CHEMISTS from a Northern Ireland university have been awarded £3m to create new methods of sustainable energy and to develop technology that will lower the cost of power.
A team from Queen’s University’s school of chemistry and chemical engineering in Belfast will also work on transforming fossil fuel resources more efficiently and improving energy storage.
The funding was announced by David Willetts, minister for universities and science, as part of a UK-wide investment of £12.9m by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to create a ‘catalysis hub’ that will focus on supporting economic growth while helping reduce CO2 emissions, produce cleaner water and generating more sustainable energy.
Manufacturers use a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions and make production possible on commercial and useful timescales.
The university’s Professor Christopher Hardacre said: “This funding is tremendously important as the world urgently needs to develop greater sustainability and efficiency in energy use. Queen’s will focus on converting renewable sources such as solar and biomass into chemical and electrochemical energy for use in power generation, for example, fuel cells for cars and mobile phones to domestic and commercial combined heat and power systems.
“By studying the over-all processes involved we will be able to see how making changes to them can improve efficiency and develop systems for clean, reliable energy.”
Queen’s already partners some of the world’s leading industrial giants, including the Malaysian petro-chemical company Petronas, which chose the university as the base for its only Europe-based university research laboratory.
David Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC, said: “The UK has some outstanding researchers in the field of catalysis, and it is a vital field for UK industry with a major role to play in the creation of new or improved processes. That is why EPSRC is strategically investing in this Catalysis Hub.
“Building on our previous initiatives, it will draw academics and institutions together to further enable cross-disciplinary research, and create a critical mass of activity which will enhance the international standing of the UK catalysis community and help it address the major challenges faced in the physical sciences, energy, manufacturing and health care themes.”