Mathematical & Physical Sciences


UCL awarded multimillion pound grant for green energy technologies

25 July 2013

UCL, along with partner institutions, has just been awarded a multimillion pound research grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Split between researchers in the faculties of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering Sciences, the project covers grid-scale energy storage.

The grant, along with a similar one to the Engineering Sciences faculty covering robotic teleoperation, is part of EPSRC’s strategy to drive growth through technological and scientific innovation, and in line with the ‘eight great technologies’ outlined by the Minister for Universities and Science. The winning bids were selected to extend existing capabilities, support cutting-edge science and foster collaboration between universities and industry.

This vast cross-institutional project aims to develop a distributed national Centre for Grid Scale Storage, to develop new generations of energy storage technologies. It brings together 29 researchers at eight institutions. UCL’s element of the project, which spans the departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, totals £2.9 million in funding.

A researcher handles a battery inside a glovebox. Photo: O. Usher (UCL MAPS)
A researcher in UCL Chemical Engineering inspects a battery inside a sealed compartment
Photo credit: O. Usher (UCL MAPS)

The UK is moving towards a low carbon energy sector. By 2020, 35-40% of electricity is expected to come from no-carbon sources; by 2030 the electricity sector should be largely emission free. But many environmentally friendly generation technologies cannot provide reliable generation all the time – the sun can stop shining, winds can cease, tides are by nature periodic. On top of this, nuclear generation must remain switched on all the time – it cannot be switched on and off to fill the gaps in renewable energy production.

Developing technologies which can efficiently store energy to smooth out the supply is therefore a pressing concern.

The grid-scale storage project will look at a range of technologies, aiming both to incrementally improve existing storage technologies (such as batteries and capacitors), as well as to make more radical innovations that will transform the way energy is stored and used, such as novel flow batteries and hybrid storage devices.

UCL’s element of the project will contribute primarily to the consortium’s work on battery storage technologies.

The group will build on previous work on the Energy Storage for Low Carbon Grid project, which brought together UCL and Imperial, and around £16 million in grants awarded in related areas to UCL’s three members of the consortium.

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Oli Usher
UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
020 7679 7964