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Renewable Energy Technologies and Materials

With over half of all energy consumption and carbon emissions occurring within building envelopes, our research interests are focused on the development and improvements of the means for providing low carbon and renewable energy for electricity, heating and air conditioning.

Over half of all energy consumed occurs within the building envelopes and the majority of carbon emissions can be attributed to such energy usage. Our research interests are focused on the development and improvements of the means for providing low carbon and renewable energy for electricity, heating and air conditioning.

Photovoltaics: Northumbria has been involved in the research and development of photovoltaics (PV) for more than 20 years. Our main research themes are the development of new solar cells using compound semiconductors formed from abundant and sustainable elements; the use of nanostructures to replace or improve existing technologies; the assessment of PV system performance and improvements in system design and operation; the integration of PV systems into the electricity network; environmental impact assessment of the manufacture and use of PV systems.

We have dedicated laboratories for the fabrication and characterisation of PV devices including physical vapour deposition system using sputtering thermal and electron beam evaporation, well-equipped wet laboratories, a material characterisation suite for X-ray, ion and electron beam investigations, and state-of-the-art solar simulators and spectroscopy techniques.

Wind Energy: We focus on condition monitoring, fault diagnosis, controllers and power electronics interface converters. Performance analysis of conventional and emerging topologies for grid connected wind power applications based on brushless doubly-fed reluctance machines.

Smart grid control and optimisation technologies; integration of renewables and electric vehicles into the electricity power grid; performance and system analysis of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles applications; smart sensors and controllers for dynamic energy management.

Phase Change Material Thermal Storage of Renewable Energy and Waste Heat: Enhancement of heat transfer in thermal storage systems using Phase Change Materials (PCM) is the focus of these activities. PCMs for low- and medium-temperature range being investigated including paraffin, fatty acids and their blends, hydrate salts and low melting temperature metallic alloys. The first two groups of PCMs have low thermal conductivity and various additives are being considered to improve this property. Morphology of composite nano-structures and their thermophysical properties are studded experimentally to evaluate their potential for thermal storage applications.

Renewable Energy driven micro and small multi-generation systems for Power, Heat and Cooling generation: These systems are driven by solar and/or biomass energy and being developed on the basis of Organic Rankine, Stirling and Closed Brayton cycle technologies. 

Heating and Buildings: We study advanced methods for ground-source heating, prediction of future weather data for building simulation and fossil fuel micro-combined heat and power systems. This is supported by specialist laboratories with equipment that includes a range of novel ground source heat exchangers, electric and directly-fired ground-source heat pumps, air-source heat pumps, a mobile laboratory for mean ground property measurement.  

In general our research methods involve both computer simulations of real-world problems and practical laboratory testing/field works.

Our research is funded by the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), The Royal Society, British Council, overseas funding agencies, Innovate UK and the European Union. We work with collaborators across a range of UK and international universities as well as industrial partners.

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Research relationships

This group is a part of the University’s multi-disciplinary research into the theme of Energy Futures.

Research from this group has been submitted to REF2021 under UoA 12: Engineering.

To view research papers emanating from this group, please visit Northumbria Research Link, our open access repository of research output from Northumbria University. Click here to view pages for research from Mechanical and Construction Engineering and for Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering.

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