improved crop strains that can promote optimal biofuel production and the science and technology of biofuel production.
The academic theme lead for Renewable Energy is:
Principal Research Fellow, Faculty of Science
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