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Current funded projects within the Centre for Sustainable Technologies

Projects currently being researched within CST.

INPATH - TES: PhD on innovation pathways for TES (thermal energy storage)

Funder: CEC-H2020-SC-LCE-2014
Duration: 01 May 2015 – 30 April 2018
Staff Involved: Prof Philip Griffiths, Prof Neil Hewitt, Dr Mingjun Huang

Following the EC SET-Plan Education and Training Roadmap, the concept of this proposal is to develop a joint PhD programme between universities and research centres, on the topic of Thermal Energy Storage (TES). The goal of INPATH-TES is to create a network of universities and research institutes to implement a joint PhD programme on TES technologies.

The goal of this network is to provide education on these technologies for professionals involved in European research and industry institutions. The partners in the project will form the core of a future larger network of excellent R&D institutions and industries for co-funding and industrial placement, sharing infrastructure capacities and enhancing the mobility of students.

High performance vacuum flat plate solar collector for hot water and process heat

Funder : EPSRC
Duration: 01 July 2013 – 30 June 2016
Staff Involved: Dr Trevor Hyde

The project aims to develop an evacuated flat plate solar collector with glass covers front and back which is little thicker and weighs little more than a conventional insulating glazing unit. The research will investigate novel vacuum sealing technologies for the glass envelope based around previously developed sealing techniques used for high performance evacuated glazing. Collaborators at the University of Warwick and Loughborough University and will develop a novel lightweight absorber for the collector and an alternative glass/metal collector envelope. This concept will enable new approaches to building integration as it can be used in place of roofing, glazing or façade components. The superior performance characteristics achieved by the novel design will allow this collector to outperform both flat plate and evacuated tube collectors over a wide range of operating conditions.

Direct primary coal liquefaction via an innovative co-processing approach with waste and petroleum feedstocks

Funder : EU RFSC
Duration: 01 July 2016 – 30 June 2019
Staff Involved: Dr Ye Huang

DIRPRIMCOAL is a three year project funded by the EU Research Fund for Steel and Coal (RFSC). The main goal of the research is to improve the viability and environmental performance of direct coal liquefaction (DCL) by providing a framework to develop it within the EU without the need for extremely large-scale plant. It will establish a distributed approach to enable DCL as a technology suitable for co-processing a variety of wastes, including plastics, tyres and bio-wastes which can thermally decompose into effective solvents. The liquefaction products will be assessed specifically for co-processing with petroleum feedstocks in existing refinery facilities. The results will be used to design DCL modules as the basis for future pilot plants.

Modelling, optimisation and experimental study of distributed energy storage

Funder: Royal Society and China (NSFC)
Duration: 01 March 2016 – 28 February 2018
Staff Involved: Dr Ye Huang, Dr Mingjun Huang, Prof Neil Hewitt

International Exchanges Scheme – RS-China (NSFC) Cost share is a 2 years project funded by Royal Society, the Newton Mobility grants and National Natural Science Foundation of China. The major aim of the project is to develop an integrated distributed energy storage (DES) for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by encouraging renewable electricity generation for large scale installations. This project will focus on (local level) distributed energy storage design and optimisation. Process modelling will be carried out on a small scale power system using device performance data. The results will be validated by experiments. A thorough techno-economic and Life Cycle analysis will be conducted within the full energy supply chain. In order to facilitate research partnerships between UK and China, researcher from Ulster University and Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences will work together in design, implementation and optimisation.

SCARLET -  scale-up of calcium carbonate looping technology for efficient CO2 capture from power and industrial plants

Funder: EU FP7
Duration: 01 April 2014 – 31 March 2017
Staff Involved: Dr Ye Huang, Dr David McIlveen-Wright, Prof Neil Hewitt

Scarlet a 3-year research project funded by the EU 7th Framework Programme with the aim to obtain reliable information and tools for the scale-up of the Calcium Carbonate Looping (CCL) process and pre-engineering of a 20 MWth CCL plant by continuous self-sustaining pilot plant operation. The project will provide a techno-economic and environmental assessment of this high potential technology for CO2 capture from power plants as well as cement and steel production plants. Furthermore the fundamental expertise required for the scale-up and integration of pre-commercialisation CCL facilities is provided.

The following key objectives have been defined for the SCARLET project:

* The key process parameters and control strategies shall be identified by testing the CCL process aiming at a target of at least 90 % CO2 capture and an efficiency penalty less than 3.5 % points.

* Scale-up tools and guidelines for CCL reactor design and process layout shall be developed and validated by experimental data of the pilot plant.

* The design and risk assessment of a 20 MWth CCL pilot plant to be built should be carried out.

* The techno-economic and environmental analysis of the CCL application to hard coal and lignite fired power plants as well as cement and steel industry at commercial full scale shall be determined.

