C2I 2020: Energy & Environment shortlist

Shortlisted finalists for the energy & environment category spanned innovations in areas ranging from domestic heating to nuclear waste treatment.

C2I 2020
Category: Energy & Environment

Project: In-process Liquid Sampling Device

Partners: Advanced Sampling Process Instruments (ASPI) Ltd with Glasgow Caledonian University

This five-year project has led to the development of technology for automating a key process within wastewater treatment plants that use bacteria to break down contaminants.

The device, which is currently undergoing trials at a number of locations, can be used to automate both settlement analysis and bacterial activity analysis, two processes that are key to optimising the energy efficiency of treatment plants but which are currently performed using time consuming manual techniques.

Whilst there have been previous efforts to automate these tests, these have proven to be both expensive and unreliable. According to its developers the In-process Liquid Sampler (ILS) resolves these problems with an elegant system that enables plant operators to collect near continuous data.

The system’s self-contained design – which consists of a chamber for collecting the sample, and an additional chamber housing all of the associated electronics – was finessed through a deep collaboration between ASPI and its academic partner, Glasgow Caledonian University initially through student projects that helped to develop a prototype system and more recently by working together to obtain funding to expand the team and take the project forward.

Following the completion of field trials, the group hopes to take the device into mass production.

C2I 2020
Category: Energy & Environment

Highly Commended
Project : A Novel Thermoelectric Heat Pump/Heat Recovery System (EcoPump)

Partners: University of Nottingham with EPS Ltd, P.A.K Engineering Ltd, Thermo Electric Devices LtdGaoke Applied Science Research Institute Co. Ltd, China (GASRI) and Southeast University, China (SEU)

Involving partners in both the UK and China this project has led to the development of  a highly innovative window-mounted thermoelectric heat pump/ heat recovery device for building applications.

Dubbed EcoPump, the technology incorporates a compact window heat recovery unit (WHR) with a thermoelectric (TEC) heat pump and high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters for removal of pollutants such as PM 2.5.

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The device, which can be retrofitted into the window frames of a building, is claimed to offer optimal ventilation and thermal comfort with minimal heat loss or noise pollution. The team claims that it could help significantly reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions, and running costs in buildings.

To date, the team has developed and manufactured pre-commercial EcoPump units for residential buildings in the UK and China and several laboratory and field trial experiments have been carried out to evaluate the performance of the technology.

The key innovation lies in the way in which heat pipes/heat exchangers, a thermoelectric heat pump and a high-efficiency particle air filter have been combined into a single product. According to the team, this compact arrangement makes it easy to integrate the technology into new or existing buildings.

C2I 2020
Category: Energy & Environment

Project: Alpha Sort and Segregation Active Demonstrator 

Partners: James Fisher Nuclear with Sellafield Ltd and CNSL Ltd.

Dealing with the legacy nuclear waste at the UK’s Sellafield site represents a major logistical and technical challenge.

With more than 650 legacy waste crates containing a mix of waste items currently stored on the Sellafield site, the characterisation, Post Operational Clean Out, surveillance & maintenance, decommissioning and disposal of these items presents a number of significant challenges.

The Alpha Sort And Segregation (αSAS) project was set up to explore these challenges and  deliver pragmatic and robust solutions.

The overarching goal of the project was to improve on best practice in implementing the waste management hierarchy by more accurately differentiating Low Level Waste (LLW) and Plutonium Contaminate Material (PCM), which typically costs up to 15 times more than LLW to store and treat.

Through the project, the collaborative team of supply chain and nuclear site owners has trialled new sentencing methods for waste segregation with the aim of showing that segregation of a high percentage of Low Level Waste can be achieved from legacy PCM (Plutonium Contaminated Material) Wastes; for safer and cheaper disposal.

The project was described by the C2I  judging panel as an important initiative that should help save costs and reduce risks in a key energy sector.

C2I 2020
Category: Energy & Environment

Project: Gravitricity’s Demonstrator Energy Storage System
Partners: Gravitricity with Huisman Equipment

Edinburgh startup Gravitricity, has developed an elegantly simple gravity-based energy storage concept based on the use of large weights that it hopes to use to turn abandoned mines into giant underground energy stores.

The system works by using electric winches to raise weights through vertical shafts when there is excess power on the grid. At times of demand, the controlled release of these weights is used to drive motors and generate power.

During the development of the technology the company has collaborated closely with Dutch heavy equipment specialist Huisman, which has helped develop the winches and cables for the system.

The company is currently assembling its first physical system at the Port of Leith in Scotland. This above ground, 250kW demonstrator consists of a 16m high lattice tower containing two winches and two 25 tonne weights suspended from steel cables. During operation these weights will drop through 7m at 0.6m/s, generating 250kw of output.

Led by Swansea University SUNRISE is an ambitious, challenge-led, global collaboration aimed at exploiting recent advances in perovskite solar cell technology access to bring electricity to parts of rural India.

Whilst traditional silicon panels are relatively fragile, expensive to install, and require frequent maintenance, cells based on perovskite materials are thought to offer a more affordable and sustainable solution.

SUNRISE has brought together a global collaborative team to support and accelerate the translation of these new solar materials into viable commercial products for the developing world.

In its first two years SUNRISE has produced over 50 publications and 40 research collaborations and contributed to the capacity development of the individuals and institutions involved.

With several technology demonstrators already installed, the team is now looking at constructing at least five solar-powered building demonstrators in rural India using an array of integrated solar-enabled technologies tailored to suit the specific needs of the community.  SUNRISE is the winner of this year’s Future Thinking Award.

C2I 2020
Category: Energy & Environment

Project:Aerofoil

Partners: Williams Advanced Engineering with Aerofoil Energy Limited

This entry applies expertise honed in the world of top flight motorsport to the challenge of reducing energy consumption in the grocery sector.

Grocery retailing accounts for around 3% of the UK’s total electrical energy consumption, and refrigeration accounts for more than half of the energy costs of running supermarkets.

Typical open-fronted multi-deck fridge cabinets employ a curtain of refrigerated air blown down across the front of the shelves, however much of this cold-air ‘curtain’ spills out of the cabinet and into the store aisles which is clearly wasteful from an energy and environmental perspective.

Working in partnership with UK startup Aerofoil Energy Ltd, Williams Advanced Engineering (the engineering services arm of the prominent F1 team) has developed and commercialised  technology that  draws this cold-air curtain back into the fridge, largely eliminating cold-air spill, and reducing energy consumption in the fridge by up to 25%.

The project is a good example of the way in which the skills and competencies derived from motorsport and automotive industries have been employed in an everyday situation to create a commercially viable solution to a global industry problem. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was used extensively in the development and optimisation of the aerofoil profile, and design for manufacture (DfM) and design for assembly (DfA) techniques were used to produce a cost-effective design suitable for high volume manufacture.

To date, over one million Aerofoils have been installed in the UK capturing an estimated 80 per cent of the UK’s addressable market and resulting in energy savings of 11.9 TWh pa (equivalent to 5% of the annual electricity consumption for the whole of Greater Manchester region).

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