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Press Release - 03 May 2006
£715,000 grant awarded to help break fossil fuel dependency
Grants worth £715,000 have been awarded to University of Bath researchers to develop new materials that will help break the dependency on fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gas.
The grants will be used to find ways of making the batteries within hybrid petrol-electric vehicles much lighter and better able to store energy more efficiently.
The researchers will develop and test new materials for lithium batteries which are similar to those used in mobile phones and laptop computers.
Their work is part of a growing ‘green technology’ focus at the University, which is making it a major centre of research into sustainable energy and cutting pollution.
The grants are part of a £2.1 million project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) into developing energy storage technology.
Professor Saiful Islam, of the University’s Department of Chemistry, will oversee a four-year project developing new ceramic and nano-materials for lithium batteries.
His aim is to help design novel compounds that increase the total energy the batteries can store, and make batteries at least ten times better at producing sudden boosts in power.
“New materials hold the key to cleaner and lighter lithium batteries for hybrid electric cars which will help kick the fossil fuel habit,” said Professor Islam.
This research will also be important for methods of storing energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind power.
Renewable sources are at the mercy of the weather – wind turbines can only work when the wind blows, for instance.
“If we don’t develop an efficient way of storing energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power, then it will be the equivalent of a water company only supplying tap water when it’s raining," said Professor Islam.
“Although I’m a chemist, I don’t wear a white lab coat - instead I use supercomputers to build atomic-scale models to help understand and design new battery materials that can be tested in the laboratory."
The new materials will then be tested in devices for cars and the electricity grid by Dr Rod Dunn, who works in the University’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
Professor Islam hopes that the research will be a stepping stone on the way to replacing fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives, building on the success of the Toyota Prius hybrid electric car.
The other partners in this EPSRC project, called Supergen, are the universities of St Andrews, Strathclyde and Surrey. The consortium will also work with the specialist technology companies, Johnson Matthey, AEA Batteries, and Mast Carbon.
Other green projects that the University is working on include cutting pollution from diesel engines, making solar cells more efficient and developing hydrogen as a fuel.
“We believe that the strong links between chemists and chemical and electrical engineers will make exciting advances in materials and green technology for a low carbon future,” said Professor Islam.
The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. In 16 subject areas the University of Bath is rated in the top ten in the country. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/releasesTop