Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST)

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Further Details ofessor Neil J Hewitt Director, Centre for Sustainable Technologies University of Ulster Newtownabbey Co Antrim BT37 0QB Northern Ireland United Kingdom Tel: 0044 (0) 28 903 68566 Fax: 0044 (0) 28 903 68239 Email nj.hewitt@ulster.ac.uk

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University of Ulster – Centre for Sustainable Technologies – Energy Research

The Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) at the University of Ulster primary research interests lie in energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy system modelling.  These activities are carried out by 8 academic staff, 7 research staff, 16 PhD students and 2 technical support staff.  CST regularly published over 20 peer-reviewed journal papers per year and attracts international and national research funding in excess of £1M per year.  Recent noteworthy awards include that from the Irish Government of £2.4M in the guise of the Charles Parsons Energy Research Award (2007-2013) and the Department of Education and Leaning award of £1.54M (2008-2011) for developing concepts in Energy Storage.  The latter award will see the appointment of 4 further academic staff, 6 research staff and 2 PhD students to this challenging area which is intended to complement the potential all-Ireland wind-led electricity generation market.

Energy System modelling utilises Ulster’s in-house developed “ECLIPSE” process simulator producing mass-energy balances derived from datasets of system derived from over 10 years of simulation of major EU and UK low/zero emission (ZEP) electricity generation concepts.  This is used as a basis for techno-economic assessment of energy systems with significant expertise developed in assessing carbon capture related technologies as an example of recent success.  Significant research effort is also dedicated to energy in the built environment.  Solar thermal concentrator development is augmented by a 2m x 1.5m indoor solar simulator and a complementary external test area.  New concepts in low cost solar thermal collection and storage are currently under test.  Heating themes are continued with advanced air source heat pump developments utilising economised vapour injection and combined compressor/expansion turbine based systems, capable of challenging fossil fuel boilers for space heating in retrofit applications.  In maintaining thermal comfort, a novel concept in evacuated glazing has been developed and is being trialled.  Thermal comfort is a key element of evaluating the socio-economic performance of these systems.  Further studies evaluate the overall sustainability and social aspects of human interactions with energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions. 

    With regard to community energy systems, these are dominated by biomass, particularly wood based systems for combustion, gasification, and bio-oil enhancements.  Gasification is represented by three downdraft systems with associated fuel preparation and analysis facilities.  Bio-oil systems utilising jatropha are being enhanced with subsequent global deployment opportunities.

Ulster is developing significant energy storage infrastructure utilising for example phase change materials for active energy storage from solar thermal, heat pumps etc and passive systems in wall board for thermal comfort.  This activity is strongly supported by new investment in staff and facilities and is broadening into impacts on planning in the built environment, impacts on the potential wind-led all-Ireland agenda as well as technology developments. Technology development is carried out in Ulster’s £1.6M ENERF laboratory complex with its subsequent equipment investments of over £1.6M supported by the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF). The ENERF building consists of nine laboratory spaces, the largest being the climate controlled general laboratory containing the phase change material/chilled beam ceiling/human comfort controlled environment test room, the large scale computer controlled glazing test facility and the solar simulator.  The advanced glazing laboratory is a climate controlled clean room environment necessary for successful fabrication of advanced vacuum glazing. New downdraft biomass gasification systems are accommodated while heaEN14511 standard.