Centre for Sustainable Engineering

Research Themes: Sustainable Energy

Energy Harvesting

A textile-based wearable piezoelectric energy harvester (nanogenerator) is produced by growing ZnO nanorods onto conductive e-textiles using low-temperature chemical solution deposition. The devices are completed by coating the nanorods with PEDOT:PSS. When the textile is bent or pressed it produces a voltage output, which is stable of 1000s of cycles, and can power up an LCD display.

Schematic of energy harvester based on ZnO nanorods

Textile based energy harvester

Schematic of textile-based ZnO nanogenerator produced on a textile above the SEM image,  to form a wearable energy harvester with potential applications for the Internet of Things.

Testing of a ‘hybrid energy harvester’ which can simultaneously or separately harvest mechanical energy (using piezoelectric nanostructures) and solar energy (using light absorber materials).

Image of energy harvester

Energy Storage

We develop alternative solutions to state-of-the-art materials that can offer more sustainability while also enhancing the electrochemical properties and stability. We currently have active projects developing freestanding electrodes for redox flow batteries prepared from biomass-waste and new anode materials for Na-ion batteries

electrospun fibres

SEM and EDAX maps of potential battery materials.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to reveal information from nano-scale electron microscope imaging of batteries . The AI methods can rapidly scan micrographs (left) and generate maps of the materials (right), showing areas of different atomic-scale structure. Understanding these structural domains and relating them to battery stability and performance means that we can design better batteries from the atomic scale up.

Sustainable battery chemistries ‘beyond Li-ion’, relying on more abundant and non-geopolitically compromised elements to ensure both sustainability and performance targets are met. Diversification of energy storage technologies is the only solution to face the electrification of our societies without depleting natural resources or social ecosystems.

Schematic of a more sustainable battery

Energy Conversion

Multiscale approaches are used to investigate cleaner and more efficient thermal energy conversion, ranging from chemical reactions at atomic levels to large scale flow and combustion applications in energy conversion systems. At the atomic/molecular level, fundamental studies are performed to understand the mechanisms of pollutant formation. At the device level, engine combustion monitoring, modelling and simulation are carried out to ensure efficient energy conversion and sustainable fuel utilisation.

Ammonia enhanced cleaner energy conversion

Image of nano-porous carbons

We develop new methods to recover renewable energies. This includes alternative / renewable fuels (using waste materials and production of biofuels from micro-algal suspensions) and recovery of deep geothermal energy. We also work on the design of nano-porous carbons  to develop smart electrodes for electrochemical devices.

Alternative Fuels

We aim to address the fundamental challenges in utilising renewable alternative fuels such as synthetic fuels that may be produced from a range of waste feedstocks (thereby avoiding the use of fossil fuels) or produced as an electrofuel, to maximise the benefits of their utilisation. Alternative fuels research also includes activities on ammonia and hydrogen as well as biofuels, to address the challenges of their utilisation in practical combustion systems. The study follows a combined modelling / simulation – experimentation approach, providing database / mapping to guide their utilisation.

Schematic of liquid synthetic fuels

Schematic of pyrolosis showing the burnt and unburnt elements

Planar laser-induced fluorescence of vapours from pyrolysing biomass, during operando experiments, shows pathways of formation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the close proximity of the pyrolysing bed. To understanding the pathways of formation of PAH through reactions in the heterogeneous (solid-vapour-gas) and homogeneous (vapour-vapour) phases during the decomposition of solid biofuels is set to break through existing knowledge gaps in the formation of bio-oils and unlock potential in the synthesis of sustainable precursors f or biofuels and green chemical applications