Small smart sustainable systems for future domestic hot water (4S-DHW)


Duration: 01 March 2016 to 28 February 2019

Staff Involved: Professor NJ Hewitt

The purpose of the proposed research programme is to address the challenge of providing domestic hot water (DHW) using low carbon heat pump technology given the overwhelming trend away from conventional hot water tanks in homes and the inability of present heat pumps to provide instant hot water.

We intend to develop a suite of heat pump / storage / control technologies, using either electricity or gas that function without conventional storage cylinders and can deliver energy efficient affordable hot water to a wide range of dwellings well into the future.

Ulster will use a novel compressor being developed by industrial partner Emerson that has an exceptional range of running speeds, enabling the same device to either deliver e.g. 25 kW for instantaneous hot water or 10 kW or less for space heating. This would be used in conjunction with a small buffer store to overcome the delay in start-up before hot water is available.

Present gas fired heat pumps (both commercial and under development at Warwick) are easier to modulate but are physically large if delivering 20 or 30 kW and also have a long start up time (5 minutes). The Warwick goal is to use new composite adsorbent heat exchangers to reduce start up time to one minute, even when meeting a 25 kW load and to reduce key component sizes to achieve a compact system.

Thermal storage is a vital part of DHW provision by heat pumps. A small buffer store may be needed to overcome starting transients, or a large capacity store might be needed to provide a bath-full of water quickly. An intermediate capacity store might work together with a heat pump to meet peak loads. Our research will encompass buffers, compact PCM stores that could be sited in unused spaces such as corners in kitchens and 'flat' stores using vacuum or aerogel insulation that could fit under kitchen cabinets or other available unused spaces.

To bring this all together into a range of integrated systems suited to different housing types etc there needs to be both an understanding of the consumer's needs and preferences plus a smart adaptive control system. In addition to data in the literature we have access to data from detailed monitoring studies previously carried out by Loughborough. Consumer preferences will be investigated by the use of surveys carried out by the User Centred Design Research Group at Loughborough Design School.

Ulster will assume overall responsibility for sensor choice, control hardware and software. They will devise a system controller that adapts to and meets consumer needs in an optimal way. In the long term this will be part of a house-wide wirelessly linked system including 'wet' appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines and 'smart taps' that communicate with the DHW system so that it responds optimally to the size and type of load demanded.

Interdisciplinary centre for storage, transformation and upgrading of thermal energy (i-STUTE)


Duration: 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2018

Staff Involved: Professor NJ Hewitt & Dr M Huang

The UK is committed to a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before 2050. With over 40% of fossil fuels used for low temperature heating and 16% of electricity used for cooling these are key areas that must be addressed. The vision of our interdisciplinary centre is to develop a portfolio of technologies that will deliver heat and cold cost-effectively and with such high efficiency as to enable the target to be met, and to create well planned and robust Business, Infrastructure and Technology Roadmaps to implementation.

Features of our approach to meeting the challenge are:

a) Integration of economic, behavioural, policy and capability/skills factors together with the science/technology research to produce solutions that are technically excellent, compatible with and appealing to business, end-users, manufacturers and installers.

b) Managing our research efforts in Delivery Temperature Work Packages (DTWPs) (freezing/cooling, space heating, process heat) so that exemplar study solutions will be applicable in more than one sector (e.g. Commercial/Residential, Commercial/Industrial).

c) The sub-tasks (projects) of the DTWPs will be assigned to distinct phases: 1st Wave technologies or products will become operational in a 5-10 year timescale, 2nd Wave ideas and concepts for application in the longer term and an important part of the 2050 energy landscape. 1st Wave projects will lead to a demonstration or field trial with an end user and 2nd Wave projects will lead to a proof-of-concept (PoC) assessment.

d) Being market and emission-target driven, research will focus on needs and high volume markets that offer large emission reduction potential to maximise impact. Phase 1 (near term) activities must promise high impact in terms of CO2 emissions reduction and technologies that have short turnaround times/high rates of churn will be prioritised.

e) A major dissemination network that engages with core industry stakeholders, end users, contractors and SMEs in regular workshops and also works towards a Skills Capability Development Programme to identify the new skills needed by the installers and operators of the future. The SIRACH (Sustainable Innovation in Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating)

Network will operate at national and international levels to maximise impact and findings will be included in teaching material aimed at the development of tomorrow's engineering professionals.

f) To allow the balance and timing of projects to evolve as results are delivered/analysed and to maximise overall value for money and impact of the centre only 50% of requested resources are earmarked in advance.

g) Each DTWP will generally involve the complete multidisciplinary team in screening different solutions, then pursuing one or two chosen options to realisation and test.

