North East universities collaborate on new energy technology centre

Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham Universities are coming together to create a new North East energy hub, which will work to tackle energy challenges as well as forge stronger ties with the industrial business community.

Funded by the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the newly-formed North East Centre for Energy Materials will also bring engineers, chemists, biologists and physicists together to develop new high performance materials to improve efficiency in energy generation, storage and transmission systems.

Leader of the project, Professor Ulrich Stimming from Newcastle University explained: “There is a lot of work exploring big challenges in our energy system such as how do we reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuel, or build smarter energy networks.

“This project will address an equally important challenge which is how we work at the atomic and molecular level to make the energy sector more efficient and sustainable.”

The new centre brings together expertise in tidal and wave energy, solar, batteries, energy storage, biomass, and “smart grids” that are able to manage power simultaneously from all of these different sources.

There will be many different projects run by the Centre with each University contributing their existing strengths and ensuring the region’s energy research becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Newcastle University’s new £58m Urban Sciences Building on the former Scottish and Newcastle Brewery site includes several full scale energy research laboratories including the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration in which Durham University is a partner.

The Durham Energy Institute, part of Durham University, will contribute particularly in the area of solar energy, simulation, and the advanced analytical tools needed to observe how materials behave at the molecular level.

Northumbria University will build on researchers’ recent successes in developing sustainable solar paint which could be applied to a wide range of building and automotive surfaces. In addition, the University’s work in reaching out to school students with advanced physics is a key part of the Centre.

As well as the research expertise and facilities of the three universities, the North East of England’s industrial and technology strengths were also crucial to winning funding for the project.

“We have several local companies involved in the project including Solar Capture Technologies from Blyth, Big Solar from Sunderland, and Kromek from Sedgefield, as well as multinationals who are based in the region including Siemens,” said Professor Stimming.

“Coming together in this new Centre means we are able to provide a regional hub to engage with the industrial community, particularly in the North East, but also with the wider UK and international energy community.”

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