UCL Innovation and Enterprise


UCL PhD student awarded £80k Fellowship for ground-breaking solar research

1 November 2013

UCL PhD student Patrick Cottam has been awarded an Industrial Fellowship by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, worth £80,000.

Patrick and David Willetts

Patrick is working with Lindstrand Technologies to research methods for developing a fabric chimney up to 1000m tall, which could greatly reduce the cost of solar power generation.

Following summer work with Lindstrand Technologies whilst studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Warwick, Patrick’s Industrial Fellowship at UCL involves the development of the suspended chimney—a novel chimney built from structural fabrics and held aloft with envelopes of lighter-than-air gas. The suspended chimney will allow rapid deployment of tall slender chimney structures and as such has multiple applications, of which one is the solar thermal chimney power plant.

Only eight Industrial Fellowships are awarded each year, providing young scientists and engineers with the means to develop an innovative commercial technology with the potential to secure a patent.

First established by Prince Albert to stage the Great Exhibition of 1851 in the eponymous Crystal Palace, the Royal Commission now awards a number of fellowships and grants to support industrial education. The Industrial Fellowships form a crucial part of this work, with the specific aim of encouraging profitable innovation in British industry.

 “Developing tall chimney structures is a technical unknown so it can be difficult to secure funding to trial this type of technology,” said Patrick. “The 1851 Industrial Fellowship is a perfect fit for my research because it focuses on developing a commercial product, which has the potential to be patented, while also giving me the chance to gain an Engineering Doctorate.

“I plan to use the Fellowship to build two prototype chimneys over the course of the next year to test how my theory works in practice,” he added. “It is a fantastic opportunity to combine the expertise of both Lindstrand Technologies and UCL, to develop something really innovative.”

A second PhD student, Julian Hodgson, has also been awarded an Industrial Fellowship for his work with Passion Pictures to develop artist-friendly tools for fluid simulation in visual animation.

"The Government is committed to ensuring that the UK is the best place in the world to do science. To achieve this we must support the development of scientific ideas into commercially viable and profitable technologies,” added the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science. “These in turn drive the economy and keep the UK ahead in the global race.”