Our consortium brings together four partners: Warwick, Loughborough, Ulster and London South Bank Universities with proven track records in electric and gas heat pumps, refrigeration technology, heat storage as well as policy / regulation, end-user behaviour and business modelling. Industrial, commercial, NGO and regulatory resources and advice will come from major stakeholders such as DECC, Energy Technologies Institute, National Grid, British Gas, Asda, Co-operative Group, Hewlett Packard, Institute of Refrigeration, Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

An Advisory Board with representatives from industry, government, commerce, and energy providers as well as international representation from centres of excellence in Germany, Italy and Australia will provide guidance. Collaboration (staff/student exchange, sharing of results etc.) with government-funded thermal energy centres in Germany (at Fraunhofer ISE), Italy (PoliMi, Milan) and Australia (CSIRO) clearly demonstrate the international relevance and importance of the topic and will enhance the effectiveness of the international effort to combat climate change.

End use energy demand centres collaborative projects


Duration: 01 August 2016 to 31 May 2018

Staff Involved: Professor NJ Hewitt

The End Use Energy Demand centres are a £30m investment of the RCUK Energy Programme, with over 200 researchers across over 25 institutions running from 2013-2018. In 2015 it was agreed that collaborative work across the six centres on key themes would add extra value to the centres' work. 5 collaborative projects are outlined here, of the type that will run in the remaining funding period (spring '16 - spring '18). The funding is flexible so that the Directors can use it to greatest effect.

1. Analysing SuperMarket Energy Data - will combine the knowledge and skills of three centres CEE, CSEF and i-STUTE to create a clearer picture of supermarket energy use in the UK which can then inform policy and industry on future energy demand decisions.

2. Establishing a research programme on exergy economics - CIED and CIE-Map centre experts will combine to raise awareness and build capacity of this emerging field of research (which focusses on energy that can do work as opposed to all energy expended) with a view to laying foundations for future work in the field.

3. Heat pump and thermal energy storage technologies for industrial energy demand reduction - This project will combine the expertise of three of the centre (CSEF, i-STUTE and CIE-MAP) to consider further the potential contribution of heat pumps, sorption refrigeration and thermal energy storage technologies for energy efficiency and decarbonisation of the industrial sector. The project will also identify future research and development needs for the improvement of the thermoeconomic performance of these technologies.

4. Conceptualising Infrastructures, innovation and demand - DEMAND and CIED are both concerned with innovations in infrastructures and practice, and with the implications of these dynamics for energy and mobility demand. Whilst the two centres approach this topic from different angles, current research - for instance, on city scale innovation, on pathways to district and home heating, on novel nstitutional/ infrastructural conjunctions (e.g. around electric vehicles), and on peaks and patterns of demand - is generating a series of important cross-cutting questions to do with space, time and scale.

5. Invisible energy policy: new opportunities for intervention - Many different areas of government policy - health, education, defence, welfare and economic policy to name but a few, have tangible consequences for energy demand and for patterns of mobility. DEMAND and CIE-MAP will combine forces to help articulate and identify critical areas of what we describe as 'invisible' energy policy.

Combined heat system by using solar energy and heat pumps CHESS-SETUP

Funder: H2020

Duration: 01 July 2016 – 30 June 2019

Staff Involved: Professor NJ Hewitt & Dr M Huang

The project objective is to design, implement and promote a reliable, efficient and profitable system able to supply heating and hot water in buildings mainly from renewable sources. The proposed system is based in the optimal combination of solar thermal (ST) energy production, seasonal heat storage and high efficient heat pump use. Heat pumps will be improved technically in order to obtain the best performance in the special conditions of the CHESS-SETUP system. The used solar panels will be hybrid photovoltaic and solar thermal (PV-ST) panels, which is a promising solution for also producing the electricity consumed by the heat and water pumps of the heating system and part of the electricity consumed in the building. Hybrid solar panels are a key element to achieving energy self-sufficiency in buildings, especially in dense urban areas where the roof availability is one of the most limiting factors.

Also will be considered the integration of other energy sources as biomass or heat waste, to make the system suitable for any climate conditions. The project will also explore the possibility to integrate the system with other electricity or cooling technologies (solar cooling, cogeneration). The system operation will be optimized according to some external factors, as electricity price or user requirements by using a smart control and management systems developed specifically for the project.

Senergy demonstrator

Funder: Invest NI

Duration: 15 October 2016 – 31 August 2018

Staff Involved: Dr Aggelos Zacharopoulos, Dr Jayanta Mondol and Dr Mervyn Smyth

The Senergy solar thermal collector is a low cost polymer system with incorporated Carbon Nano-Tubes (CNTs) for improved thermal performance and mechanical strength. The project aims to demonstrate the Senergy technology as an innovative and cost-effective solution for building integration which can provide a high share of heating supplied from solar energy. Through long term performance evaluation in realistic conditions and detailed techno-economic analysis of a Senergy collector array the project will advance the technology to near commercialisation (TRL 7) to form a low-risk investment proposition

EENSULATE - Development of innovative lightweight and highly insulating energy efficient components and associated enabling materials for cost-effective retrofitting and new construction of curtain wall facades.

