Cutting a country’s carbon emissions by 80% is no small task; it requires a revolution in the way we live our lives, from our transport and national grid to the products we buy and our homes. At the University of Birmingham these are exactly the problems our research is tackling. The energy research at University of Birmingham is driven by recognised centres of excellence in Energy Storage, Nuclear Energy, Fuel Cells and their Fuels, Railway and Automotive Systems and Energy Policy and Economics that are pushing the boundary in innovation to answer the difficult questions. The energy research activity at Birmingham is not limited to these focused areas; we are also contributing to important research in the fields of bio energy, wind energy, materials science and using oil and gas in the safest and most efficient ways. A focus on sustainability and environmental impact runs through all of our programmes.
Energy Storage – We are working to develop new approaches to energy storage which could provide technological solutions to the intermittency of renewable sources such as wind. We are helping develop cryogenic energy storage, where electricity is used to liquefy nitrogen gas (essentially air) – this is where energy is stored. The energy is then released by allowing the liquid nitrogen to boil and turn into gas, expanding dramatically. This expansion may be used to drive a turbine, thus generating electricity.
Nuclear – The University of Birmingham has a long and established track record in working in areas of de-commissioning, health monitoring and residual life prediction of existing nuclear power stations, dating back to the first phase of nuclear construction. Our work has been fundamental to the country’s retention of its nuclear industry and we have led the education of nuclear engineers and scientists.Our research has ensured that nuclear power is used peacefully and safely: we are making significant contributions in the extension of the lifetime of reactor materials and in the study of the effects of radiation damage to nuclear materials.
Fuel Cells and Hydrogen – The Birmingham Energy Institute hosts the only UK centre looking at all aspects of how hydrogen can be harnessed to create a greener future. From hydrogen-fuelled cars to planes, ships and trains, we are working to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources. The internationally acclaimed centre is also working on the design and production of fuel cell equipment for various mobile and portable applications – replacing batteries. From basic research on fuel cells to more complex work on the integration of green energy systems into existing transport vehicles, we are road testing the sustainable production, storage and commercial application of hydrogen and other green energy sources.
Transport Systems – As a world-leading centre for railway research and education, many of the vital requirements contained in the latest UK Rail Technical Strategy are being carried out in our laboratories. Our approach looks at railways as whole systems, examining how each part affects every other. Our strengths in such areas as condition monitoring, traffic management, control systems, power and energy, data integration, climate effects and aerodynamics let us make the links between the detail and the big picture. Our close relationships with the rail industry mean that our research and teaching draws in real-world situations.
Energy Economics – This unique research area examines the complex relationship between economic activity and the environment. A key focal point is the environmental behaviour of firms, patterns of which continue to differ widely across firms, even when those firms reside within the same industry and country. Seeking to address the challenges of environmental degradation we are developing new, deeper understanding of the causes of such cross-firm variation in environmental management practices, emissions, energy efficiency and other aspects of environmental behaviour.