Our Sustainability research theme is focused on exploring solutions to challenges faced by the global society in ensuring sustainable supplies of materials and energy resources, while minimising their detrimental impacts on ecosystems, and on human health and wellbeing. Our research teams within this theme examine how global production and consumption of materials and energy can be transformed from traditional highly linear approaches into circular economy models.
Our sustainability research is dedicated to both understanding and addressing how the pillars of sustainable chemistry and engineering (circular economies in manufacturing, green and renewable energy delivery, and zero-emission manufacturing and materials) can support and enhance life, the environment, business, and the economy of Northern Ireland, and demonstrate leadership to deliver and deploy knowledge and materials in a global setting. We are engaged in research and development across broad range of sustainable chemistry and engineering topics including:
- Energy generation and storage – zero-carbon power production, storage and delivery
- Carbon control and use – carbon (CO2) capture and upgrade, renewable resource utilisation, clean transport, plastic recycling
- Functional materials – bottom-up new materials, novel engineering, circular economy resource
- Green chemistry and engineering – remediation, recycle, and renewal enabling sustainable chemical and engineering transformations to achieve zero-emission manufacturing and waste minimisation
These activities are underpinned by well established competencies within the School in the development and use of ionic and functional porous liquids (sustainable separations, energy management and recovery), application of photo- and electrocatalytic technologies for environmental and sustainable energy engineering (sensors for environmental pollutants, removal of micro-organisms, agrichemicals and pharmaceutical residues from waste water and valorisation of waste biomass for alternative energy applications, smart sensors and biodegradable polymers and packaging), circular economy and recycling waste as a chemical resource (advanced materials from biomass, urban mining and recycling of metals, waste plastics to chemicals), and advanced chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing (mechanochemistry, continuous flow processing, heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis design and practice, enzyme engineering for biosynthesis, and reduced energy separation and purification operations). All of which integrate academic excellence with solid industrial links to industry.
We also have a significant presence in leadership roles in the UK Catalysis and SuperGen Bioenergy Hubs. The School also leads the Bryden Centre for Advanced Marine & Bio-Energy Research which supports cross-border research into biomass and marine-based renewable energy sources. The School hosts the Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy (CASE), which is an industry-led sustainable energy research centre formed as part of the Invest Northern Ireland Competence Centre programme. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between industry research needs and academic research in the area of sustainable energy. More key examples of how our researchers are contributing towards the development of truly sustainable approaches are provided below.
The Sustainability theme delivers holistic, systems based approaches, in addition to interdisciplinary thinking to generate more sustainable solutions. We are ideally placed in a combined School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering to address all aspects of a circular approach, bringing synergistic collaboration across both of our main disciplines.
Our academic Theme Leads coordinate our activity within the theme, assisting our research teams to work together, collaborate, and enhance the value and quality of our research.