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UK and India jointly fund renewable energy R&D projects

27 Mar 2014

UK universities, Indian research center and Tata Steel aim "to revolutionize" solar energy collection and storage techniques.

Researchers from the University of Surrey, UK, have been awarded funding “of the order of hundreds of thousands of pounds” by the UK and Indian governments to support two photonics-based R&D projects which will explore how nanotechnology can benefit the future of renewable energy – both in its generation and storage.

Awarded to researchers from the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surrey through the UK-India Education and Research Initiative, both programs, which commenced in the first quarter of 2014, will involve close collaboration between universities in the UK and India over the coming two years, as well as with Tata Steel Research and Development UK.

Project 1 – Solar energy

The first project will bring together researchers from the University of Surrey and the University of Hyderabad, India, with collaborators from Tata Steel Research and Development UK to investigate how to better capture and store solar energy with an approach known as “inorganics-in-organics”, in which composite materials work together to increase efficiency. Tata Steel will provide its fuel cell expertise, partnering research with industry to provide technologies for improved energy generation and storage.

Project 2 – ZnO gas sensors

The second project will examine the use of zinc oxide nanomaterials in ultra-high sensitivity gas sensors. These gas sensors can be used in environmental monitoring devices to deliver improved sensitivity and increased energy efficiency. They can also be used in breathalyzers, and even for sensing potentially explosive gas leaks in places such as hydrogen storage facilities.

This project will combine academics from the University of Surrey, Queen’s University, Belfast, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. Leading both projects is Surrey’s Professor Ravi Silva, from the Advanced Technology Institute, who said: “Nanotechnology projects such as these offer direct solutions to meet key challenges that the energy sector faces. Supported by both countries’ governments and the multinational Tata, our expert teams from India and the UK will impact the future of renewable energy on a global scale through the development of new technologies. Working with cutting-edge nanomaterials such as ZnO, graphene and carbon nanotubes, we can revolutionize energy storage and capture.”

”Our ultimate aim is to develop novel technologies and product designs that could be licensed to manufacturers in both countries and elsewhere. Our great assets are the technical R&D resources in both countries as well as within our commercial partner.”

Dr Debashish Bhattercharjee, Group Director (R&D) at Tata Steel said: “I am pleased Tata Steel is partnering with global research leaders at the University of Surrey and India on these UKIERI projects which are won on a highly competitive basis in both countries. Solar energy and functional coatings are part of our research strategy and will form an important component of global business in the next decade.”

Professor Vince Emery, Pro-Vice Chancellor International Affairs from the University of Surrey said: “Projects such as these clearly illustrate the global nature of research without boundaries. The University of Surrey has very talented researchers who contribute significantly to world-class research and the most pressing challenges faced by the world today, including cheap renewable energy. The close collaboration between academics and industry is key in achieving visionary goals such as those outlined in these projects.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is contributing editor tooptics.org.

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