Funder: EU, Horizon 2020

Duration: 01 August 2016 to 31 January 2020

Staff Involved: Dr T Hyde and Dr J Zhang

Eensulate will aim to develop an affordable, highly insulating and lightweight solution for transparent envelopes to bring existing curtain wall buildings to “nearly zero energy” standards, thereby reducing energy bills while complying with the structural limits of the original building and national building codes.

The key components of the system will include an innovative vacuum insulating glazing (VIG) with novel edge sealing and getter technology, a multifunctional thermotunable coating to allow for dynamic control of solar gain a smart mono-component and environmentally friendly spray foam for the opaque components of the insulating façade system.

The Centre for Sustainable Technologies will work with key industry partners and universities on the development and evaluation of a lightweight and thin vacuum insulating glazing to provide superior insulation for the transparent component of the curtain wall. This will be achieved through an innovative low temperature fabrication process which is compatible with the use of tempered glass and high performance low emissivity coatings.

The project output will be a range of insulating solutions based around a VIG with two levels of performance – a basic module which has enhanced thermal and acoustic performance and a premium system which incorporates novel thermochromic coatings with self-cleaning and anti-fogging functionality. The systems will be evaluated as a full scale spandrel component in the retrofit of demonstration buildings and the limited thickness of the system will be exploited in innovative solutions for the fenestration of historical buildings.

Storage Platform for the Integration of Renewable Energy (SPIRE 2)


Duration: 01 March 2017 – 31 December 2021

Staff Involved: Prof N Hewitt, Prof P Griffiths, Dr Y Huang, Dr M Huang, Dr C Brandoni, Dr A Zacharopoulos, Mr D McLarnon, Dr P Keatley, Mr S Devlin

The project will focus on how the wide-scale deployment of mass energy storage can allow very high levels of renewable energy to be integrated into power grids globally. Variable renewable energy resources (e.g. wind and wave) cannot be controlled, and require measures such as energy storage to integrate them into existing power grids. Energy can be stored in bulk using large-scale storage, or at smaller scales using mass energy storage devices, owned and operated by domestic and business consumers. Ireland, NI and Scotland have among the best wind, wave and tidal resources in the world and are regarded globally as a test bed for the deployment of services and technologies to manage very high levels of variable renewable energy.

Energy Storage and Demand-Side Flexibility within Future Electricity Markets

Funder: SFI-DfE

Duration: 01 March 2017 – 28February 2021

Staff Involved: Prof N Hewitt, Dr Y Huang

There is major energy revolution being led by Ireland in that new electricity market structures must accommodate increased electrification of the heat and transport sectors and increased renewable energy penetration. The revolution will realise new opportunities for cost effective energy storage and smart grid controls at all scales. These revolutions, coupled with increased consumer participation and awareness, will lead to a new paradigm in energy system analysis that must also account for energy security, stability and reliability. Ireland is the showcase of this approach with high rates of wind penetration, and future aspirations approaching 42.5% renewable generation, of which the majority will be wind. Ireland’s 2020 target and subsequent 2030 and 2050 aspirations will lead to electricity network stability challenges and energy availability issues in excess of many other countries and will therefore demonstrate impacts and solutions ahead of such requirements.

The Irish power system is already being impacted by system stability concerns, leading to wind turbines being turned off (curtailment), unfavourable electricity trading with our connected neighbours and other measures, while only being approximately halfway towards its 2020 target. For 2030 and 2050 scenarios, with potentially increased interconnection, offshore (wind, wave and tidal) arrays, PV installations, etc. periods of high and very high renewable energy penetration will become increasingly common. Recent road maps for Ireland to 2050 illustrate that onshore wind installed capacity could increase to 15 GW, with 30 GW of offshore wind. Decarbonisation of domestic space heating is also deemed to be part of a least cost option for 2050 decarbonisation targets: electrification of space heating may avail of renewable energy, but will be rivalled by the electrification of personal transport.

Thus the questions to be answered are how high can the instantaneous wind penetration be pushed, without compromising security and stability of supply? Furthermore, how will system stability impacts affect investments decisions and market structures? Large-scale / distributed energy storage, demand-side response, generation technology advances, smart grid strategies, and other measures, are likely to form an integral part of that solution. The impacts of this research include policy guidance for 2020, 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets and aspirations, operational strategies for economically maintaining system security & stability, viable business cases for new & existing market participants, and ultimately signposting necessary directions for a sustainable, efficient, secure and reliable electricity network that meets all end-user needs.