Nemesis project to explore energy harvesting
The University of Bath has received £2.27m to create a new world-leading centre for energy harvesting and generation.
The Centre aims to create new piezoelectric and ferroelectric energy harvesting systems capable of converting mechanical vibrations into electrical energy, thermal fluctuations into electrical energy, sunlight into chemical and electrical energy, and vibrations into chemical energy.
Having a focus centre on energy harvesting can boost developments in clean tech, power systems and chip design, all of which are strong in the region.
“Setting up a world-leading research centre here in the UK will put us at the forefront of this increasingly important field of work,” said head of the new centre, Professor Chris Bowen. ” The new Centre brings together experts in from different disciplines, including materials, physics, chemistry and electrical engineering, offering an ideal environment in which to develop new and innovative solutions to generating and harvesting energy.”
One work stream in the Centre will look at novel materials that are capable of harvesting the vibrations of machines or vehicles and converting the energy into electricity. This electricity can then be used to power devices within a vehicle or machine, including damage sensors or consumer electronics.
Another stream aims to develop new methods for water splitting – separating water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process of splitting water to create clean-burning hydrogen fuel has long been the Holy Grail for clean energy advocates.
“As we continually strive to create safer and more efficient machines and vehicles, the need to power sensors that can safely sit in potentially very hot and hostile environments near the engine, where batteries would be unsafe or impractical, has increased,” said Bowen. “Clean energies are also a high priority for modern society, and through our research we aim to create nano-structured ferroelectric and piezoelectric materials that can be used to split water, creating clean, environmentally-friendly hydrogen fuel.”
“This is an increasingly important area of research and Professor Bowen’s unique expertise in piezoelectric and ferroelectric material, along with the University of Bath’s track-record of high impact materials research, has been recognised by the ERC in their decision to fund this Centre,” said Professor Jane Millar, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research.
The Centre will fund visiting researchers at the University, and interaction with other leading academics working in ferroelectrics and energy harvesting such as Prof. John Wang of NUS, Singapore and Prof. Vitaly Topolov of Rostov State University.
The Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter today announced a formal collaboration, to boost research expertise and capability in the South West of England and Wales.
The collaboration will explore and identify opportunities for combined research to address global challenges, while also maximising the impact of and return on investment from research funding.
The group of four research intensive universities, each of which have significant research capabilities and which represent a total turnover in excess of £1,300 million, will be known as the GW4. There are already strong partnerships across the four institutions and the collaboration seeks to build on these.
Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “Regional groupings of research intensive universities are a rapidly emerging and important evolution, enabling the sharing of research infrastructure and the identification of thematic areas of expertise. These will be increasingly important in order for universities to address grand intellectual and societal challenges.”
Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath, said: “The collective strength of the new grouping is much more than the sum of its individual parts. Taken together, the breadth and depth of our research expertise is truly impressive providing a powerful new contender in the increasingly intense competition for research funding on both the national and international level.”
Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, said: “We want to enhance Cardiff’s world-leading research and reputation by creating a critical mass of research excellence with other UK universities. In a competitive higher education sector we need to find new ways for Wales to compete for research income.
“Working in collaboration with fellow research-intensive Universities will help us to succeed in research and tackle some of society’s biggest research challenges. Critical mass is the key to success and the combined research excellence of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter will give Cardiff – and Wales – a new and competitive edge that will place us at the forefront not only in the UK, but internationally.”
Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “This is a vital development for ensuring the growth and development of world class research in the South West and Wales. It gives us the critical mass and the quality to succeed in an increasingly competitive and research-intensive environment. The four universities already have a strong tradition of working together and GW4 will take that collaboration to a new level.”
The University of Bath is part of a £5 million collaborative solar panel research project to promote the latest research into harnessing the sun’s energy to produce electricity. The SUPERSOLAR hub brings together expertise from universities across the UK and the solar panel industry to share knowledge, establish a research network and train the next generation of scientists in the field.
The consortium, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is unique because it brings together all aspects of photovoltaic (PV) energy generation, from research into new materials for solar panels, to the socio-economic aspects of using the sun as a source of electricity.
The Bath effort is led by Professor Alison Walker from the Department of Physics, and Professor Mike Hill and Dr Aron Walsh from the Department of Chemistry. The hub will draw together PV energy generation research from across the University, from the Departments of Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Electronic & Electrical Engineering, and Architecture & Civil Engineering.
The Bath project coordinator Professor Walker researches excitonic solar cells – devices that produce electricity from the sun’s energy through the creation of an “exciton” (or electron-hole pair). These cells are transparent and flexible and could be used on roofs, in windows or in portable applications for example in places where grid electricity is not available or is intermittent and expensive.
“Bath is a major centre for renewable energies research and has long been known for its research into photovoltaics, but this project really puts us on the map,” said Prof Walker. “The SUPERSOLAR hub brings together academics across several faculties at the University, including chemists investigating using transparent conductive oxides as contacts for all types of solar cell, engineers developing coatings that make solar cells more efficient, and researchers from Architecture looking at new ways of incorporating solar cells into buildings.
The hub, led by the University of Loughborough, also includes the Universities of Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton, along with the Energy Generation and Supply Knowledge Transfer Network.
Professor David Delpy, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said: “The SUPERSOLAR research hub will bring together the UK solar energy research community to address the key research challenges facing the development of the next generation of solar technologies. Scientific research into all forms of low carbon energy generation is essential if we are to reduce carbon emissions and avert dangerous climate change.”