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Professor Saiful Islam
Professor Saiful Islam
Professor Matthew Davidson
Professor Matthew Davidson
Professor Laurie Peter with a solar cell
Professor Laurie Peter with a solar cell

Press Release - 07 September 2007

Latest green energy research to be showcased at prestigious BA Festival

Research projects by the University of Bath into cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels have been chosen to be showcased at a prestigious scientific festival.

Three projects, on biodiesel catalysts, fuel cell materials and solar cells, will be featured at the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s Festival next week (9-15 September), which is open to the public.

The research, which could be an answer to the problems of dwindling energy supplies and environmental pollution, forms the Department of Chemistry’s exhibit, Power to the People: the Molecular Revolution in Sustainable Energy at the event in York. Researchers from the Department will explain to schoolchildren, teachers and the general public their work on the science behind the next generation of technologies.

The exhibit proved popular when it was first shown last year at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition and at a special Science Day at Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations.

Next week’s Festival will give the public the chance to find out about the latest developments in UK science and engineering. Visitors to the exhibit will able to see the Bath team make solar cells, and they can try their hand at some computer-aided chemistry and examine molecular models close up.

“The technologies we talk about have enormous potential,” said Professor Matthew Davidson, who leads part of the research. “The sun provides the earth with more energy in an hour than the global fossil energy consumption in a year – we just need to harness it.”

The current consumption of fossil fuels as the world’s major source of energy is not sustainable. Reserves of oil, gas and coal are depleting, while the world’s energy use is set to double by 2050. Carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels are a major contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming.

Current alternative ‘green’ transport fuels, made from vegetable oil, are expensive to produce. Professor Davidson’s team are developing new catalysts to enable biodiesel to be made more cheaply and efficiently from unrefined oils, such as chip fat.

Professor Saiful Islam and his team are using powerful computer modelling tools to develop new materials for fuel cells. Fuel cells are already on trial in some buildings and in ‘zero-emission’ buses, but the operating costs are high. The team are working on designing better fuel cells from different materials.

A research team led by Professor Laurie Peter is working on harnessing the sun’s power directly. They hope to improve the efficiency of new types of solar cell to convert sunlight into electrical power at a substantially lower cost than current silicon-based solar cells.

The BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) was established in 1831, and exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. The Festival of Science is an important part of the BA's heritage.

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