Research in sustainability at Queen's
An overview of current projects
Queen's is home to a broad range of research in the field of sustainability, across all Faculties and involving an extensive range of facilities.
Currently active projects include the Place-based Climate Action Network, a £3.5 million research network to support a UK transition to a low-carbon economy, led within Queen’s by Prof John Barry in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics (see below).
Within the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), Prof John McGrath leads the Irish Nutrient Platform to Underpin Sustainable Development, which undertakes research to support the anaerobic digestion sector. The linkages between agriculture, energy and the economics of renewable energy production and consumption are also explored within the Gibson Institute.
Much of the sustainable energy research in Queen’s takes place within the Engineering and Physical Sciences Faculty which is home to the pioneering research programme in Sustainable Energy.
The establishment of the PRP in Sustainable Energy facilitated the formation of interdisciplinary teams of academics, and supported collaborative projects through the provision of equipment, studentships and other resources. The centre has focused on the interlinking areas of marine and bio-energy generation, future vehicle technologies including biofuels, aftertreatment solutions and batteries, and low-carbon chemical manufacturing. The centre is headed by Prof David Rooney and brings together research projects from Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Maths and Physics, and the School of Natural and Built Environment.
Activities in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering centre on conversion, storage and optimisation including biogas upgrading, battery electrolytes and improving energy efficiency in chemical processes. Mechanical Engineering focus on energy efficiency in transport and the integration of new types of technology to improve engine design. In the School of the Natural and Built Environment there is long history of research on tidal power systems.
To support this research the centre has an extensive range of facilities including: modern and advanced analytical equipment; conversion and upgrading plant; battery testing facilities; fuel and engine testing facilities; multi-scale modelling; marine test centre and wave tanks (Portaferry and Belfast).
The centre has secured over 10 million Euro in EU funding to support, for example, the Bryden Centre which investigates wide ranging sustainable energy issues across the interregional area of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Spin-outs associated with the Sustainable Energy Research Centre include Green Lizard Technologies, which has won several awards including the best business start-up from the IChemE and the AkzoNobel Imagine Chemistry challenge. Furthermore, the centre has several international partnerships leading international companies such as Petronas.
CASE is an industry led, multi-partner sustainable energy research centre based at Queen’s University Belfast.
Through the Invest Northern Ireland Competence Centre programme CASE funds collaborative Research & Development in sustainable energy, and bridges the gap between industry research needs and academic research offerings.
CASE is a Social Charter Signature Project
The Bryden Centre for Advanced Marine & Bio-Energy Research (The Bryden Centre), led by Queen's University, aims to create a ‘virtual centre of competence’ that will support research into biomass and marine-based renewable energy sources, taking an all-island (Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) approach.
The Bryden Centre’s research covers tidal and wave power, gas, liquid and biofuels, and includes a component dedicated to assuring that the energy systems are designed to support the environment.
QUILL is primarily focussed on researching ionic liquids. A number of the projects focus on sustainability, such as research into battery storage (a key component of a renewable energy strategy), the chemical recycling of plastics, and the production of renewable fuels from biogas.
The Energy and Power work of the EPIC cluster is focussed on problems related to distributed sources of energy and their integration into power networks, enabling better collaboration with national and international academic/industrial research centres. EPIC’s Intelligent Systems research is concerned with principles and applications, the ethos being to link theoretical and technological advances with practical requirements for advanced control and robotics.
The ImpRESS consortium comprises Queen’s University Belfast and four industrial partners: BP; Bombardier; Green Lizard Technologies Ltd (GLT); and Flow Energy Solutions (FES).
The overall aim of this project is the investigation into redox flow batteries coupled to renewable energy sources (RES) and integrated as part of the electrical power system network and grid-level systems.
The project also aimed to develop new commercial opportunities for all IERC industrial members namely in energy trading for GLT and FES, providing access to new ancillary services for I-SEM, single energy market pricing and a competitive advantage for faster response services.
PCAN, established in April 2019, will establish Commissions in Belfast and Edinburgh, and will extend the Leeds Climate Commission, which was the first to be established in 2017. The Commissions will help the local delivery of the UK’s climate change objectives by supporting action in cities through a partnership made up of the private, public and civic sectors.
This aims to find ways to turn discarded plastic material that would otherwise be wasted into a resource, in keeping with the idea of the 'circular economy’.
The project is being led by Professor David Rooney, Director of the Research Centre in Sustainable Energy at Queen’s. The team comprises academics from across the University, with expertise in a wide range of areas including politics, engineering, psychology and architecture.
The Gibson Institute for Land Food and Environment is involved in major research projects funded by UK Research Councils (ESRC, NERC and MRC), EU Framework Programs among others. Outputs include Professor George Hutchinson's research into environmental efficiency and pollution costs, and Professor Alberto Longo's review of the economic evaluation of ecosystem goods and services.
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