Picture of the Week

LUX dark matter detector

Detecting dark matter

The kind of matter and energy we can see and touch – whether it is in the form of atoms and molecules, or heat and light, only forms a tiny proportion of the content of the Universe, only about 5%. Over a quarter is dark matter, which is totally invisible but whose gravitational attraction can be detected; while over two thirds is dark energy, a force that pushes the Universe to expand ever faster.

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Green energy

29 July 2013

Batteries being tested in UCL Chemistry. Photo credit: O. Usher (UCL MAPS)

As the UK gradually moves away from fossil fuels, new challenges are arising in electricity generation and distribution. While coal, gas and oil power stations produce climate-changing CO2, they have one great advantage in that they are very flexible. Power stations can be fired up or shut down at short notice, reacting quickly to electricity demand.

Low-carbon forms of energy tend to be less flexible.

Sun, wind and tide power do not provide a constant, reliable supply, while nuclear power stations must remain on all the time and cannot react to spikes in demand. If electricity supply is to remain reliable as the proportion of no-carbon generation rises, we will need ways to store power in large quantities to smooth out the supply.

UCL, along with partner institutions, has been granted a large grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to investigate novel ways of storing power. The UCL component, shared between UCL Chemistry and UCL Chemical Engineering focuses on battery technologies.

The device pictured above is a testing rig for small scale button cell batteries, carrying out an experiment in UCL Chemistry. Characterising small batteries like these is one step along the path to designing better energy storage technology on larger scales.

Photo credit: O. Usher (UCL MAPS) 


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