Future energy sources and energy storage
An important challenge in addressing the demands of climate change and meeting the 60% emissions targets set by the UK Government is to find more sustainable ‘clean’ sources of energy and methods for storing energy when it cannot be immediately used. There is, however, no one universal fix. Over the next century the development of a variety of energy sources and technologies will be needed to alleviate the problems of both supply and pollution while also meeting the spiraling demand for energy.
I-SEE is centrally addressing the research challenges facing society by leading and participating in a number of flagship EPSRC Supergen initiatives. The projects are led by internationally recognized scientists and engineers. The Energy Storage consortium led by Prof. Saiful Islam from the Dept. of Chemistry (including participation from the Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Engineering) is focusing developing new functional nano-materials to improve rechargeable lithium ion battery and supercapacitor technology for potential hybrid electric vehicle applications. The research group of Professor Islam uses supercomputers to build atomic-scale models of materials that help us understand their structures and behaviour.
Prof. Laurie Peter and his group are internationally leading in the area of photovoltaics and are currently participating in two Supergen consortia, Photovoltaic materials for the 21st Century (PV-21) and Excitonic solar cells in addition to significant interaction with industry. Current research is on new routes to low cost solar cells. This work includes preparation of thin semiconductor films by electrodeposition and the study of physical and chemical processes in sensitized nanocrystalline solar cells. The research of Professors Islam and Peter formed part of a very successful Royal Society exhibition “Power to the People”. The solar cell research capacity at the University is further augmented by the work of Professor Alison Walker on organic solar cells and organic light emitting devices which is funded under the EU 6th Framework. The Modelling Electroactive Conjugated Materials at the Multiscale (Modecom) project could help bring to mass market organic light emitting devices (OLEDs), which could have far reaching technological implications and cut the cost of lighting by billion of pounds each year.
Hydrogen ultimately derived from renewable sources and used as an energy vector must be considered as a major component of a sustainable energy future in the UK and internationally. Hydrogen will lead to a reduction in use of limited fossil fuel reserves, improved air quality, increased security and flexibility of energy supply, greater energy diversity and the creation of new industries. Hydrogen can be stored more easily than electricity and has very high energy per unit mass. Dr. Tim Mays within the Dept of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath are leading the EPSRC SUPERGEN United Kingdom Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium which is a multi-partner, interdisciplinary collaboration investigating the production, storage, integration and socioeconomic factors related to Hydrogen. The research at Bath within this consortium is considering hydrogen storage in novel nanoporous materials and comparing the storage kinetics and equilibria of different storage systems.